Fulani comment: Afenifere, PANDEF, YCE, others knock Gumi

By Bola Badmus (Lagos), Ebenezer Adurokiya (Warri), Iniobong Ekponta (Uyo), ‘Yomi Ayeleso, Hendrix Oliomogbe

SOUTHERN leaders, public commentators and leaders of thought on Tuesday chided the Islamic scholar, Sheik Ahmad Gumi, over his comment on Monday that Fulani nomad feels threatened of his existence and fighting ethnic war. 

The cleric had, in an interview aired by Channels television, said killing by the nomad is not because of criminality, but ethnic revenge, adding that they (the herdsmen) don’t attack a village except the village did something to one of them. The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) advised the Nigerian media to stop giving publicity to Sheik Gumi. Its national publicity secretary, Ken Robinson, in a reaction to Gumi’s narratives about bandits and killer herdsmen, said it was “unfortunate that the nation should be hearing one absurd statement or the other from this man, every day.” 

It said: “It is vexing that he would have the effrontery to say killer herdsmen and the murderous bandits should not be referred to as criminals, but militants fighting an ethnic war and fighting for their existence.” Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said those making Nigeria ungovernable are no longer hiding, as they are now on their next level with undisguised war they have declared against the non-Fulani of the country, but quickly noted that Gumi sounded like one of the bandits or their promoters.

The spokesperson of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said were Nigeria not to have become this lawless under Buhari, Gumi should be under security interrogation by now.

“Sheik Gumi sounds like one of the bandits or their promoters these days. If not that Nigeria has become this lawless under Buhari, he should be under security interrogation by now.

“The troublers of Nigeria are no longer hiding as they are now on their next level with undisguised war they have declared against non Fulani of Nigeria,” Odumakin said.

The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) said bandits and Fulani herdsmen have no legitimate grievances, justifying their attacks and killing of residents in the country.

Secretary-General of YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, in a chat with Nigerian Tribune in AdoEkiti, the Ekiti State capital, said describing the criminals as militants for fighting al- leged injustices is against international best practices, as he called on the Federal Government to urgently address the situation. He added that the waves of security challenges across the length and breadth of the country call for urgent attention, saying President Muhammadu Buhari must address the citizens on how his government is tackling the menace.

According to him, “We only hope that very soon, we will do the needful and then recover the country back. A professor travelled alongside Gumi to the dens of the bandits to interact with them and he said the country is not de- fended at all. He commented on the strength of the bandits without fighting any just cause and I don’t understand what Gumi meant by ethnic war. The impression created is that they were fighting for survival and that their means of livelihood is being threatened, which is not correct at all.

“Calling the bandits militants is mis-normal because what we are told anywhere in the world is that bandits are criminals and in normal climes, you don’t negotiate with them. We are in a serious situation and we still want President Buhari to talk to Nigerians on what the government is doing exactly to address this ugly situation.”

The immediate past Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom State, Mr Uwemedimo Nwoko, faulted the decision of the Federal Government to use Gumi as the linkman to negotiate the release of kidnapped victims with the bandits. Speaking in an interview in Uyo, Nwoko, a Senior Advo- cate of Nigeria (SAN), regret- ted that with the handover of the major problem of insecurity in the country to the whims of one man means Nigeria as a country is finished.

“I don’t blame Gumi, he is a product of a rot system and he is like a vulture on a carcass of a death horse. When a vulture is scavenging on a carcass of a death animal, it does not think. In fact from the day he opened his mouth that he was negotiating with the bandits, he should have been taken for questioning,” Nwoko stressed.

Director of the Institute of Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), Niger Delta University (NDU), Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State, Philips Okolo, described Sheik Gumi as a merchant profiteering from the trade of banditry and terrorism. Dr Okolo, a peace and conflict resolution expert who was appointed new acting Director of IPSS recently, wondered why the Federal Government has been treating the bandits and their heinous crimes with kid gloves.

Human rights advocate, Kola Edokpayi, who is also the speaker of Talakawa Parliament, Benin City, Edo State, said the call for nego- tiation with herdsmen by Sheik Gumi is a tacit support for the heinous activities of bandits and herdsmen who go about kidnapping inno- cent Nigerians for ransom. Edokpayi remarked that he was astonished to hear Gumi saying that the criminal elements that had reduced the country to a state of sorrow tears and blood should be further encouraged to unleash pains and pangs on the people. He insisted that the Niger Delta militants are only out for resource control and the development of the resources rich but impoverished area while the Fulani herdsmen have no ideology and philosophy except killing of people, kidnapping, banditry, destruction of farmlands with their cattle.

A public affairs commentator, Damola Adeoye, described Gumi’s assertions as laughable and self-preserving. Adeoye said: “I find Sheikh Gumi’s assertion laughable and at best, self-preserving. Is the revered cleric saying anyone who feels threatened within the country reserves a right to self-help and, in so doing, resort to harming his fellow countrymen and women, who themselves are supposed victims of governmental ineptitude? “Is kidnapping school chil- dren, farmers and travellers the way out? No matter the veil Sheik Gumi and his ilks use in covering this, banditry is criminality, deserving the long and strong-arm tactics of the law, not this advertised negotiations and reported ransom payments.”

An activist, Moshood Eru- bami, described Gumi’s assertions that the Fulani’s existence is being threatened as false. Rather, Erubami said it was the criminals among the Fulani that are using their pastoral practices to ruin the legitimate businesses of farmers and peaceful households. He wondered whether killing of fellow humans and kidnappings for ransom purposes is also a part of an ethnic group feeling threatened.

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