Controversial Islamic cleric, Ahmad Gumi, has advised people in the terorised North-west of Nigeria on how they can live in peace with the armed bandits occupying their forests.
Mr Gumi said people can develop “mutual relationship with the bandits without being harmed”, PRNigeria reported
“My interaction(s) with the bandits have been easy because I always ‘go through the door’”, the cleric was quoted as saying while delivering a lecture at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, on Thursday.
‘Go through the door’
“I go through the door, not the window. If you go through the door, you will go in and come back safely,” Mr Gumi said, responding to questions from students at the event.
Mr Gumi said “if people listen to the bandits, they would become amenable to abandoning their violent ways”.
A student had asked why the bandits did not kidnap him during his numerous visits to their hideouts.
Mr Gumi explained thus: “When we meet them, we don’t speak, we give them the microphone to speak even for one hour.
“When we first approached them, we saw that they were holding their warrant (weapons) ready to fire. By the time we finished our meeting, they will hand in their weapons and we will be taking pictures.
“So this is the power of human interaction which is what we are here to study as social scientists. That is the approach,” the outfit qouted Gumi as saying.
‘Treat them with dignity’
Mr Gumi, a retired military officer, said he was able to gain the bandits’ confidence because he “treats them as human beings and respects them”.
“That is the respect I give them. I say come, come and sit with me. Come and sit down. I want to hear from you. With that respect, the Fulani man, you can get him.
“So don’t be surprised, if you are nice to him, if you are ready to listen to him, if you are trying to understand his problem, if you put your legs in his own shoes, he will listen to you, you will go to the forest and return safely, God willing,” the cleric said.
Mr Gumi had visited some bandits in their forest hideouts and has advised the government to negotiate with them in order to bring an end to banditry in the region.
The cleric has been accused of ‘sympathising’ with bandits, who have brought untold hardship on families and communities through their violent onslaught, kidnappings for ransom and mindless killings, but he has denied that.
Rather, he said his concern is for his country, his state and humanity that made him to advocate peaceful dialogue with the bandits.
Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle and some leaders in the north had engaged bandits in their states in dialogue in the past but the approach failed to end the menace.
The governor has now withdrawn from the dialogue and endorsed ongoing military offensive.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai and his Niger State counterpart, Abubakar Sani, consistently opposed dialogue with the outlaws.