By Eddy Odivwri
Long before the seizure of the trado-cultural codes in our societies by the imported religions, the elders have always had a way of knowing the minds and plans of the gods by consulting the community Dibia (seer or juju priest). The essence is to pre-empt the consequences of the anger of the gods which are often dire and dangerous.
And so, the Dibia is seen as someone in the realm of the gods and men, as he or she acts as a liaison between humanity and divinity.
In a way, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi is gradually becoming the contemporary Dibia interfacing between Nigerians and Bandits. He brings us their opinions and terms, just as he ferries our terms and conditions to them. He’s become a big time Negotiator. Some uncharitable persons have described him as a “Crisis Entrepreneur”.
For the records, Sheikh Gumi is an informed Islamic Scholar. He is a trained medical doctor, a graduate of Ahmadu Bellu University, Zaria. His father, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, was a renowned Islamic scholar too. He was as controversial and religiously radical as bigots can be. The younger Gumi has obviously followed the pathway of his late father, as he has delved full blast into the cesspool of controversy.
Gumi understands the language and logistics of warfare.
His profile has suddenly shot up as a lead negotiator.
It is remarkable that last December when 334 boys were abducted from Government Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, he brokered the deal that led to the eventual release of all 334 boys.
In the last two weeks, he had been in the vanguard of a campaign for blanket amnesty for all the bandits, arguing, albeit wrongly, that after all, the federal government had similarly granted amnesty to Niger Delta militants during the Yar’Adua presidency. The two scenarios are completely different and should not be likened to each other.
Hear him: “When I listened to them I find that it is a simple case of criminality which turned to banditry, which turned to ethnic war and some genocide too, behind the scene; people don’t know…”
Gumi added that the bandits “were forced into criminality”, explaining that “I think it is a population that is pushed into criminality by circumstances”
That is the half narrative they have insisted on dishing out. What circumstances forced them into criminality such that they had to take it out on all Nigerians?
Gumi had also gone ahead to declare that the anger and attack of the bandits should be directed at Christian soldiers who had been killing them (bandits), in the past. Nothing can be more reckless and hateful! It is a great disservice to both the Nigerian Army and to the rest of the country in general. Is Gumi alleging that Nigerian soldiers choose who to attack and tackle based on their religious faith? Do Christian soldiers dress in a different way from Muslim soldiers such that he bandits would choose and pick who to attack among the soldiers? That claim is as dumb as it infuriatingly divisive.
In a recent interview with Channels Television, Gumi claimed that the bandits are peaceful people and so they should be engaged in a dialogue. Peaceful? Really? A band of outlaws seize innocent Nigerians in their homes, schools, or farms or even highways and hold them hostage and even kill some, whilst asking for huge and unimaginable ransom, and you describe them as “peaceful”? What does being “peaceful” mean to Gumi?
No wonder the bandits marched into the office of the governor of Zamfara, the other day, along with Gumi, decked with full military uniform and bearing sophisticated weapons.
Some of them had posed in a group photograph with Gov , Aminu Bello Masari, all with some air of a conquistador.
Worse still, Gumi asked rather callously in the said interview,” how many people did bandits really kill? A few accidental killings”. Gosh! A few accidental killings? Ok, what about the rapes? They are accidental too? Perhaps, the abductions for ransom are also accidental.
And pray, how did the people of Edo State or Delta State or even Benue State et al, help to provoke these bandits into criminality?
The other day, the Zamfara governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle in calling for amnesty for the same bandits claimed that not all bandits are criminals. A clear case of lexical heresy!
They stand the truths on their heads? That is very irresponsible and cannot promote peace.
With such claims, it is difficult to trust that the likes of Gumi are on an altruistic mission to the country.
Gumi, in a way, is a name fast that is collocating with controversy. The older and late Gumi did same with his incendiary comments and campaigns at the time. The city of Kano cannot forget him in a hurry.
In the latest case of students’ abduction in Kangara, Niger State, again, Gumi is in the middle of the negotiation.
He claimed that he has located the bandits who kidnapped the school children. The Nigerian military has not been able to locate the bandits, but Gumi says he’s met them and has actually been in the negotiation team.
He claimed that the Federal Government knows where the bandits are, pointing out that the location where he met a set of the bandits is very close to an army barracks.
So, the questions are: how come Gumi is so chummy with these criminals? How come they confide in him and respect him? How is it that he and them appear to be on the same page?
Why are the security agencies not pulling in Gumi to quiz him to understand the kind of relationship existing between him and the criminals?
Gumi is the Dibia of the Nigerian state!
We are forced to ask the following questions:
Is Gumi being paid for the roles he has been playing in getting bandits to release their captives? Is he being paid (perhaps by the bandits themselves) for the huge advocacy he has been making for them?
