Fulani herdsmen-turned bandits, kidnappers are peaceful, victims of circumstance – Gumi

Gumi

Sheikh Gumi

 

BY NICHOLAS ABE


Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi has described the Fulani herdsmen now engaged in banditry and kidnappings as peaceful people who have become victims of circumstance.

Gumi who has been on a peace shuttle to the bandits in the forests of Zamfara, Katsina and Niger states, says the herders who have taken up arms against innocent citizens in virtually every state of Nigeria, are merely fighting for survival, having lost their means of livelihood, via cattle rustling.

“These people are acting with natural instincts, not special knowledge. And they don’t have any ambition or anything. They don’t have a vision of the future. They are talking about existence; their livelihood is destroyed; because the cattle rustling that was going on for a long time, they are the first victims of it.

“So, we need to investigate how cattle rustling became a big business in Nigeria and how it affected the socio-cultural behaviour of the nomadic Fulani. They were pushed into criminality,” Sheikh Gumi told Seun Okinbaloye, Channels Television anchor of Politics Today, on Monday.

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Again, Gumi defended the bandits who he chose to describe as militants, because, according to him they are fighting an ethnic war against other people including the sedentary Fulanis. He restated his earlier call that they should be granted amnesty.

“When I listened to them, I found out that it is a simple case of criminality which turned into banditry, which turned into ethnic war, and some genocide too behind the scene; people don’t know,” Sheikh Gumi said.

He continued: “There is no excuse for any crime; nothing can justify crime, and they are committing crime. The bandits were forced into criminality.

“I think it is a population that is pushed by circumstances into criminality. And this is what we should look, let’s remove the pressure, let’s remove the things that made them into criminals because we have lived thousands of years without any problems with the nomadic herdsmen. They are peaceful people. But something happened that led them to this.”

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Restating his call for amnesty, he said: “Amnesty comes with a package – all victims should be looked at and the government should compensate because actually, it’s the responsibility of the government to protect people, their lives and livelihood; and they were not able to do. So, since it’s a negligence from the government, then the government should come from both sides.”

According to the revered cleric, the solution to the herdsmen banditry is dialogue and not military onslaught

“It is a complex issue that Nigerians need to understand. The solution is very simple, but it’s not military hardware. The solution is dialogue and teaching,” he proffered.

Painting the Fulani herdsman as the victim rather than the aggressor, Sheikh Gumi who has been involved in the negotiations and release of numerous kidnap victims of the herdsmen, including the over 300 Katsina school boys, said for every victim of kidnapping, the herdsmen-bandits have 10 victims.

“They are killed by the military, lynched in town. Do you know that there are situations where any man with this Fulani physique – slim, light-complexioned, even dark ones – on a motorbike is automatically arrested and incarcerated? They are being profiled,” he alleged.

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“The Fulani herdsmen is seeing evil all around him. You can imagine when he sees his children, women, everything killed, his animals slaughtered.

“You see what happened in Oyo, his hut burnt down. Who is burning down his hut? It is somebody coming from a building, somebody coming from a car. He doesn’t own a car, he doesn’t own a building, he doesn’t enjoy anything of the Nigerian cake.

“Then you are coming, again, the little thing he has, to kill his animals. So, he is seeing the evil from the other side. So, each side is seeing the other’s side as evil.

“So, it is the clergy that now has to come in the middle, Muslims and Christians. We have to listen to them. Demonising anybody is not appropriate. And evil is there in everybody,” he preached.

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