On Gumi and school children abductions

Armed banditry and kidnapping have become a norm in the Nigerian society; series of bandit attacks and kidnapping have occurred across many states in the country and citizens now live in perpetual fear. Indeed, no one is safe and travelling from one place to another is fraught with risks.

Kidnapping has become a multimillion naira business that has pushed many families into indebtedness and bankruptcy. Recent reports from the Niger State Government revealed that a number of students, teachers and family members of school staff were abducted by gunmen. This attack was reported to have taken place in Government Science College (GSC) in Kagara town, Niger state. Another instance is the Zungeru abduction where schoolboys were taken on a Wednesday.

And in the heat of these kidnappings, renowned Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Abubakr Gumi, took up the job of negotiating with bandits in different locations across Northern Nigeria. Since January, Gumi has met with bandits in Kaduna and Zamfara forests in an attempt to broker a deal to ensure release of kidnapped people especially students.

In Kaduna, over 500 bandits reportedly agreed to lay down their weapons after he struck a peaceful deal with them. In Niger state, he also met with the kidnappers of the students of Government Science College, Kagara, Niger state. In Zamfara, Gumi reportedly told the bandits that they have legitimate concerns and urged the Federal Government to look into ways of providing “reasonable” means of livelihood for them.

Gumi has lately been mounting campaigns for amnesty for murderous bandits. He has also been meeting with them in their hideouts while labeling Yoruba and Igbo youths demanding for security, equity, restructuring and true federalism as “secessionist” who are no better than Boko Haram. He grouped Southern activists with the Boko Haram but claimed that bandits are “insurgents” with “genuine concerns and grievances.”

Gumi’s credentials interest me, he is not your run-in-the-mill Northern Nigerian preacher but a well-prepared man with solid education. He studied medicine at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, studied at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna and he left the army as a captain while he also attended the Ummul-Qura University, Saudi Arabia where he studied Islamic Jurisprudence.

His latest interventions in the insecurity wracking the North West and his suggestions are worrisome. Gumi claimed in an interview that bandits are peaceful and should be engaged in dialogue. Really; a band of outlaws that seize innocent Nigerians, hold them hostage and even kill some whilst asking for huge and unimaginable ransom are being described as peaceful. What is Gumi’s interpretation of peaceful?

Gumi has made many assertions and one begins to wonder how he is so chummy with criminals? How come they confide in him and respect him? How is it that he appears to be on the same page with them? Why are security agencies not pulling in Gumi to quiz him to understand the kind of relationship existing between him and the criminals? All these and many more questions need adequate answers.

Majority of government schools in Northern Nigeria are currently shut due to the fear of recurring abduction.  Even if the government did not shut down schools, parents will not allow their wards to go to school due to the fear of abduction. It is time for all hands to be on deck to curb the incessant abduction that is killing the educational sector in Northern Nigeria. Government at all levels should make sure that security sector is given more attention in order to curb recurring abduction of students in Nigeria.

Abdulhadi Akorede,

Oyo State

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