THE FRONTLINE By Joseph Ushigiale
In recent times, Sheikh Abubakar Mahmoud Gumi has been cross crossing from one camp harboring criminal elements terrorising Zamfara and Kaduna States to another in search of peace according to him. His latest peace shuttles according to media accounts saw him seeking these criminals deep into their hideouts in the forest in Zamfara state to dialogue with them.
This is not the first time such a dialogue is taking place. Earlier, the governor of Katsina state, Aminu Masari hugged the headlines when he posed alongside a military commander and a fully armed bandit on the front page of a national daily.
Masari, despite the criticisms that trailed his intentions, he forged ahead and was the first governor to sign an agreement with bandits. Yet, the peace agreement was shortlived as the bandits reneged on it.
According to Masari, “We chose to sign a peace agreement with the bandits to avoid loss of lives and property, but it didn’t yield a positive result. This time around, we will hand it over to security personnel.
“In our efforts to honour the agreement between us, we cancelled all vigilantes and volunteer groups and we allowed them (bandits) to continue with their normal activities in the state,” he said.
Justifying why he chose the path of negotiating peace with the Fulani bandits, Gumi stated that the ultimate desire is “Let there be peace; you all have a legitimate concern and grievances and I believe that since the Niger Delta armed militants were integrated by the Federal Government and are even in the business of pipelines protection, the Federal Government should immediately look into how something like that will be done to the Fulani to provide them with reasonable means of livelihood including jobs, working capitals, entrepreneurship training, building clinic and schooling,” Sheikh Gumi had told the bandits during the visits.
Gumi’s position has been corroborated by the governor of Zamfara state, Bello Matawalle who insists that the best option to douse tension and bring an end to banditry in Zamfara and beyond is to subscribe to dialogue.
According to him, “I have always been saying, the best solution and option to tackle banditry is to seek for dialogue with the bandits. If really we want to end this banditry activity, we have to sit on a round table and negotiate.
“Because through dialogue and reconciliation we are able to secure the release of many people who were under the captivity of kidnappers. So, the best way out for my colleagues, governors, is for them to subscribe for dialogue,” Matawalle said.
Kaduna state governor, Nasiru El Rufai disagrees with this approach arguing that some of the governors see dialogue with the bandits as a solution while others didn’t. “We lack unity among ourselves (governors) in this region to work together to eliminate these bandits. We in Kaduna and Niger state are still communicating on how to end this problem. The Niger governor use to call me and we discuss.
He is also of the opinion that Fulani bandits can never be weaned off the lucrative criminal activities like armed robbery, kidnapping and cattle rustling from which they rake in millions as compared to the miserly hundreds they receive as sales from their cows.
“Anybody that thinks a Fulani man that ventured into kidnapping for ransom and he is earning millions of naira would go back to his former life of getting N100,000 after selling a cow in a year must be deceiving himself,” El Rufai stated.
Querying why such an initiative should even be contemplated, the Kaduna state governor said there was no justification with such appeasement after engaging in killing and looting of people’s property. “Why should they be compensated after killing people, destroyed their houses. Who offended them?” He asked?
“I told him (Gumi) that the majority of these Fulani bandits don’t believe in religion. Therefore, I don’t believe in what he (Gumi)is doing that they should be forgiven and compensated” he, said.
Since the end of the Nigeria civil war, there has never been a time such as now that the country has degenerated and tensions have risen to a feverish pitch putting the entire nation on the edge of an imminent war.
It seems the sole intention of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is to suprintend over the eventual break up of the country. No thanks to his divisive and nepotistic style of mismanaging the diversity that hallmarks Nigeria.
According to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country.
“Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.
“It would appear that anybody not dancing to the drum beat nor joining in chorus singing would be earmarked as ethnically unpatriotic or enemy of its tribe or geographical area. In short, the country is fast moving to the precipice,” he warned.
