Gumi’s Dialogue With Bandits: The Right Way Or Repeating A Past Mistake? – By Mallam Naini Musa
In the past couple of months, Dr. Ahmad Mahmud Gumi, a renowned scholar in his own right and son of arguably the most famous modern Islamic scholar and Khadi in Nigeria begun the process of dialogue with the “Fulani bandits”. For the people of katsina however, this seem like a journey already taken. When the present administration of Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari came in for the first time, they began the process of engaging these bandits so as to bring an end to a conflict that is causing significant economic loss and loss of lives.
These bandits were offered financial benefits in exchange for immunity. Which seemed like a bad idea now, but at the time, there were quite a number of people that celebrated the effort. Some people felt that we as a society have suffered enough and that it was time to move on. However, even at that hour, some people called for caution to be exercised, they saw a system that is sure to backfire pointing out loop holes in the state government’s approach. These people did exist, but their voice was mostly dwarfed by the desperate relief of the terrified masses or simply dismissed as partisan, or as opposing government policy for the sake of opposition. We will come to rue the haste.
It will be unfair to lump Dr. Ahmad Gumi’s efforts with the Katsina State Amnesty program as one. They are far apart. The only thing they have in common is the end goal of bringing an end to banditry. Dr. Ahmad has done more as an individual than any other scholar or public figure in discussing this issue and trying to find a scientific approach to the insecurity plague slowly and terrifyingly crushing us. However, even with the difference in approach, haven seen these elements renege on their pledges and with the experience we now have about this issue, is it worth travelling this road of dialogue, clemency and amnesty again? Or should we consider another approach so as not to be beaten twice? Let us explore this.
Firstly, Mallam owes no one explanation on his effort, he did not start this quest with the permission or mandate of representing anyone but himself. He is entitled to his idea and his approach as long as he is not harming anyone in the process; it is a free country, anyone is free to do anything within the constraint of the law. Haven said that, a figure as big as he Mallam is surely going to attract the attention of the wider community especially when he is dabbling in an issue as emotional and controversial as this. The flip side of this argument is that the same law that guarantees Mallam’s right to exercise his project also enshrines the right of his critics to criticize his project (no matter how trivial their argument may seem).
Secondly, there is a question of curiosity that is embedded in this whole issue. I am sure many people would love to find out why a community that has enjoyed so much peace and unity is now in tatters. Why are these people attacking their own community? Many people do not even see a divide between the Hausa and the Fulani, hence the “Hausa-Fulani” characterization. We are not the only ones with this opinion, for many people in the south, they see all Fulani as Hausa and all Hausa as Fulani. We are all aboki in their eyes. So when suddenly there is outrage from a section of this society and that translate to arbitrary violence on the wider community, we have to at least be curious. What is the root cause of this anger? What is so outrageous that we are having livestock rustling and arbitrary killing of your own kinsmen? Is it solely criminal or are there other sentiments behind it? What did we do to deserve this sort of mayhem? Wouldn’t you like to know? If you do, the work of Mallam could provide some of the answers you have and even those you did not dared to ask.
Thirdly, the right approach is the winning approach. There are those that argue that we should unleash mayhem on these bandits and there are those who think we should be diplomatic. Kaduna state took a stance of “There is no negotiating with terrorists” and today they are one of the worst victims of these attacks. On the other hand, you have Katsina and Zamfara states who went the opposite and sat with the perpetrators and extended them the olive branch, today the carrot and stick approach of these states is a shambolic failure. None of these approaches worked. The problem is still in existence and only ever growing. So if Mallam thinks he can give it a try, I think it would be at the very least foolish to give it a thumbs down from the very beginning. This sort of close mindedness is arrogant and self-serving, it does no one any good, certainly not to the suffering society that is in urgent need of ideas and solutions.
Finally, I would like to argue that most ideas novel or otherwise are good on paper and probably come from a good place deep down in our hearts. It is in the execution that we deviate. The governments of these Northern states differ in their plans, no sane, objective person would argue that they deliberately came up with plans to harm their citizens. The failure to tackle these issues come in their implementations of their ideas. A plan must be implemented ruthlessly, with careful examination of the result and adjustment where necessary and abandoned when it is found to be no good. However, the eyes must always be kept on the plan.
We hope Mallam and any other person with idea on this issue finds the courage to implement their projects the right way and in doing so stumble on successful in every step and even in unexpected places.
Mallam Naini Musa
Mallam Naini Musa is a creative writer
And a social critic.