It would strike everyone why Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, the Kaduna-based Muslim cleric, in the last two weeks deployed spiritual weapons to fight insecurity, precisely kidnapping and banditry, tormenting Nigeria’s Northwest geopolitical zone.
Leading a group of fellow Muslim clerics, other relevant persons and law enforcement agents, Gumi intrepidly forayed into the bushes in the Central and Southern Senatorial districts of Kaduna State, meeting communities of Fulani herdsmen allegedly breeding the main population of kidnappers and bandits terrorising the terrain.
His mission is to exterminate their criminal spirit with the strategy of preaching and to midwife their spiritual rebirth towards ending the twin crimes massively ruining Northwestern Nigeria’s economy.
Deploying a give-and-take strategy, Gumi’s purpose is to strike a deal with the people on the cessation of the crimes and direct them to the path of righteousness. At the same time, he collects and forwards their grievances against the Nigerian state to the authorities.
Their grievances hinge chiefly on the massive dispossession of their cattle by rustlers in what they describe as an atmosphere of impunity, rapid depletion of ages-old grazing fields, the lack of schools for their children and other essential social amenities as well as general deprivation.
They also complain of undergoing severe hardships to survive in thorny grazing fields they call their country.
So far the cleric has been able to secure the ‘repentance’ of hundreds of some alleged kidnappers and bandits, who instantly, promised to lay down arms and abstain from the crimes.
“From what we have been able to gather from those arrested by the police, these kidnappers and bandits lack both religious and western education,” Gumi told newsmen in Kaduna.
“This is why we resolved to pick up the gauntlet, venture to their communities and deliver education to them, enlighten them on the state of affairs and listen to their grievances and reasons for deciding to pick up arms,” he explained.
The cleric said: “War against terrorism is complex where you have to separate the real terrorists from those (who are) not.
“Every society has criminals but to say that every herdsman seen is a criminal and should, therefore, be shot at sight is unjust.”
Gumi seems convinced that those fomenting trouble in the Northwest are not terrorists.
“The situation here is not about terrorism; it is about some people fighting for their rights because they have lost faith in government to guarantee them such rights.
“They are only confined to their remote communities in the bushes, hearing only sounds of bombs and gunshots,” Gumi said.
He believes that the situation has made every herdsman a potential victim.
Gumi said: “The situation of herdsmen has worsened to the point that in some parts, any herdsman daring to venture to the market would be accosted and killed.
“We believe enough of the bloodshed.”
Addressing Religious Education Needs Of Dissenting Groups
In his assessment of the situation and understanding of motives of those carrying out attacks in the Northwest, the cleric concluded that the lack of religious education played a key role.
“We observed that these people lack religious education and, therefore, they don’t fear God; and we believe that nothing is as potent as the fear of God with regard to stopping someone from committing a crime,” Gumi said.
“This is why we resolved to deliver religious education to them. We have dispatched books on religious knowledge to them and we will soon send teachers to teach them Islamic practices,” he said.
For Gumi, by sending teachers to live with the people to disseminate righteous conduct, the crime will begin to go down.
“If we send teachers to live with them, teaching them righteous conduct, these crimes will gradually fizzle out.
He said: “We will hasten the process before terrorists in the guise of religion infiltrate them and destroy what we are building.”
His efforts are already receiving commendations from the citizens.
“Sheikh Gumi is doing a very good and wonderful job,” a civil servant in Kaduna State, who would not want to be named because of the sensitive nature of security in the state, observed.
“But it must be clearly understood by everyone that the preaching is not aimed only at the Fulani herdsman, it is also aimed at the Hausa cattle rustler who dispossesses the herdsman of his cows,” the worker added.
“It irritates me to hear people saying that Mallam (Sheikh Gumi) is preaching to Fulani. If the Fulani are not religiously knowledgeable, how come Shehu Uthman Danfodiyo and all his flag bearers who reformed Islam in Northern Nigeria were all Fulani?
“So if the Fulani herdsman is involved in kidnapping and banditry, it is not necessarily because he is religiously uneducated.
“He commits these crimes because the cattle rustler has impoverished him and he has virtually been killed economically, and he is stigmatised as a pauper by the population surrounding him,” the worker argued.
“I heard Mallam (Gumi) talking about amnesty to the Fulani militia,” the Kaduna civil servant recalled but stressed that “amnesty without adequate compensation cannot work.
“All the militia commanders said to have repented before Mallam had cattle ranches before their impoverishment,” the worker said.
He added: “Preaching should take place simultaneously with some form of compensation, then the sustainability of the deal can be guaranteed.
“If a herder dispossessed of, say, 10 cows, is compensated with even three, to rebuild his pastoral life, he will abstain from these crimes.
“Preaching, amnesty and compensation taking place together form the only solution.
“The deal cannot be sustained on only preaching.” the worker said.
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