President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union and former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Jonathan Asake, in this interview with THISDAY, alleged that the federal government and the Northern governors were not serious about tackling the security challenges in the north. John Shiklam presents the excepts:
On February 25 2021, the Northern governors and traditional rulers in the region held meeting on the deplorable security situation bedevilling the north. Are you hopeful that governors would bring an end to the scourge?
The governors of the 19 northern states have been holding such meetings for a long time and it has not translated into any tangible action against banditry. We have not seen the impact of their meetings in terms of tackling the killer herdsmen terrorising communities in the north.
So, I don’t think there will be any difference between their recent meeting and similar ones in the past. It is the same rhetoric. If they truly wanted to address the problem, they would have done so long ago.
Some of the governors are part of the problem. There is no consensus among them as to how to address the issues. Like Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state said, some of the governors are in support of amnesty for the bandits and paying compensation to them, some are opposed to it.
The people are tired of all the political shenanigans of these Northern leaders particularly, the governors. One doesn’t know, who to trust or believe anymore, going by the reckless and insensitive utterances coming from some of them. I don’t see any element of sincerity or willingness to curb the security challenges facing the region.
They don’t seemed to have any tangible solution to the problem like their Southern counterparts, who decisively adopted measures against this menace, by constituting their own security network.
The Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, was quoted to have said Nigerians would be surprised to know those who abducted school children in his state, meaning that he knew those behind the abduction. Yet, the governor did not go after the criminals and would not disclose their identities. How do you interpret his action?
The governor of Bauchi State also defended herdsmen carrying AK47 riffles. So, any keen observer will conclude that the utterances, actions, inactions and body language of some Northern leaders suggest that they are complicit in promoting the insecurity bedevilling the region.
Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, a Kaduna-based Islamic cleric visited the bandits in their forests in Kaduna, Zamfara and Niger States, advocating amnesty for them, “like Niger Delta militants”. What is your opinion on that?
Frankly speaking, not only Shiekh Gumi, most of these Northern leaders are only employing and applying “Taqqiya’’ on the rest of us. Taqqiya is an arabic word. It means to outrightly deceive or mislead someone. It also means to pretend to be doing one thing when in the real sense you are executing a different agenda.
Many people who know about Taqqiya in this country don’t believe in the commitment and sincerity of Shiekh Gumi to finding solutions to the problem of insecurity. Going by his contradictory utterances, actions and body language in his campaign for amnesty for these killer herdsmen, it is now clear that his advocacy is bereft of sincerity of purpose.
I want to ask some fundamental questions about Gumi’s so-called peace mission to the bandits.
First of all, who commissioned him? He visited the bandits with armed security men, who bankrolled him to embark on negotiations with the criminals terrorising communities across the country especially, in the north?
These criminals have killed, maimed, raped, abducted and destroyed properties, rendering thousands of people homeless. Many people have been displaced and are living in dehumanising camps with all the attendant humanitarian situation and so on.
The viral video where Gumi was seen addressing a group of Fulani herdsmen in Hausa language has exposed him as a divisive person. He was heard inciting the bandits against Christians. He was telling the bandits that there are Christians and Muslims in the Nigerian army and that it is the soldiers, who are Christians that are killing them (the bandits).
This is very unfortunate, shameful and reprehensible. It is totally unacceptable for a man that goes about claiming to be making peace to be found inciting the bandits against Christians. We expect Gumi, who was a captain in the Nigerian army, to know that in the military, there is no religion or tribe. The military is one of the uniting institutions in this country, once you introduce religion and tribe in the armed forces, this country will be in deep trouble.
If it were a Christian cleric that made this statement, I can assure you that the government and security agencies would have gone after him. Since the video went viral, the security agencies have not invited him for questioning even the federal government has not made any statement condemning the man.
