* Says Matawalle has left monarchs to their fate
*‘Gov failed to take advantage of 3 months ceasefire’
*Speaks on what Sultan told Gambari on insecurity
*MEETING BANDITS FACE -TO-FACE IN FORESTS: Reason they gave for attacking
*‘Military men fighting banditry, insurgency among richest Nigerians’
By Our Reporter
In the second part of his interview with Sunday Vanguard, Tukur Mamu, one of the individuals who followed Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, to meet with bandits in the forests of states in the North-West, speaks on matters arising from the visits. Mamu is also a Kaduna-based publisher.
We are aware that there is a report of investigation conducted by the Zamfara government which indicted some emirs believed to be supporting bandits. Can you confirm this?
This is just politics. The predicaments the traditional rulers have is serious, we visited most of the areas in the state, bandits are controlling virtually all the areas in the traditional rulers domain and they don’t have official protection from government, so the only option they have is to cooperate with the bandits, otherwise they will be killed.
For example, a particular group of bandits will send a message to an emir and say, “we want you and your people to gather some amount this month for us and if you didn’t do it, we will attack you”. So, that’s a particular area Gumi has been trying for three months to reach government, he couldn’t because the governor is inaccessible, nobody can call Governor Matawalle and he will pick the call, even if it’s an emergency.
So the traditional rulers are in a very serious dilemma because if they said they will not do the dictates of the bandits, they even risk their own lives and those of their families and if they will do what the bandits want, government at the end of the day will accuse them of aiding banditry. These are areas the bandits can come and operate for five hours without military intervention. In one of the areas we visited, there’s a border that will lead you to the forest, that area is manned by soldiers, behind one primary school.
I can tell you that it is the same soldiers that are supplying bandits’ weeds because the bandits have access to so much money and they can give them so much money. So they come freely, take whatever they want to take and enter the bush. Even if the soldiers say they want to engage them, we don’t have more than 20 soldiers in that particular checkpoint; meanwhile, there are thousands of bandits inside the bush, so the soldiers don’t even have anything to fight them other than to cooperate with them. That is the reality and people can quote me on that.
Is the President not aware of all these?
I don’t know the nature of the security report they give him, because this is the kind of crisis we have in Nigeria. If you are too docile, for example, depending on one source to get your security report, there’s no way you will get the right security report, you will be misled and that is what is happening in Nigeria.
Then the second reason they are criticising Gumi is, the decision to buy Tocano jets for $450 million, what he is saying is that, instead of using $450 million to buy jets, why not use $20 million to rehabilitate these communities. On one hand, people in the military or security agencies have disgruntled elements that don’t want this war to end because they are making money from it. How can these people support the efforts of Gumi? If in the end, he succeeded in bringing lasting peace to the North, in what ways would they be making the kind of money they are getting now?
Do you foresee any closure to this problem before the exit of Buhari in 2023?
If we have a decisive leader that is very aggressive, I can tell you that it is a very simple issue, based on our experience with this government. That is why Gumi is saying if you give me the backing, in three months, I can bring this thing to an end. But the issue is that there’s no sincerity to even do that.
We grew up to know the Fulani using sticks to control their cattle, so these ones using AK47, where are they coming from?
I can tell you from what we have seen, and interactions we have had with them, more than 90 percent of them are Nigerians. The population is huge, they are groups of young men and the oldest will not be more than 30 years. And one funny thing about all these bombardments the military says they are doing, I’m telling you it’s all propaganda.
They’re not even getting the real victims, what the bandits are telling us is that whenever they hear the sound of an aircraft, they run into caves in the forest, and that the only people that are left behind are small children, wives and cows. Why are they not showing us pictures of people killed during bombardments? So it’s just mere propaganda and that is why Gumi is saying that if you people will succeed in killing them, why can’t you kill all of them, so we can live in peace? But they cannot.
Again, Gumi is saying we will spend the next 100 or 200 years to come out successful in this war against bandits if we continue to adopt the current approach in this war. America spent 20 years in Afghanistan, they lost more than 3,000 military personnel, they spent over two trillion dollars and, at the end of the day, they pulled out, let alone in Nigeria that we don’t have intelligence, sophistication and we don’t even have sincerity and commitment like America to fight this kind of war. That is what Gumi is saying but whenever he says so, they will say he is sympathetic to bandits. But he is looking at the reality of ending the crisis.
Why has he not come out to express his frustrations, maybe Nigerians will see reasons with him because the impression out there is that Gumi is the spokesman of the bandits?
He has been expressing his frustrations, even in the recent write up. For example, what does it take for a country to say “I declare bandits as terrorists” without crushing them completely, what difference does that make? The ultimate target would have been to eliminate them completely, if we just do a mere official statement, for example, what has declaring IPOB a terrorist group achieved? Has government succeeded in eliminating them? It doesn’t change anything; it’s just an official pronouncement as far as I am concerned.
But is it not advisable to tell Gumi to stop talking?
No, I think he will not stop talking because if we have a society that has this kind of crisis and then
then people will just keep quiet and allow people to do whatever they feel they want to do, honestly it is not in the interest of the society.
Whether government likes it or not, a few people understand why we are doing what we are doing. For example, ask yourself, what benefit do I have as a family man to risk my life and enter the forest if not for the sake of contributing my own quota to peace and security in Nigeria? Who will do that among them? I can tell you, most of the places we are entering, you cannot go with a car, you have to stop your car and go on motorcycle.