What do the bandits do with the huge monies they get from their victims who pay ransom beside buying up guns?
Where do they keep the monies?
Are the bandits actually acting as fronts for some persons?
Is Gumi privy to the operational pattern and timing of the bandits, given his ease of locating them whenever they strike?
Where and when next are the bandits planning to attack?
Does Gumi have a relationship with the security agencies particularly the Department of State Security (DSS)?
Incidentally, there is a growing call to negotiate with the bandits. The terms of the negotiation will not be far from what government will compensate them with if they have to stop being bandits? The way it is going, it appears, head or tail, government will lose. Even if the amnesty is given, there is no assurance that they will truly surrender all their weapons.
Already, if persons like former Head of State, Abdusalami Abubakar is saying negotiating with the bandits is not the best option but “has become a necessity” and even the Nigeria Governors Forum , led by its Chairman, Gov Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, has made a U-turn, now supporting calls for negotiation with the bandits, then, we are right in the loop now. The Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum Gov Lalong had long approved the negotiation option with the bandits.
Almost all the Northern governors except Gov Nasir el-Rufai of kaduna State, have endorsed the idea of negotiating with the bandits.
What will the Nigerian state compromise in this negotiation? Will it not inadvertently see us rewarding criminals with even scarce resources, thus sending the wrong signal that crime pays?
Already, apart from the huge ransom the bandits have been collecting (even though government never admits paying ransom), part of the conditions for the release of both the Kankara abductees and now, Kangara abductees is the unconditional release of hitherto arrested bandits. How low have we stooped!
But if in stooping low, there is a guarantee that the danger is over, then we can discount our losses against the assurance of peace and security. But hey, there is no guarantee that even those granted amnesty will not rise up tomorrow against the state.
Did we not have a similar example with the so-called repentant Boko Haram members, who had to be sent for de-radicalisation training at huge expenses by the state. Didn’t some of the “de-radicalised’ terrorists either go back to the terror group or became their informants? What lesson did we learn?
One thing sure is that opening the negotiation window with criminals will only be sowing the seed for many more criminal offspring. And then we would be back to point origin!
To Everyman a Different Calendar
By Eddy Odivwri
As I sat in the theatre-like auditorium of the Foursquare Gospel Church, Gbagada last Friday, it soon struck me that indeed, the world is a mystery. I had gone to the church, that morning, to partake in the funeral service of a friend and former coursemate, Mrs Ndidi Obielumani Ogbolu, nee Osuya; at the University of Benin, Benin-city. She had passed at the beginning of the year to our utter shock. She was barely 52.
A few of our course mates had also come along to pay their last respect to Ndidi. She had become a pastor over the years, having also married a pastor, Henry Ogbolu, a lawyer and chartered accountant.
Ndidi who was quite active in curricular and extra-curricular activities in her days as an undergraduate, had indeed gone through the academic crucibles to have her doctoral degree from the prized University of Ibadan. The prevailing COVID-19 pandemic had however hitched her formal defence of her doctoral thesis.
At the beginning of that same week, I had, on Monday, February 15, attended another church service at the Church of the Pentecost, Festac Town, to celebrate the 90th birthday service of one of the elders of the church, Pa Jeremiah Olagbaiye Solomon.
Pa Solomon is a special gift to humanity. At 90, he still reads without glasses; his brain is as sharp as that of a budding teenager. He is famously called a moving encyclopaedia , what with the clinical accuracy of the historical details he shares on past events.
Though weakened by the passage of time, Pa Solomon is yet fit and moves unsupported. Many parishioners who gathered to celebrate him literally touched the helm of his agbada, hoping to inherit the gift of long life.
But on that Friday, there Ndidi layed, calm and motionless, ready to bid this sick earth eternal farewell. It was as solemn as it was emotionally-challenging. Her children, yet young, looked into space, not quite sure what had befallen them. Her husband (HIC) carried on with the twin courage of a Christian (Pastor) and a man. Yet, in his tribute he confessed that “yes, some tears will never dry”, promising that “my love for you will never die”.
While the same God who made Ndidi and Pa Solomon did not allow the former to even hit the Diamond age, he granted the latter the nonagenarian crown. Who can question God? To every of His creature he had drawn a different calendar. Your calendar is different from mine. That is why even when some planes crash, there are survivors.
Doubtless, life is a gift from God. Yes, our being careful and mindful of what we do and when we do them can help preserve life, but how much time we spend here on earth is ultimately in the hands of God, who says He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.
In all, while I congratulate Pa Solomon and wish him even more life and strength, I wish my dear class mate and fellow Delta (kwale) sister, Ndidi, a restful sleep in the bosom of her Maker.