These are some of the things that make us feel that in this country, there are some people that are superior to others. They can do or say anything and get away with it. You recall how the government and security agencies reacted to statements made by Dr. Obadiah Mailafiya, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
You also recall the reaction of the government to Bishop Matthew Kukah’s Christmas message in 2020. The questions on the lips of keen observes are: Why has the security agencies not summon Gumi? Why is the federal government quiet about Gumi’s utterances?
Why are the security agencies not raising eyebrows about Gumi’s visits to the bandits and campaigning for amnesty for them? Which sensitive nerve did Mailafiya stepped on that warranted his harassment by the Department of State Security (DSS) and the police? Are there different laws for different citizens in Nigeria?
Is it not clear that Gumi is inciting the military against itself along religious lines as well as inciting the killer herdsmen against soldiers, that are Christians and by extension, Christian communities? Is it not scandalous that Sheikh Gumi knows the hideouts of the terrorists in the forest and has been meeting them while the security forces pretend not to know where they are?
Is it not probable that the rest of us are being profiled?
Why is it that our security agencies appear not to see or hear the obvious danger in Gumi’s utterances and actions? These and many more questions are begging for answers.
If Gumi is able to locate these bandits in their various hideouts in the forests and talk with them, I wonder why the security forces, with all the technologies and other intelligence gathering facilities at their disposal have not been able to locate them and go after them.
For me, the amnesty programme being canvassed by Gumi is suspicious. It is not in the best interest of Nigerians. He is comparing the killer herdsmen with the Niger Delta militants, any right thinking person knows that there is just no basis for such comparison.
Many Nigerians are baffled at how the bandits were able to acquire AK47 rifles and other sophisticated weapons in the country.
This question should be directed to the government and security agencies. They should tell us how the bandits amassed so many weapons. It clearly shows that the government has failed in its primary responsibility of ensuring the security of its citizens.
But some stories about how the bandits got their weapons are beginning to surface. I am sure you must come across a video clip that has gone viral.
In the video, an angry Fulani bandit swore that the government supplied them with AK47. In the video, the man said the Fulani are known for cattle rearing and farming. He said cows don’t give birth to AK47 and that the Fulani don’t have the capacity to manufacture AK47 riffles. The man swore that if he is lying, God should take his life!
Besides, there are stories that during the 2015 general election, some people, in their desperate quests for power brought bandits for war, should former President Goodluck Jonathan refuse to concede defeat.
If these stories are true, then government is culpable. The way President Buhari is running this country has even created an impression that his government is more of a government of Fulani by Fulani and for the Fulani. Probably that is why criminal Fulani herdsmen are brazenly carrying AK47 and other dangerous weapons and invading communities, killing, raping, kidnapping and destroying property with impunity and nothing happens.
You don’t get to hear of any arrest of the culprits and the criminals continue with their heinous activities. While the bandits move about freely with their weapons, Nigerians, who are victims have no right to defend themselves. Security agencies go about arresting people with ordinary dane guns, accusing them of being in possession of unlicensed arms, but bandits move about freely with AK47. A governor was even justifying this illegality.
The bandits are making millions of naira from kidnapping. When they abduct people, instead of tracking them, arrest them and bring them to justice, the government negotiates with them like they did in the recent abduction cases of school children in Niger and Zamfara States. The bandits are pampered and treated as sacred cows.
What do you think is the solution to banditry and kidnapping?
Security agencies should work hand-in-hand with communities. Government should empower communities to protect themselves against these marauders. Once the bandits know that the people have the capacity to defend themselves, they will not just invade villages and slaughter people like rams. After all, the Minister of Defence recently said Nigerians should not be running away for the bandits. Let the security agencies work with the people, so that they can face the bandits.
There should be collaboration between security agencies and the communities, who know the terrain and are in a better position to provide credible information about the location of the criminals. The teeming youths in the communities should be recruited to join forces with security personnel, just like it was done in Borno State in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists.
This can only happen if the security forces are sincere and fair in their dealings with the people. The government should provide the necessary arms that will match or surpass those of the bandits and motivate security personnel to put in their best in fighting the criminals.