By Owei Lakemfa
The abduction of 317 school girls of the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State, last Friday, February 26 is even more tragic because we as parents and adults once again failed to protect the Nigerian child. It is distressing that this is the fourth mass abduction of children in their schools within three months: Katsina, Kankara, Kagara, and now Jangebe.
All these children have done is to be caught in their dilapidated and rundown schools in their pursuit of priceless education which after 60 years of independence we have deprived most of our citizens.
The frustration expressed by members of the Jangebe community who attacked police, security and even media vehicles to stop them from accessing the community in the wake of the abduction, is an indication of the loss of faith in the Nigerian state and system.
How can they have faith when they knew that 42 persons, including students, staff and their families from the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State abduction 10 days earlier, were at the time, despite vows by the federal and state governments and duplicitous ‘negotiators’, still in the hands of their abductors?
How dare we blame these hapless people whose state governor, Bello Matawalle, eight days before the abductions, had lectured Nigerians during his visit to President Muhammadu Buhari that these terrorists who have murdered thousands of people are not criminals?
Governor Matawalle had told he world: “Not all of them are criminals… some of them, sometimes were cheated by so- called vigilante groups.
They normally go to their settlements and destroy property and take their animals. They did not have anyone to speak with, so sometimes they go for revenge. When the vigilante group attacks them, they go for reprisals. That is exactly what happened.” So if the killers are engaged in “revenge” and “reprisals”, why would the victim-communities trust the same state to protect them and their children?
Yet, these terrorists are not without their strong advocates like Sheikh Ahmad Gumi who presents the murderous bandits – who kidnap, steal, rape, maim and kill – as the victims, and the ordinary Nigerians who are kidnapped in villages and towns, footpaths and highways, as the predators. Gumi argues: “I think it is a population that is pushed by circumstances into criminality…They are peaceful people. But something happened that led them to this.”
Gumi, who campaigns for amnesty for the terrorists and their empowerment with state funds, is so passionate that he even advises the criminals on how to present a better public image by avoiding the kidnapping of women wearing hijab. So the bandits can either release such women or yank their hijab off before video-taping them. In other words, as far as Gumi is concerned, it is in order to kidnap non-Muslim women.
He made wild, unsubstantiated claims that the Nigerian Army has been carrying out genocide against the bandits and tops it with wilder claims that only non-Muslim soldiers kill them. When Gumi met the abductors of the Kagara school children, he told them: “What I want you people to understand is, soldiers that are involved in most of the criminalities (fighting them) are not Muslims. You know, soldiers have Muslims and non- Muslims. The non-Muslims are the ones causing confusion just to ignite a crisis.”
The implication of his claims is that Muslim soldiers spare the killer-bandits. If this were so, it would be manifest treason because he is accusing such soldiers of colluding with the bandits to attack innocent Nigerians. When Gumi, a former Captain in the Nigerian Army, was asked on AIT if, in his knowledge, soldiers are deployed on operations based on their religious faith, he could provide no answer as this would defeat his claims that in combat, only non-Muslim soldiers fight bandits.
If Gumi, an Ahmadu Bello University-trained medical doctor, can advocate that the bandits should attack or kidnap only non-Muslims and kill only non-Muslim soldiers, I have no doubt that despite his Hippocratic oath, non-Muslim patients would be dead meat under his scalpel.
Gumi’s vile narrations try to side-track the fact that the victims of the bandits are not selected based on their religion. In fact, that the bandits are interested in ransom payment not the religion of their victims. Sadly, most of the victims of the bandits, especially in the hotbeds of Katsina, Zamfara and Niger states, are Muslims. The innocent children they are kidnapping en-masse whether in Jangebe, Katsina, Kankara or Kagara, are predominantly Muslim. How is it difficult for a Sheikh to understand that a criminal is a criminal irrespective of his religion?
How can Gumi claim to be a peacemaker when he is the chief spokesperson and negotiator-in-chief of the bandits? He also makes a laughable claim that the bandits are actually some liberation fighters engaged in an “ethnic” war. He said: “When I listened to them, I found out that it is a simple case of criminality which turned into banditry, which turned into ethnic war, and some genocide too behind the scene; people don’t know.”
Who told him the Fulani are engaged in an ethnic war against the rest of the country? I am not taken in by Gumi flaunting his Sheikh regalia about forests claiming to seek freedom for the masses being ceaselessly abducted; when a cat is claiming piety, he is simply looking for food.
Also, I do not begrudge him selling himself to state and federal governments as an experienced freelance negotiator. But the governments should properly assess him. It is not just the huge holes in Gumi’s narratives and child-like claims that are glaring, some bolts also appear to be missing.
In this matter of banditry and mass kidnapping in the North, it is quite in order for the state governors to privatize their responsibility as chief security officers of their states and award the contract to Gumi as ambassador plenipotentiary to traverse bandit hideouts and negotiate the release of the victims. The only thing is that in picking a chief negotiator, they need to subject him to some test.
Gumi is like a fat cat advocating for the rat race; claiming humans are inhuman towards them, intent to wipe them out and that rats have the fundamental right to roam around, especially in the kitchen and eat whatever they find without fear of being poisoned.
The agenda of Gumi is clear, therefore, he cannot be speaking in the interests of the victims of kidnapping and banditry. Even if the wolf claims to be the spokesperson of the sheep, its interests and those of the sheep are not the same; for the wolf, both the sheep and other animals it can pounce on, are game. So, it is not difficult to decipher Gumi.