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Tackling Banditry: A Look at Sheikh Ahmad Gumi’s Novel Peace Initiative

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By Huseyn Zakaria and Shuaibu Idris Miqati

From time immemorial mankind has challenges of poverty, injustice, inequality, insecurity, and several others too numerous to mention. Governments and indeed leaders over the years used several mechanisms to address these challenges with varying degrees of successes and in many monumental failures. 

Our religion Islam which means peace has the most realistic, sincere and time tested mechanism of conflict resolution, terms and conditions to be observed so as to live in peace and harmony no matter the extent, level and or degree of diversity in a society. Indeed our Prophet has exemplified this during his life as he lived in total tranquility with Jews and Christians devoid of rancor, ill feelings, suspicion or injustice despite being in leadership position. Equity, justice, fairness and above all transparency were the order of the day while Muslim were in leadership positions. 

Over the years however, societies metamorphosis brought about lopsided actions, transgressions, nepotism and above all unfair treatment of people leading to many being aggrieved as a result of the somewhat perceived rightly or wrongly maltreatment of certain part or class of people.

While many citizens who are somehow denied of means of livelihood and the society appear not to have any means of accommodation retreat to live abject poverty, malnourished, hungry and with ill health, many decides to vent their anger on almost anyone they come across irrespective of weather he or she is part of the oppressors as our leaders or those who are perceived to rich ie the have are called.

A certain stage of conflagration, anarchy, chaos and total breakdown of law and order is either in the ofin or already happening in several societies from Asia to Latin America,  Europe to Africa, Middle East to America in everywhere and anywhere. Some the causes of these challenges are political, economic, tribal, cultural, land and or religious to mention but a few of the known factors.

As stated earlier humanity developed several mechanisms to deal with these challenges but most if all still exists. American societies are not safe from organised crimes and bandits nor is Italian society cleared of gangsters and organised crimes. The ecosystem of members of the underworld transcend continents and boundaries, race and religion. 

A good example to start with is America. After several decades of fighting the so called terrorists all over the world, and despite its supremacy of ground, air and sea fire powers, had to sort to resorted to dialogue in a number of areas so as to achieve lasting peace. Example is the truce it had with Taliban! After several years of military exercise of power, lost of lives, properties and trillions of dollars, no appreciable progress was recorded in dealing with certain criminals even by the so called super powers of the world through military might! Indeed both the US and Russia had to resort to dialogue in order to achieve certain level of peace quite a number of battle fields despite their capacity for destruction using air power or even forced occupation using ground troops!

However, of recent a few wise men among members of the leadership of the super powers realise that incessant bombing and killing of innocent civilians cannot end unjustifianle wars, attacks of the so called terroristsand or bandits. Thus, the resort to dialogue towards lasting peaceful coexistence! That’s to say fire power have limitations, and yielded no much successes and the need to explore alternative approaches to achieve peace became imperative! One can argue that Al Qaeda was defeated through the use of force and Israel/Palestinian conflict remain intractable despite several dialogue sessions. However, even lawyers have identified ADR ie alternative disputes resolution AKA dialogue as a good means of resolving disagreements. 

Here in Nigeria, our security forces have been fighting for over years without any foreseeable end to the multifaceted wars! The country is spending its meagre foreign currency in exchange for either outdated or incomplete weapons. The economy and citizens are suffering beyond comprehension with no peace and security in sight! Although dialogue was used to address the Niger Delta crisis, no one in government ever thought of or considered the use of similar channel to address say the Herders Farmers conflict. 

Surprisingly and just in time, Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi came up with novel initiative towards reconciliation with the several groups of the dreaded bandits, daredevil kidnappers and armed robbers in some parts of the Kaduna state. The Sheikh organise discussion sessions but the leaders of these miscreants with a view to cajoling them to lay down their arms and ammunitions so as to give peace a chance. Education, enlightenment and appeals are used to entice these dare devil individuals to see reasons to abandoned their nefarious acts and embrace peace. No ransome, gifts or any enticement or inducement is involved thus far! Yet he has so far been able to receive thousands of repentant bandits who have voluntarily surrendered along with their commanders. As at today, more cells of kidnappers and bandits have sent their emissaries with white flags indicating their readiness to abandon jungle life and reintegrate with people in the cities.

In a society where many religious leaders have lost sense of direction, honour and or dignity, these type of moves are what the larger society need to see from well meaning leaders and individuals so as to restore some level of confidence and peace in our society. Clearly some may read meaning to this noble gesture, some may not appreciate nor understand where and why the Sheikh has taken it on himself to dare these miscreants and even risk his life so as to achieve this giant feat. However, Allah SWT knows what is in Mallam Ahmad’s mind. Those close to him also know his thought process, his vision and mission on this epic journey. That’s indeed why we salute his courage, his wisdom and his timely intervention for the benefits of Nigerians irrespective of tribes or religions. Its alsoIts alsoIt’s also pertinent to note that this action is noble, exemplary as the Sheikh not just talking the talk but walking the talk devoid of politics, popularity seeking and or egoism. Unfortunately these are what characterise our scholars of now a days.

It’s in the light of the foregoing that we wish to call on our President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to immediately consider integrating Sheikh Gumi’s Peace Initiative as part of an overall holistic approach and plan towards securing our lives and our properties. Nigerians have lost numerous relatives and assets over the years in this senseless wars. Mr President should order all the heads of armed forces, the Police and other security operatives to jointly work with Sheikh Ahmad in this dialogue process towards achieving lasting peace. In addition, all surrendered and repentants miscreants should be extended amnesty as well as some palliatives such as soft loans say three cows, a male and two female to start life just as what was done to the repentant militants akin from Niger Delta! The militants in the creeks complained that Oil companies activities made fishing the bedrock of living and economic activities of the inhabitants of the region impossible. Government planned and executed an amnesty program which ensured peace in the region. The fulani herdsmen who basically rear animals have had their means of livelihood affected negatively by desert encroachment as well as human beings activities that degrade the environment. Grazing areas, cattle routes and even canals have all disappeared. These caused loss of opportunity as well as assets such as animals owned by herdsmen. Poverty push some of these herders in to crimes of cattle rustling, banditry and kidnapping. A program similar to the amnesty program implemented in the Niger Delta Region may be necessary for the herdsmen to complenet Sheikh Ahmed’s efforts so as so achieve lasting peace. Federal Goverment’s program such as Trader Moni, Conditional Cash Transfer, Palliatives etc can be extended to these herders with a view collecting their arms and ammunitions in exchange for say one bull and two female cows on a loan basis. Organisations such as MCBAN in addition to Dr Gumi’s organisation can be involved in sorting out those that can be made to benefit from this scheme after under going a process of de-radicalisation, drugs rehabilitation and then economic rehabilitation with a view to alleviating poverty and achieving lasting solution. We should not, indeed must not allow sentiments and politics to derail this laudable initiative. If any it be should fine tuned and implemented soonest in the interest of us all.

If peace can be achieved through dialogue, why spend colossal money and loose several lives yet without much or appreciable level of success. We should take queue from President Biden who was sworn recently as the 46th President of US, the only policy he promised to continue with of the disgraced former President Trump, is dialogue with the Talibans towards lasting peaceful coexistence!

May Allah guide the President, and help Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi’s Peace Initiative to succeed! Amin

Huseyn Zakaria/Shuaibu Idris Miqati mni writes from Abuja, Nigeria

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