It seems that anytime Nigeria is getting some respite as regards ethnic tensions, there are people who are bent on frustrating the efforts. They make careless statements along religious and ethnic lines to upturn the polity and turn Nigerians against one another. While our leaders in the political landscape are mostly orchestrators of these divisive schemes, traditional and religious leaders have now picked up the baton. Two actors have been more involved in this subversive plot recently, and they are Sheik Ahmad Gumi and Sunday Igboho.
Sheikh Ahmad Gumi
It is important to note that Sheik Ahmad Gumi is a well-respected Islamic cleric. In recent times, however, he has been more involved in championing divisive projects which are incompatible with his religious calling. Alhaji Gumi has gone too far in this issue of banditry, pushing for things that ordinarily shouldn’t be. But no time has he gone out of hand than when he accused the Nigerian Army of sectionalism. He accused the Nigerian Army of extrajudicial killings. In a clip, he was seen telling bandits that soldiers attacking them were non-muslims.
This warranted the Nigerian Army to issue a warning to the Islamic cleric and other opinion merchants not to drag its image in the mud.
The Army clarified that it does not deploy troops along religious or ethnic lines contrary to Gumi’s statements to bandits that Christian soldiers were the ones killing them. A statement on Monday signed by Director, Army Public Relations, Mohammed Yerima noted:
“While the Nigerian Army would not want to join issues with the respected Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, it is however important to restate that the Nigerian Army, as a national institution, does not deploy its troops along ethnic or religious lines.
“Therefore, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi and other opinion merchants are please enjoined to exercise restraint not to drag the image and reputation of one of the most reliable national institutions to disrepute.”
Asides from this, Gumi’s intermediary role between bandits and respective state governments is one that is introspectively suspicious. He started out by acting as the spokesperson for bandits, echoing Bala Mohammed’s position that not all bandits are criminals. In fact, it was from him that the Governors of Zamfara and Bauchi gathered courage to declare that herdsmen were victims of the present crisis in Nigeria.
He tried to justify the activities of bandits by propounding the argumentum ad hominem that they were victims of circumstances. As if that was not enough, he asked for blanket amnesty for bandits, insisting that the same hand that was extended to Niger Delta militants should be extended to northern bandits.
He claimed that bandits were victims of bad governance and took to crime to fend for themselves. He undermined the capacity of the Buhari-led administration to secure lives and property of ordinary Nigerians by insisting that government should treat bandits with kid gloves. He fed the notion that bandits deserve amnesty, and that if amnesty wasn’t accorded them, their continued perpetration of crime would be justified. These were covert implications of Alhaji Gumi’s proposition.
Sunday Igboho, the self-styled activist, is one man who enjoys fanning the embers of war. Not only is he an encapsulation of violence as his pen name denotes, he is also adept in ethnic profiling. He encourages division among Southerners and Northerners. These are laden in his actions and divisive statements.
Without any legal or constitutional authority, he took to the streets of Ibarapa, demanding the eviction of all Fulanis in Oyo State. He rescinded the authority of his state governor, Seyi Makinde, describing the governor’s directive that nobody can leave the state as a huge joke.
As the National Coordinator of Yoruba Appraisal Forum noted, people like Sunday Igboho “have very sinister objectives of destabilizing the Nigerian nation for the selfish political end of their sponsors and paymasters, but they will cover up their nefarious agenda with the cloak of fighting for the Yoruba nation”.
His incendiary statements caused the fight that erupted in Igangan, leading to four people being killed in renewed violence.
He didn’t just stop there. He continued to feed the notion that the Fulanis were evil and that the entire tribe needed to be denounced, even if it means taking up arms against them. It didn’t come to many as a surprise therefore when the Shasha crisis came up at the height of Igboho’s antics.
This individual, who has been a puppet of destruction for avaricious and power-seeking politicians, also took his divisive campaign to Ogun State. In his declaration on arrival, he said:
“We are here in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. Fulani herders are killing us in various Southwest states, and that’s why, we, the youths, have come out to demand our rights.
“That is why I am saying all Fulani herdsmen should vacate Yoruba land. There is peace now in Igangan and that’s not the only place I want peace to reign. We are going to all parts of Yoruba land”.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian constitution clarifies that no citizen has the right to expel other citizens or residents from wherever they choose to live or do business.
He excoriated all the yorúbà leaders who approached the issue with modest and civilised consciousness, as well as all those who would not be led astray by sentiments. He accused them of selling their birthrights for pecuniary gains. He wanted war and jungle justice. When his wanton proclivity for violence wasn’t met, he resorted to taking jabs even at prominent symbols of Yoruba traditional authority like the Ooni of Ife.
Furthermore, Igboho propagated the preposterous position that red meat has been poisoned and that Southerners should boycott the products coming from the North.
Recently, he has been more involved in propagating the divisive agenda against meat consumption. He joined forces with Afenifere, Gani Adams, and some other Southwest divisive leaders to declare war on cows and beef production as a whole.