Amnesty For Boko Haram Makes More Sense Than Amnesty For Herdsmen and Bandits
THE ALTERNATIVE By Reno Omokri
As long as there is impunity in Nigeria, abductions, kidnappings and pillaging by killer herdsmen and bandits (who also tend to be herdsmen, who find crime more profitable) will continue.
What I am about to say is going to be controversial, even though it is true. However, it makes more sense to grant amnesty to Boko Haram than to killer herdsmen and bandits.
Boko Haram did not start out as a radical Islamic terror group. No. They were seekers of knowledge. What is known as talib in Islam. They lived in communes and desired a return to a purist Islamic state, governed by undiluted Islam.
Their leader was a brilliant scholar named Mohammed Yusuf, who was self-taught and very intelligent. He was a polyglot. He was charismatic. He did not hate Christians. He wanted people to understand Islam.
The Boko Haram uprising of 2009 was actually not caused by Boko Haram. It was ignited by the Nigerian Police Force, whose officers killed some Boko Haram members for refusing to comply with a new law requiring motorcyclists and their passengers to wear helmets.
Those killings outraged the previously peaceful group and they took revenge on the police and the resultant mayhem led to the deaths of hundreds of their members and innocent citizens.
In the end, Mohammed Yusuf was arrested by the Nigerian Army and handed over to the police (an unwise move, seeing as the police were one of the belligerents).
It was the cold-blooded murder of Yusuf by the Nigerian Police that led to the full blown radicalisation of the sect.
The Nigerian state did a historical wrong to Boko Haram, and until the policemen who killed Mohammed Yusuf are tried, convicted and punished, and his family compensated, it will be very hard to stop Boko Haram, because they feel they are fighting a holy war.
If Mohammed Yusuf can posthumously get justice, Shekau will lose his hold on the sect, and those who are tired of life in the bushes will able, under their brand of Islam, to accept the olive branch offered by the Nigerian state.
But what historical wrong has the Nigerian state done to killer herdsmen and bandits? None! Absolutely nothing. For Sheikh Gumi to call for amnesty for them is an insult to the intelligence of Nigerians.
Our government did not seize their cattle. We have not proscribed Miyetti Allah, their umbrella body, or killed its leaders. They have absolutely no religious, moral or historical right to bear a grudge against the Nigerian state.
Their case is just one of sheer criminality. These are people who have discovered that in Buhari’s Nigeria, crime does pay. It is more profitable to them to kidnap and abduct for ransom, than to graze cattle for a mere pittance. And they are not fools.
The question we should be asking in Nigeria is why are the herdsmen in Ghana and other West African nations not engaging in the types of actions they are engaging in Nigeria?
The answer is because there is zero tolerance for such behaviour in those countries. If they try it in Ghana, they will die. It is not a case of maybe. It is a case of certainty. President Nana Akufo-Addo once gave a shoot-at-sight order to the Ghanaian police against herdsmen who graze on peoples’ farms. Please Google it. Research it.
Ecclesiastes 8:11 says:
“When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong.”
What are we conveying to the world, where you have proven and admitted bandits having public meetings with Northern Governors and top Islamic clerics, where they are photographed like celebrities?
We are showing tolerance for crime. We are showing that crime does pay and that it is okay to profit from your criminality.
If nobody pays ransom for abductions, and kidnappings, they will stop happening. Look at the breakdown of law and order in Northern Nigeria today, to the extent that soldiers and policemen are being abducted and kidnapped.
Since May 29, 2015, how many killer herdsmen or bandits have been arrested, tried, and executed? The answer is none. But look at the effort President Buhari made to arrest Nnamdi Kanu. All those bandits who attended the meeting with Sheikh Gumi should have been arrested by now, if we had a functional government.
I have read and studied the Quran just as Sheikh Gumi has. He does not have a monopoly on Islamic jurisprudence. I am a second generation scholar on Islamic jurisprudence. My late father, Justice Jean Omokri (JCA) was versed in Islamic jurisprudence.
What these bandits are doing is specifically going against Hudud of both God and man as outlined in Quran chapter 5. There is no justification in Islam for them to be given an amnesty. What the Quran prescribed is that they should be severely dealt with.
Their specific crime is known as Ḥirābah under Islamic jurisprudence. Ḥirābah is any act of unjustly waging war against society, and includes kidnappings, assassinations, and abductions. It is even worse when it is Muslims who are doing Ḥirābah against other Muslims.
One of the most revered Islamic jurists that ever lived is Ibn Hazm. Hazm defined Ḥirābah as:
“Putting people in fear on the road, whether or not with a weapon, at night or day, in urban areas or in open spaces.”
Their punishment, according to various verses in Quran chapter 5, is meant to be execution and not amnesty. Sheikh Gumi, am I lying?
As difficult as it may be for me to accept, I would rather tolerate amnesty for Boko Haram, because of the historical injustice that gave rise to their war on society, than to countenance it for herdsmen and bandits.
And it is even worse still that the man floating this idea is supposed to be an Islamic jurist, and one whose intellect I used to respect.
