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Banditry: Between Gumi and the military

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Sheikh Ahmad Gumi may have more inkling on recent abductions and banditry in the north than the Nigerian State, which in any case seems to nurture no more than a passing interest.

All the same, there has been no synergy of purpose between the two parties that hapless Nigerians, particularly victims of kidnapping and banditry, can cheer about. The ravaging of the north by bandits is nothing but criminality, and it is time to address it as such, rather than standing logic on its head and increasing the anguish of the ordinary citizen.

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This week, about 26 students were kidnapped by armed bandits at Bethel Baptist School, Maraban Rido, Chikun Local Council of Kaduna State, indicating at least, that kidnapping is a lucrative business, is not about to end. Indeed, Gumi has shown to be more of a bandits’ apologist than of a mediator between criminals and victims. The Armed Forces to have performed more of hiding and seek with criminals that are readily accessible to non-state actors like Gumi. These contradictions betray public expectation from both parties, who should actually work in sync in the interest of the State to end banditry.
  
Far more than just bystanders or umpires, non-state actors are becoming more active than the security agencies in the battle against banditry, and this is a huge cause for worry. Sheikh Gumi’s recent roles and altercations have not gone unnoticed. Besides negotiating a ransom for the release of abducted students and saving them from being killed, the controversial cleric had been meeting daredevil bandits in the forests with photo ups for the world to see. In one fell swoop, he accused the military of colluding with the bandits, which is a grave allegation, to begin with. But equally disturbing has been his appeasement policy and amnesty advocacy for criminal herders engaging in banditry and kidnapping. This attempted rationalisation and justification of sheer criminality betray the genuine intent of the revered scholar. Blurring the line between good and evil, and making phantom proposals has no place in civilised settings and State governments have rejected Gumi’s offer for good.  
 

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Clearly, a citizen like Gumi knows more to interest the intelligence community and their scrutiny. And this finally attracted the attention of the State authority, which recently claimed to have invited him for questioning. Gumi has denied having such a meeting with the Department of State Services (DSS). Besides, the military has in a statement denied colluding with bandits and warned Gumi to stop emboldening criminals. The Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, has said: “Opinion leaders are enjoined to demonstrate patriotism in building the peace, rather than being agents of destabilisation, thereby aggravating the current security challenges facing the nation.”    

However, Gumi’s posture deserves more than just a verbal or a handshake session with the DSS. The question that should agitate the mind of the intelligence community is the real interest of Gumi in this matter. What exactly does he know about military collusion with bandits and what evidence has he to back his claims? Also, how much value has Gumi brought to the table in fixing insecurity and banditry? Has he not been disastrously distractive, considering that many governors disagree with his suggestion to end the conflict, having tried it and seen the failure? A more proactive military will neither dismiss his claims with a wave of the hand; nor treat him as an irritant nor untouchable. Gumi cannot be parading himself as a negotiator for the victims of banditry and still pose as bandits’ spokesperson at the same time.

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As a Nigerian citizen that has a genuine interest in the country at heart, Gumi should be condemning criminality rather than blame victims for their abductions and killings. He should preach denunciation of banditry than urge them on by rationalising criminality or equating bandits with Niger Delta militants that are agitators of better a deal from government and beneficiaries of their natural resources. Gumi should as well assist the military more with useful information to foil attacks and apprehend recalcitrant bandits. It is disheartening that erstwhile gallant soldiers are alleged of complicity with enemies of the State. But beyond just a sound bite in the media, Gumi should equip the hierarchy of the Armed Forces with useful information to check saboteurs in the interest of the Nigerian State.
  
It is clear that the entire narrative underscores the lackadaisical disposition of the Armed Forces in tackling banditry and other criminals head-on. The entire leadership structure and security agencies have been caught flat-footed, for non-state actors like Gumi to gain relevance in the war against insurgency. It shows that the security agencies – Army, Police, DSS, NIA, DMI and so on have not been on top of their game. This is uncharacteristic of modern leadership and quite unlike the Nigerian army of yesteryears. More than just a passing interest and knee-jerk reactions to Gumi’s accusations, it behoves on the intelligence community to live up to their billing, critically examining the role of Gumi – as an innocent bystander or an interested bigot.
  
It is the responsibility of the security agencies to keep the state safe and secured, by putting the pieces together. To do otherwise is a dereliction of duty and deserving of an appropriate sanction. Gumi’s role in criminal insurgency is undermining, indeed antithetical of the role expected of security agencies and even the state governors. And that exposes the lack of desire to end banditry. Besides questioning Gumi, let the armed forces come alive in this matter. Enough is enough of sheer incompetence, complicit negligence and collusion by interested parties.
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