Controversial Islamic cleric and former army officer, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, has caused commotion with his recent comment that Nigeria would disintegrate if the Federal Government declared bandits as terrorists.
The statement has drawn anger and condemnations with some tagging him a terrorist or strong supporter of terrorism while others called for his immediate arrest.
In a Facebook post, Gumi had admitted that the devastation inflicted by rampaging bandits in the North West amounted to terrorism but warned that President Muhammadu Buhari’s labelling them as such would invite additional consequences that would consume the entire country.
“The acts the bandits are committing now in NW have gradually over time become tantamount to terrorism because wherever innocent people are fatal victims it’s pure terrorism.”
He warned that the moment bandits are designated as terrorists, “Islamic for that matter, the direct foreign Jihadist movements will set in in force.
“Many teaming unemployed youths may find it palatable and attractive. Shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ plus AK47 against a ‘secular’ immoral society where impunity reigns are the magnet for extremists and downtrodden – the majority of our youth. Already these deadly terrorist groups are fighting for the soul of these bandits.
“This will give criminality a spiritual cover and remove the stigma of discrediting them with such crimes since now they are fighting a ‘Jihad’ as they will claim.”
Gumi argued that since Boko Haram has already gripped the North-East, separatist agitators in the South-East and South-West would easily seize on the lawlessness sweeping the northern regions.
“NE is already and is still devastated by this madness for over 12 years. If we allow, terror, to set in into these raw naïve unexposed bandits, NW will be in ruins sooner than later.
“Already IPOB are destroying SE, and Igboho has set the ball of confusion rolling in SW. For those who want to destroy the NW, it’s a good recipe.”
Reacting, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo advised that the earlier Nigeria recognised Sheikh Gumi as a security threat, the better for everybody in Nigeria.
The apex-Igbo group, which spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia, argued that what Gumi professes as an Islamic cleric is contrary to most of his public statements, especially as it affects the country’s security situation.
“In the first place, he professes Islam but Islam in itself, is supposed to be a symbol of peace. As an Islamic cleric, his descriptions are sometimes at variance with the role he plays in the society. So, his role is in contradiction to his faith as an Islamic cleric and such a person is more dangerous.”
He also likened Gumi to a wolf in sheep’s clothing, saying such persons were more dangerous.
For the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), which spoke through Dogo Isuwa, its national publicity secretary, if government failed to declare the bandits as terrorists, and treat them as such and bring an end to their evil activities, Nigeria would cease.
“If the Governor of Kaduna State, where Gumi lives, is asking the Federal Government to declare bandits as terrorists, who is Gumi to say otherwise? And if the government of Kaduna State is serious, then Gumi should not be walking free because he is either a terrorist or supporter of terrorism,” he said.
He also called on government to, as a matter of urgency, arrest Sheikh Gumi.
The Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS), the umbrella body for self-determination groups in the South and Middle-Belt of Nigeria with Ilana Omo Oodua representing the Yoruba Land, Lower Niger Congress representing the South South and South East and Middle-Belt Rennaissance Movement representing the Middle Belt region, also insisted that bandits should be declared as terrorists.
In a telephone interview, leader of NINAS, Prof Banji Akintoye, said: “The same set of people that see Igboho as an enemy of Nigeria are the same people supporting terrorists, masquerading as bandits. You can see that all their claim to national unity is fake.
“We do not speak for IPOB and we do not have any association with IPOB. Then, IPOB without shooting a gun and without kidnapping anyone, was declared a terrorists’ group, just for staging protests. How much more a group of people that have kidnapped a sitting senator, killed scores of both young and old people. But today, we are being told they should not be declared as terrorists.
“Our position is that the current administration has demonstrated that it is only meant to protect the North. They are planning to ensure that the South serves the North. They are planning to use the resources of the South to develop the North. But they will fail.
“So, our position under NINAS, which Ilana Omo Oodua is part of is that the bandits, the criminal herders or whatever they called themselves, is a terrorists’ organisation, and should be declared as so. Sheikh Gumi entitled to his own opinion. This is a democracy.”
Also reacting, the Igbo National Council (INC) described Gumi’s utterance as disturbing and a threat to national security.
President of INC, Chilos Godsent, in a statement called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the Islamic cleric on his comment.
•Gumi worse than terrorists
Two Igbo groups, Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) and Oke Ndigbo, also hit Gumi, describing him as a known terrorist being pamperd by the Federal Government.
ADF’s spokesman, Abia Onyike, said: “A spade must be called by its name. The bandits are terrorists and should be addressed as such. The threat by Sheik Gumni does not hold water. Let the foreign Jihadists come, but let them be isolated in the North where they belong.”