Since assuming office in 2015, Buhari, who’s inaugural speech was hall marked by his now famous phrase that ‘I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody’ has not hidden his contempt for other sections of the country and opting to doggedly pursue an agenda of patronizing his ethnic Fulani and Nigeriens in every policy he enunciates.
The President is giving the impression that the Fulanis are marginalised in Nigeria and therefore, under his regime, they have to play catch up. But are they? On the contrary, the Fulani represent the most entitled ethnic group in Nigeria to the point that they believe the own Nigeria.
Few years back, the federal government came up with a plan to compensate Fulani criminal elements with N100b through Miyetti Allah to stop kidnapping and banditry. When the story went public, the presidency debunked it as a lie. Yet, there were ample evidence that the federal government set up a committee including former minister for interior, Dambazau. It was gathered that the offer of N100b by the federal government was rejected and a counter demand of N160b was made.
The Fulani are also at the Centre of the controversial RUGA and national livestock transformation policy all to resettle them. Permit me to ask what is the business of government in a private business? Castle rearing is a personal effort just like rice, cassava and yam cultivation so what is so special about Fulani and their cattles?
They are complaining of neglect, but who neglected them apart from themselves? The Fulanis chose to live a nomadic life which is their culture. So why would government now begin to spend tax payers’ money to change the culture of a nomadic people?
Just when the dust raised by that was yet to settle, the federal government again announced its plans to establish a radio station solely for the Fulani ethnic group to broadcast in fulfulde only. There are a multiplicity of ethnic groups in Nigeria including Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, the Fulani ethnic group is a minuscule part of this amalgam. Yet, no one has established a station for these larger ethics but why the preference for Fulani?
Until Buhari came to power, the pan Fulani umbrella group was never heard from and went about its lawful business without raising dust. However, since 2015, it literally became the mouth pice of the Fulani and in some instances directs Buhari on what to do. The group has become so vocal, uncontrollable and almost like a parallel government over heating the polity.
Now, why would the federal government against contemplate on declaring amnesty for Fulani criminals? The comparison made by Gumi that the Fulani criminals should be compensated just like the Niger Delta militants were compensated does not hold water.
The militants were agitating for a genuine cause which is the environmental degradation occasioned by oil and gas exploration. In Niger Delta today, most rivers, creeks and land are not habitable apart from the poisonous atmospheric conditions.
The Niger Delta region produces the entire revenue that the whole country depends on. Without any meaningful contributions to the economy and gross domestic product, I believe if the North or Fulanis were in the Niger Delta, there would be no Nigeria and the region would be a no go area to other regions by now.
Just like El Rufai said, these people are criminals and should be treated as such. It has become clear that with this latest Gumi maneouvres, the Buhari government is once more surreptitiously seeking ways to benefit the Fulanis using tax payers money.
The criminals are undeserving of amnesty and any form of government patronage. In fact, it does appears that it is the Buhari government that brought these criminals into the country, harbor red them in the forest, arming them with sophisticated weapons so that they would terrorist harmless citizens to submission.
As the country slides gradually into the precipice, Buhari should know that there is no single ethnic group that has monopoly of violence. Under his government, the Fulanis are being backed with the military and police in the South to commit all forms of atrocities.
During last elections, Buhari ordered the military to shoot at sight and kill any person seen to be snatching ballot boxes. Just last week, he directed security agents to arrest any herder seen with arms instead of shooting at sight. Between the ballot box snatcher and the armed herder, who is more dangerous?
The federal government should retrace its steps from setting a very bad precedent otherwise, criminals from other tribes would be emboldened to do same so that they would also be compensated. In addition, government should not ever contemplate investing a dime I private cattle business. All herders should follow the footsteps of the governor of Kaduna and seek local and foreign investments in that direction. The era of free money for governors is over.
The President has to do a critical rethink and situate clearly how he would want Nigerians to remember him when he leaves office in a few years. Would he like to be remembered as a Fulani president or a NIGERIAN President, who came, saw and conquered? The choice is yours Mr. President.