Sheikh Gumi pampered beyond measure

Islamic scholar Ahmad Gumi warned that such a declaration would come at a price. He scathingly described those pressuring the Muhammadu Buhari administration to equate banditry with terrorism as arm-chair critics and “semi-illiterates and half-baked tribal heroes who have nothing to offer besides promoting tribal xenophobia”. He argued his case so forcefully and with philosophical […] The post Sheikh Gumi pampered beyond measure appeared first on The Nation Newspaper.

Sheikh Gumi pampered beyond measure

Islamic scholar Ahmad Gumi warned that such a declaration would come at a price. He scathingly described those pressuring the Muhammadu Buhari administration to equate banditry with terrorism as arm-chair critics and “semi-illiterates and half-baked tribal heroes who have nothing to offer besides promoting tribal xenophobia”. He argued his case so forcefully and with philosophical undertones, not to say searing abuse, that it is hard to see the administration caving in to general pressures to expand its list of terrorist groups in Nigeria.

According to Sheikh Gumi, “…The acts the bandits are committing now in the Northwest have gradually, over time, become tantamount to terrorism because wherever innocent people are fatal victims, it’s pure terrorism. Yet, innocence, these days, is relative. We agreed if their children and women are also killed, they are guilty by association or collateral damage; so also the bandits may think the same way…However, the moment they are termed terrorists – Islamic for that matter – the direct foreign Jihadist movements will set in in force. And many teeming unemployed youths may find it palatable and attractive. Shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ plus AK-47 against a ‘secular’ immoral society where impunity reigns are the magnets for extremists and downtrodden – the majority of our youth…”

It is hard to place the argument of the Islamic scholar. On the one hand he agrees that the bandits’ actions are terroristic in nature, and their victims unfortunate collateral damage. But he concludes, despite the logical premise of his argument, that labeling bandits as terrorists was inadvisable and would worsen the attacks. The sole plank of his argument against the reclassification, in fact proper classification, of bandits is that the word terrorism has a magical, seductive and sanguinary impact on the bandits and their vicious trade. Once banditry is described as terrorism, said the scholar, particularly of the Islamic hue, it would serve as a magnet to terror adventurists from everywhere. Sheikh Gumi has a strange mind.

Not only have bandits dissociated themselves from religion, making it known that their animus is against those – particularly Hausa vigilantes and farmers – threatening their existence, they have also subscribed absolutely to no religious objectives. They will be amused that Sheikh Gumi, who has befriended them and offered himself as their intermediary, is investing their largely ethnic and existential struggle with religious colouration. Indeed, they will be bewildered. The scholar abuses everyone who disagrees with his point of view. He claims inalienable right to hold on to his self-serving arguments, but denies the same right to those who disagree with his definitions and aggressive suppositions.

Last Monday too, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State stated unequivocally during the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES) in Abuja that there were no ambiguities in defining what constitutes terrorism. Blowing up railway tracks and bombing communities and massacring farmers and traders are nothing but terrorism, he said. On the same podium was Kaduna State governor Nasir el-Rufai who only recently became converted to the terrorism label after initially appeasing the so-called bandits in the early years of his governorship. He needed the intensification of the attacks and killings to appreciate the terroristic evil constituted by the armed militias claiming to resist genocide against the Fulani. But Sheikh Gumi will not be persuaded. He empathises more with the ‘bandits’ than with the victims. It is not even clear whether wholesale genocide will persuade him to relent in his obtuse classifications.

It is also not clear what scale of attacks ‘bandits’ have to deploy to persuade the federal government that bandits are in fact terrorists. Mallam el-Rufai suggests that a new classification was needed to enable the government go all out against the bandits as well as use all means without running foul of international law. As an aside, what stops the government from using all legitimate means to quash the attacks laying many communities in the Northwest waste? Is Mallam el-Rufai suggesting unrestrained and illegitimate force for a problem that has its roots in socio-economic grievances but has lately become somewhat ethnic, a problem that can in fact be also partially and successfully handled by political means and other economic interventions? What is clear in all the back and forth arguments is the poverty of national leadership. Sheikh Gumi, contrary to the impression he gives, is prejudiced. The dithering federal government is inept and complicit, hiding behind definitional confusion to avoid coming to tactical and nomenclatural grip with the festering problem in the Northwest. And the governors themselves, whose decades-old misrule encouraged the breakdown of law and order in their states, have been criminally negligent and unimaginative in dealing with the nightmare.

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Whether it declared ‘bandit’ attacks as terrorism or not, the federal government should have dealt with what was a largely socio-economic problem before it morphed into ethnic conflict. The government should be pressured into living up to its responsibility, a duty it sadly repeatedly disavows when the pressures become intolerable. Alarmingly, Sheikh Gumi is trying to indirectly invest the conflict with religious overtones. They should also not let him. Terrorism is a wave of violent attack, or waves of violent attacks, often to achieve political objectives. Bandits do not have to wave self-determination flags before they qualify to be labeled as terrorists, as the federal government erroneously thinks. Their indiscriminate violence qualifies them. Flags of self-determination, on the other hand, do not constitute terrorism, again as the Nigerian government ignorantly presumes.

Both the administration and Sheikh Gumi will not allow facts, science and truths to inconvenience them. They have chosen not to apply terrorism label against bandits. They are unlikely to shift ground, regardless of the ethnic and religious connotations many disappointed Nigerians read into that failure. The public should, however, pressure their government into dealing with the menace destroying the Northwest, however they choose to do it. They should not hide behind definitional fog to be indifferent to or pull their punches in dealing with the bloodletting going on in the zone. If labeling the menace banditry will salve their conscience, let them embrace that label. What is not an option is to let banditry live on. It is cruel and shortsighted.

NASS, parties and primaries

Whatever the merit of the position taken on primaries by the National Assembly, it nevertheless appears to be an overregulation of the political system and the Electoral Act. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has a provision in its constitution for the use of indirect primaries to elect its candidates for various offices. The All Progressives Congress (APC) on the other hand provides for the use of indirect, direct and consensus modes of electing its candidates. In the ongoing amendment of the Electoral Act, both the Senate and the House of Representatives provide for the use of only direct primaries. Why they think it appropriate to meddle in how political parties, not to say the states, select their candidates is hard to fathom.

Responding to the amendment, which is yet to be adopted by NASS, governors have reportedly begun to lobby the legislature against instituting the direct primaries mode, believing that the amendment was designed to whittle down their burdensome influence on the candidates selection mode. Coupled with the autonomy granted the legislature and the judiciary, with their budgetary provisions put on first line charge, governors feel an overwhelming sense of nakedness. This contrasts with their previous monarchical, if not outrightly autocratic, bearing on the political process.

Autonomy, yes. But determining for parties, nay ordering them, on how to nominate their candidates is tasteless and nonsensical, all this because they want to curb the powers of the governors. How many more things are they going to regulate? Let the parties evolve their methods, traditions and practices.

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