National Secretary of Igbo rights group, Oke Ndigbo, Damian Udemba said the likes of Gumi should have been questioned by now by the security agencies and possibly isolated and prosecuted for romancing with terrorists.
In fact, it said that “Gumi is promoting terrorism by openly serving as their emissary”.
•CAN, PDP, Kaigama, Mogekwu, Kokori, Wechie fume
While cautioning the Sheik to remove sentiments over the issue of designating bandits as terrorists, the Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Kaigama, said whether called bandits or terrorists, the fact remained that they are engaged in anti-human crimes and are putting the citizens to great risk and destabilising the nation by creating a terrible situation of insecurity.
“What I think Sheikh Gumi and many good Nigerians should do is how do we conquer the situation? How do we fight these terrible crimes? And if he brings good suggestions and other Nigerians bring their own, there will be a solution. But when we begin to appear as if we are taking sides, the problem remains unsolved and I think we shall continue to suffer.”
Kaigama further said he hoped that if Sheikh Gumi knew how to get to the bandits and convince them to stop their criminal activities, it would be of great service to the nation.
Similarly, Bishop of Asaba Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Justus Mogekwu told Daily Sun in Asaba, Delta State, that no matter what anybody painted them, they (bandits), remained terrorists.
“Bandits are terrorists whether the president declares them as such or not, they are terrorists. It also shows the level of hypocrisy among some of our leaders.
“How can declaring bandits as terrorists would break up Nigeria? I do not understand, as if they are a component part of our existence.
“The problem is that we have a government that do have the welfare of Nigerians, they are more concerned about the foreign jihadist than Nigerians.
“If the government is waiting for anything to declare them what they are, it means the government is behind them. Nigeria has been under this siege for many years it is only now we are seeing the manifestation of it,” Mogekwu said.
Also, the Delta State chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Apostle Sylvanus Okorote said Gumi’s statement only revealed what was already obvious, adding that he (Gumi) should stop deceiving himself.
“If banditry is what united Nigeria, then they can break Nigeria but if banditry is not what united Nigeria, if Nigeria was united as a sovereign nation by God, no matter who is declared a terrorist or declared saint, the country will continue to be.
“So if he wishes to declare bandits as saints, let him continue to do so. Let the president declare them saints if that is his advice; advising the president to declare bandits as saints. Let him speak up and tell the president to declare them as saints. It is obvious to everybody, the entire world is aware of what the bandits are doing,” he said.
Former publicity secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rivers State, and Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area, Samuel Nwanosike, and a prominent public analyst, Mr. Livingstone Wechie, saw Gumi’s comment as conspiratorial compromise by the Nigeria state and its security agencies.
“Sheikh Gumi has for a period been developing a groundswell of felonious influence that seems to be legitimising terrorism and banditry in Nigeria.
“It is most disturbing that such a person with his background as a retired military Captain should be using religious blackmail to promote such dangerous and criminal ideology.
“The comments credited to Sheikh Gumi warning that the categorisation of bandits as terrorists will mean the end of Nigeria smacks of conspiratorial compromise by the Nigerian state and its forces. It indicates that the Federal Government may have surrendered to the antics of the self-made ambassador of terrorists and bandits.
“It is very surprising that Gumi who now enjoys unfettered communication access to the insurgents to the point of middle-manning for the release of abductees, has acquired the ultimate right to dictate the paradigm on the war on insecurity and remains untouchable, whether advertently or otherwise, by the Nigerian government.
Former General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, advised Nigerians to ignore Gumi, and see him as a religious fundamentalist. “Who is Gumi? He is just a religious fundamentalist, whose views are always at the extreme and at variance with the views held by the liberal Islamists,” he said.
•Okorie, Uwazuruike, Ehikhamenor react
One of the stalwarts of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South East zone, Chief Chekwas Okorie said it was baffling why Nigerian government was allowing him (Gumi) to make such reckless statements without being question or brought to book.
“I don’t know what gives Sheikh Gumi the confidence to talk the way he talks and sometimes threatens the stability of Nigeria and government will allow him to continue to behave and talk recklessly.
Former president of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike said he was not surprised by Gumi’s statement.
He said the only way for Nigeria to understand the trajectory of what the bandits are is to classify them as terrorists and that it was tomfoolery not to do so.
In his reaction, professor at the University of Benin, Prof. Edeaghe Ehikhamenor, expressed surprise that Sheik Gumi could speak with audacity with nobody cautioning him.
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