From Okwe Obi, Abuja
Pan-Arewa socio-political organisation, the North East Elders for Peace and Development (NEEPD), has dissociated itself from Ahmad Gumi, Islamic cleric, over his alleged religious profiling of military operatives.
Gumi was quoted to have said non-Muslim soldiers carried out orchestrated killings of bandits and consequently precipitating their anger.
“What I want you people to understand is, soldiers that are involved in most of the criminalities are not Muslims. You know, soldiers have Muslims and non-Muslims. The non-Muslims are the ones causing confusion just to ignite a crisis,” he was quoted to have said when he met with suspected bandits in Tegina forest, on the border between Niger and Kaduna states.
But, NEEPD national coordinator, Zana Goni, in a statement, yesterday, argued that the cleric’s claim could dampen the morale in the fight against bandits and further escalate the kidnappings and killings ravaging the zone. The elders added that Gumi’s allegations did not represent the position of the region, asking the public to see the claims as personal sentiments of the cleric.
The group said they would have commended Gumi for his peacemaking efforts “but for the profiling comments attributed to him, which we consider abhorrent and unhelpful to national development and peace.”
They warned that such a statement was capable of inciting the public against soldiers.
“We rise in one voice to dissociate ourselves from the dangerous and divisive allegations levelled against our patriotic soldiers by Sheikh Gumi, in one of his missions to meet with bandits in a forest around Niger State,” the group said.
“We insist that our military is one of the finest in the world, with zero-tolerance for partisanship, ethnic consideration and other unprofessional dispositions.
“We warn that comments such as this have the potential of pitting the exposed soldiers against general areas in the North, where they have continued to put down their lives to protect the territorial integrity of the nation from those that seek to violate it. Our concern is further hinged on the possibility of the world concluding that the North may be offering tacit endorsement to banditry and associated crimes against society.
“To douse this tension, therefore, we call on relevant authorities, including prominent individuals and groups from the North, to condemn Gumi’s position in a manner that will absolve the region of conspiracy and vicarious liability, in the long run.
“In whatever position we find ourselves, we must, at all material times, endeavour to put the collective interest of Nigeria over and above all other considerations, bearing in mind the fact that when the country collapses, it will do so on all of us, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or belief.
“Lastly, we urge Gumi to stop approbating and reprobating at the same time, and to immediately call off his mission, if he has developed lethargy in the course of undertaking visits to deep forests.”