When I saw that now-famous photograph of Sheikh Gumi with a horde of gun-toting bandits, I was stunned. Not for the reasons most people were astounded. My own astonishment came from the fact that this same Sheikh Gumi has not been photographed visiting the victims of these herdsmen and bandits.
What does it say about us when our religious figures have now become advocates for those that perpetrate crime, even where their victims have no one to speak for them?
Is this not why Bishop Matthew Kukah raised the alarm?
Why are bandits and killer herdsmen more deserving of amnesty than say Evans the kidnapper? Is it because Evans is Igbo and they are Fulani, or because Evans is Christian and they are Muslims? I condemned Evans and his crime, and I do not believe why Christian cleric will be foolhardy enough to campaign for amnesty for Evans and his clique.
What we expect from Sheikh Gumi and other Islamic clerics is to be living representations of the jurisprudence espoused by the Quran and prophet Mohammed (SAW). If they do this, they will not only be enhancing peaceful religious coexistence, they will also be promoting the concept of Islam as a religion of peace.
When those in government, and clerics like Gumi, start talking about amnesty for herdsmen and bandits, one starts to reconsider the statement by a former All Progressives Congress chieftain, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, who said as follows:
“The Fulani causing security problems in the country were brought in to help facilitate victory in the 2015 election.
After the election, the Fulani have refused to leave. I and other like minds wrote and warned those we started APC with that this was going to happen but nobody listened.”
Nigerians would recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Fulani and himself the Grand Patron of Miyetti Allah, once threatened on May 15, 2012 as follows:
“If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.’’
The question Nigerians should be asking is this: Are these herdsmen and bandits, that they now want to give amnesty to, the instruments with which they planned to soak Nigeria in blood?
Children cry when they lose their milk teeth, because they are unaware that God did not create milk teeth to last. They must go so your real teeth can come. Not every relationship you lose is a loss. Some are milk relationships. They must go for something better to come. But remember that a relationship is like a house. You build it one block at a time. Therefore, use better blocks to build your new relationship. Don’t use the same blocks you used to build your old relationships. Those relationships collapsed because those blocks were bad
Lest We Miss The Point: Lagos Motor Boat Club Crisis
RIGHT OF REPLY STORIES By Lateef Ibrahim
THISDAY as an influential newspaper that is concerned about standards must be commended for its sustained interest in the happenings at the Lagos Motor Boat Club.
Your three previous publications have tried to shed much needed light on a subject of news concern to you.
As a friend, who wants the issues resolved, I have reviewed all the various correspondences of the parties involved, and wish to observe as follows:
The crux of the apparent crisis at the Boat club centres on the breach of laid down processes guiding the club. It is a well-established fact that once processes are compromised, the institution is bound to falter with unpalatable consequences for all.
The rules and bye-laws of the Boat club are unambiguous and do not need a legal luminary to help interpret same.
The overriding consideration for any member to seek election into an elected office is two years’ membership, provided he is not found wanting and there are no pending disciplinary measures against him. No other member—trustee or ordinary—has any right to prevent such a person from contesting.
In this particular case, the candidate was a serving committee member who had served meritoriously and was desirous of holding office for another term. A group of people (ordinary members) for reasons best known to them accused the serving committee member of being transactional and with a fiat ordered him not to run with the support of one of the three trustees of the club. The trustee in fact defaced the nomination board of the club by striking out the candidate’s name together with his sponsor and seconder contrary to Section 42(b) of the rules and bye-laws of the club and the said candidate was subsequently expelled from the club for defying the instructions not to run.
Indeed it is this irregularity that has brought the club to disrepute. It appears that the crisis can only be resolved by adhering strictly to the constitution of the club.
Another issue, which has crept into the narrative though seemingly unconnected with the members’ eligibility to contest, is that of the trusteeship. The position of a trustee is one of honour, high standing, and responsibility; it involves selfless, evenhanded, and voluntary service.
A vacancy was created due to the demise of Chief Frank Akinrele (past trustee), the father of Demola Akinrele in 2019. The convention of the club is that such vacancy is generally filled by ex-commodores of the club (more often than not the most senior in the group). In this instance, both Mr. Ladi Ajose-Adeogun and Mr Demola Akinrele showed interest in the vacancy. However the club committee decided to appoint Dr. Charles Hammond, a non ex-commodore in February 2020. His appointment was belatedly ratified at the club’s AGM in November 2020 due to the pandemic. Since then, there have been no issues regarding his appointment and Dr. Charles Hammond has been enjoying the support and cooperation of members of the club.
The recent mischievous narrative that the present crisis is fuelled by a trustee candidate that failed to get appointed is indeed an attempt to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
What has brought the club to its present crisis remains the fact that certain members of the club have chosen to arrogate illegal and authoritarian powers to themselves by deciding for reasons best known to them not to allow an eligible candidate contest an election. And not satisfied with that they proceeded to expel the candidate and suspend one of his sponsors.
The path to peace, justice, and reconciliation is to establish a reconciliation committee to help untangle all the knotty issues engulfing the club.
When this is done, THIDAY must derive some satisfaction that its editorial coverage of the Lagos Motor Boat Club controversy helped in shedding light on the need for due process in our communal and nation life.
Ibrahim wrotes from Lagos.