The blood- sucking demon in our midst is being celebrated. He is being lionized as the master of his environment. His devious act is being explained away. It is being garlanded with the toga of legitimacy. From Kaduna and Zamfara to Bauchi, reasons are being invented to justify the action of bandits and killer herdsmen. The gospel of justification is even being preached by men of substance. And that is the problem.
If Nigeria were to be a proper country, we would all shudder at this lionization of terror. We would marvel at the strangeness that is strutting about in the land. But we would not worry. Nobody would be shocked because the country itself spells strangeness.
Sheik Abubakar Gumi, the Islamic cleric, knows this too well. He understands that Nigeria is a haven for permissiveness. That is why he just emerged from his many years of hibernation and inactivity to defend the activities of bandits who are killing and maiming in the North-West. He has just told us that there is no difference between the bandits and those agitating for Biafra and Oduduwa republics. Gumi did not stop there. He wants the Federal Government to grant amnesty to the killers.
Gumi’s proposition is strange in every sense of the word. It is much more so considering the fact that we do not know what the bandit stands for. What is provoking him into freestyle murder? What are his grievances? What is he asking for? Unlike the separatists that Gumi made reference to, the bandits are yet to bring us up to speed on their motive.
The Biafran agitators want a separate country. The reason for their quest is quite straightforward. They are against the inequity and injustice that rule and reign in Nigeria. The promoters of Oduduwa Republic also have their reason. They want to be free from the slave camp called Nigeria. They want to build a country of their own where freedom will reign. You may not like what these agitators are saying but they have made their points all the same. We cannot say the same thing of the bandits. Their only agenda that we know of is bloodletting. Why do they go about killing innocent people? Why are the security agencies not after them? We should worry about all this. But as I earlier noted, such worries will not pay off in a strange land like Nigeria.
If we probe the Gumi interjection further, we will quickly remind him that the Niger Delta agitators whom he wants to put on the same pedestal with the bandits had a reason for their actions. They were up in arms against the many years of exploitation and environmental degradation that has been going on in their land. Their region is the goose that lays the golden egg. Yet, it is the most underdeveloped part of the country. Their land has been despoiled. The people are neglected. They are an angry lot. They are looking back with disappointment. They want the authorities to do something about their plight. Their outcry is legitimate. I wonder what the northern bandits would have done were they to be in the shoes of the Niger Deltans.
Gumi may well return to the drawing board. Since Gumi has chosen to be the face and voice of banditry in northern Nigeria, he may well return to the drawing board. We expect him to tell us the reason for the murderous reign of the bandits. We need to know why they have chosen to feed on the blood of the unarmed and the defenceless. If Gumi is saying that they are uneducated, poor and hungry, we will quickly retort and ask him who is to blame. Why did they not go to school? Is it the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is supposed to send them to school? Someone needs to remind Gumi that there are also people in the southern part of the country who did not go to school. I am not aware that they are blaming the Nigerian state for their condition. If anything, a good many of the uneducated southerners have found occupation in meaningful ventures from where they eke out a living. Some have even excelled to unimaginable heights.
Therefore, if a set of people choose to do nothing and prefer instead to feed from the gutter, they should blame no one but themselves. What is expected of those who feel concerned is to ensure that the condition that encourages illiteracy and poverty in the North does not continue. You do not deodorize criminality by explaining it away. Senseless killing by bandits cannot be justified in any way. The Nigerian state cannot be blackmailed into believing that it owes the bloodsuckers anything. But since Gumi thinks that he can force sense into their action, we are eagerly waiting for the ingenious sophistry that he will come up with. We will move to the next level of our inquiry, if Gumi succeeds in making sense of this nonsense.
While we wait, we cannot but wonder at what drives the likes of Gumi. As an Islamic cleric, I had thought that Gumi’s mind would have been liberated. As the guardian, interpreter and transmitter of Islamic doctrines, Gumi is expected to have a broad and open horizon. He is expected to operate above fanaticism. He is supposed to liberate the minds of his adherents from dogmatism. But here we have a Gumi who is trying to sell the idea that senseless murder can be justified. If Gumi gets away with this reified version of Islam, then he and his likes will be promoting a world reminiscent of the Hobbesian state of nature. But mankind has since gone beyond such aberration. In this age and time, hearts are meant to be developed. People should not be encouraged to feel and believe that might is right. Sheik Gumi certainly needs some education in this regard.
Gumi is not alone in the gospel of strangeness that is wafting out from the North. One of the few governors that I have some regard for seems to have been led astray by anger. Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State has risen in defence of the Fulani herdsmen. He has charged at his fellow governors who are condemning the activities of killer-herdsmen. The governor said they are justified in bearing arms. The herdsman is, according to the governor, using that for self-defence. Bala Mohammed is calling for lawlessness without knowing it. If the herdsman is justified for wielding AK47 rifles, it means that every other Nigeria will have justification to do the same. Gun-toting should not be the exclusive preserve of any person or group of persons. If other Nigerians carry arms as the herdsman is doing, the consequences will be better imagined than experienced. Is this what the governor wants? He equally wants the herdsmen occupying forests in the South to remain where they are. They should continue to occupy the forests. No one, no state, according to him, owns the forests. They are owned by Nigeria. This is the gospel of defiance oozing out from the covens of Governor Mohammed.
The governor, no doubt, was driven by anger. Otherwise, he would have done better. If he had restrained his temper, he would have understood that the problem some of his fellow governors have is with killer-herdsmen. If the herdsman does not infringe upon people’s rights by destroying farmlands with his cattle, no one will complain about his presence even in Sambisa Forest. If he does not kill with reckless abandon natives who complain about his destructive inclination, no one will ever bother about where the herdsman goes to and where he does not go to. The problem is that he has become a terror. He is not law-abiding and nobody goes after him for breaking the law. This situation has given him wings to fly with. He is a law unto himself. Since evil has very small beginnings, the herdsman has carved out his own empire. He is now the most dreaded Nigerian. This is what Governors Samuel Ortom and Rotimi Akeredolu, among others, are complaining about. Maybe Bala Mohammed will come to terms with this truth some day.