Talking authoritatively like a godfather or grand patron, the renowned Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmad Gumi has described the bandits operating almost all over the Northern region, as militants fighting for ethnic survival.
The former captain in the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) said this about armed herders: “It is a complex issue. It is an ethnic war and the solution is dialogue and teaching them Islam. To them, they are talking about an ethnic existence.”
Asked if the armed bandits are Nigerians, Gumi said: “They are Nigerians. I hate to call them bandits. They are militants fighting for ethnic survival.
“They want to defend themselves. If there is peace, you will not see such things as banditry, kidnapping among others.
“If you are talking about victims, they have more victims on their side than others. To them, they are fighting a war of existence.
“If you have seen them (herdsmen), you will discover they have nothing like civilization other than the guns they are carrying.
“We are trying to talk to them to drop their guns. There are peace processes ongoing and they are ready to put down their arms. They are not killing people; they are just engaged in ethnic revenge.
“The Fulani herdsmen are victims of military excesses. The armed herdsmen are kidnapping to make money.”
He added: “When bandits go to a Fulani village, they go in groups and ransack the village just to revenge. It is a form of revenge. It is not because of criminality, it is ethnic revenge.”
When asked why it is difficult for the military intelligence to know where the bandits are, the cleric said: “The military knows where they are. When they go in and start killing, the military realised they are creating a monster. The federal government should go in and negotiate.”
While clarifying that the armed herdsmen are not Boko Haram insurgents, he said: “I can say categorically that they are not Boko Haram but we have to be very careful.
“The Boko Haram we know are internationally connected but so far, they are not Boko Haram; they have some elements of Boko Haram and they presented it to the government.
“They are citizens, they recognize the government and they are happy now that Boko Haram is not involved in their cause. We should come in now and give them the full teachings of Islam.”
Muddled up in confusion, the cleric’s speech did not clarify if the armed herders are a part of the bandits. Readers are equally at sea as to whether bandits are fighting for personal survival, since they engage in kidnapping for money. And if they’re fighting for ethnic revenge, why would Fulani bandits ravage their fellow Fulani villages, abduct, kill or main them.
Gumi also urged the government to go into negotiation with the bandits as a way out. But he seems to forgets that dialogue breeds more and more kidnappings. This is because in militancy, leaders come and go with their own followers, giving room for younger ones to take over.
Besides, every negotiation has something at stake, the kernel of dialogue. What is there for the bandits, some keep wondering?