Negotiating with bandits: Gospel according to Gumi, By Dons Eze




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For the unrepentant spokesperson of bandits terrorising different parts of the country, particularly the North West, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, the only solution to the incessant kidnapping for ransom takings by this group of people, would be for the federal government of Nigeria to sit side by side with these criminals, in a conference table, and begin to dialogue and negotiate the terms which they would end nefarious activities.

Gumi who spoke in a television interview had stated that the bandits were kidnapping in order to make money, and that they were being aided by some bad eggs within the security forces who supply them with weapons. He maintained that there was no way the calibre of weapons used by these bandits would have entered the country without the active collaboration of local security officers.

According to Gumi: “ know that these bandits are cooperating with a lot of bad elements in our security system. This is a business, and you would be surprised that so many people are involved. How can these big weapons cross our borders and get into the hands of bandits without the cooperation of some bad elements within our security system? It is not possible! If I give you the same amount of weapons, can you take it into the UK? It won’t be possible because security is alert”.

Gumi insisted that since the bandits were currently holding a lot of Nigerians hostage in the forests, the only way out would be for the government to negotiate with them rather than attack them. While accusing the federal government of taking sides against the bandits, he warned that without dialogue or negotiation, there would be no end to the spate of kidnappings and other violent crimes in the country.

In his words: “The herdsmen have told me that they are ready to sit down with the government and negotiate. If the herdsmen come together and say no more kidnapping, the war is finished, don’t see any other Fulani man breaking that agreement and continuing with the crime.

“When militants in the Niger Delta region were vandalising pipelines, the nation negotiated with them and they were given the pipelines to guard for a period of time. The herdsmen too are now controlling a large portion of land and are preventing farmers from farming, because when we leave a big chunk of the population hungry without farmers going to farm, it will be bad”, he stated. Thus, for Gumi, the term of negotiation with the bandits is for the Fulani herdsmen to be employed as forest guards in order to protect us from themselves. In other words, Gumi would want the Fulani herdsmen to takeover all our lands as forest guards, and then be showing our farmers where to farms. That is why they will not be disturbed or prevented from going to farms to cultivate food for us, otherwise, we would all die of starvation.

For Sheikh Gumi, the term of negotiation between the federal government and the bandits will be for the Fulani herdsmen to be employed as forest guards in order to protect us from themselves. In other words, Gumi would want the Fulani herdsmen, employed as forest guards, to takeover all our forests, and then, they will be showing us where to farm and where not to farm.

This will be an indirect way of giving out our land to the Fulani herdsmen, who have been anxious to takeover our land. Then, our farmers, as Gumi as proposed, will no longer be disturbed or prevented from going to farms to cultivate food to feed us, otherwise, we will all die of starvation.

For us, it will be wrong, as Sheikh Gumi had proposed, to compare the Niger Delta agitators or militants fighting for the well-being of people, with the criminally-minded Fulani herdsmen or bandits, who seize and occupy other people’s land, kidnap, maim, rape, and kill the owners of the land, and burn down their houses.

The Niger Delta agitators had a genuine grouse. Crude oil is explored and mined in area. Gas is also flared there. The activities of the crude oil explorers and miners have caused a whole lot of environmental degradation in the area – farmlands were destroyed, and fishing waters polluted. The people could not farm, and they also could not fish.

In the same vein, in the course of flaring of gas, the air is polluted, while electricity light resulting from gas flaring continue to shine unceasingly, day and night, making many the people uncomfortable. They could not sleep at night, and thus, brought in their trail, a lot of health implications.

Aside of these, the impact of the huge from oil and gas being exploited from the Niger Delta region was not felt by the people. None of them owned any oil block, while the revenues from oil were used to develop other areas outside of their region. These were what had agitated the Niger Delta people, and they began to protest and to blow up oil pipelines, and to kidnap oil workers, before the federal government saw the necessity of talking to them, and to negotiate with them.

But for the bandits and the Fulani herdsmen who have been terrorizing and kidnapping innocent men and women, including school children, what is their own grouse? Nobody was able to come out clearly to state their grouse, other than their collecting huge sums of money as ransom, before their victims are released.

Some people however believe that the main term of the negotiation between the Fulani herdsmen and the federal government, which Sheikh Ahmed Gumi is pushing forward, could centre on the necessity by the latter to allow the Fulani access to all the forests in the country, as the Niger Delta militants were given contract to protect oil pipelines.

This would be based on the oft-stated claims by the Fulani that they own all the lands in Nigeria. When this happens, the all-conquering Fulani would resume their interrupted mission of trying to establish their caliphate in all parts of Nigeria, and also of dipping the Koran inside the Atlantic Ocean. That seems to be the trust of Gumi’s gospel of negotiation with the bandits.