You can travel in the forest for 10 to15 kilometers. Who will do that among them? What benefits are we getting? And he has a lot of goodwill and respect, even among the most ignorant among them, no doubt about it. Gumi is somebody that will not go to the rich and say “I’m looking for a contract”. He is a professional medical doctor. So he doesn’t care about anything about government, let alone say he is doing this to get patronage from government. People should ask why is Gumi sacrificing his life to go into that forest and come back?
Why has he not taken his frustrations to the Sultan?
I am one of those who went to the Sultan with Gumi. In fact, in our presence, the Sultan called the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Gambari; he said “it is high time you people arranged how Gumi can see the President”. Gambari said, “Okay we will do it”; since that time we haven’t heard anything from them. We have been reaching out silently to private stakeholders; we have gone to former President Obasanjo. Obasanjo agreed with the position of Gumi. We met Obasanjo again in Abuja but what Obasanjo told us is that they (government) don’t listen, even if you advise them, but he is in total agreement with the idea of reaching out to the bandits if that will bring total peace in the North. In fact, at that time I could see that some of the southern media houses even criticized Obasanjo for hosting Gumi.
I think this kind of interface is very important, the impression people have there is that Gumi is sympathetic to the bandits, they are wondering why the President has not arrested him. What is your take on this?
We know there is a misconception about the whole thing. I can tell you, if there’s anybody that is against Gumi, it is the President. He just doesn’t have anything concrete in his hands to nail him, I can tell you that.
From your conversations with the bandits, what are they fighting for really?
The major grudge they always tell us is that before now, they were into very big business of cattle and this has been their major source of income, anybody that knows the Fulani should know that this is what he relies on to survive, in fact, he doesn’t even rely on government. The intensification of cattle rustling in the North-West created this problem.
Who are those doing the rustling?
That was the time they were accusing the southern people because in a single night, they would go to the North, take away all the cows and bring them to the South for sale. It has been a source of business for armed robbers and some groups of people. They made it their business and they had guns that time. Even if you take your case to the police, it will end mostly in extortion. Even when some of these cows were found, you will not get them back.
So the issue is when you have a group of illiterate people that don’t even know anything like western or Islamic education, and then this is the only thing they depend on and, at the end of the day, they have been dispossessed of it due to inability of government to take necessary steps to protect their means of livelihood, this kind of frustration sets in. If you approach an illiterate with a gun and tell him to go and steal, he can go and steal.
What they used to tell us in the bush when we visited is that people are accusing them of collecting money and kidnapping. They often asked us to go to town and find out those supplying them with weapons in the forest, those giving information on who to kidnap, those who have money. They said, if for example they had N50 million, N40 million of this amount goes to those people, that it is only N10million that comes to them.
Who are these people?
Their sources of information and gun suppliers is what we should investigate and find out who these people are because if you succeed in arresting one bandit and you want to follow the case to a logical conclusion, they will tell you their source of getting weapons. How do you even expect the guns to come to somebody living in remote bushes? These are the questions they’re asking us, they said “we don’t have the means to do this”; that it is people who are doing this thing for them. “So you people should go and investigate who among your people is doing this”.
For us in the North, this is beyond us, we need the support of the people in the South, especially the southern press, to bring out certain sensitive issues to government because through the media, a lot can be achieved but they want this status quo maintained, a status quo where issues can be under-reported, a status quo where people will not get to know the reality on the ground. That is what they want and Gumi is telling them, no, people need to know what is happening and the gravity of it. That is why he said politicians are the worst terrorists, worst bandits because when you steal public resources or security vote, you are escalating crises at the expense of human life.
Aside from Matawalle who you say is not cooperating, what are the other northern governors saying?
Virtually all of them have not cooperated. In fact, at a particular time, they reasoned with us. For example, if we have these discussions, the next day, some of the bandits can attack and then kidnap or even kill. So when you don’t have a governor that is so committed or when you are dealing with an ignorant or illiterate person, you are supposed to be wiser than him, you need to deal with him in such a manner that will really make him understand that you are really committed in doing all these things.
People even forgot that the release of students that were kidnapped in Afaka and the Greenfield University in Kaduna was facilitated by Gumi who did virtually everything to get them out. After facilitating their release, we hosted them. It pains us for people to be
pains us for people to be putting religion into this thing because how can you even put religion on security issues in a situation where both Muslims and Christians are victims?
If you go to Kaduna now, the people of Southern Kaduna are the worst victims.
If you are in Southern Kaduna and you are inside town and you cannot go to your house by four or five, I can tell you, you will even prefer to sleep inside town because first, they have disconnected the network service and this is a very poor decision because if you are going to a train station, the whole area is disconnected but, as soon as you enter the train and about entering the bush, five minutes to 10 minutes inside the bush, there’s network.
So, who are you giving advantage to if not the bandits? Is it not the same area you are supposed to disconnect and allow people inside town to use phone because these people are making money out of it? Many businesses cannot function without GSM services. Most of the areas in Southern Kaduna and Zaria are disconnected. In some areas of Zamfara, Sokoto, even if they kidnap somebody, you don’t even have access to negotiate. Even if there’s an emergency, you cannot call.
So what kind of system is this? These are salient issues people don’t know about and, honestly, it is not in the interest of the people. That is why recently in Tsafe Local Government Area, women recently barricaded the road, they said this thing was beyond them. They said they could not reach out to their loved ones or negotiate and still these bandits are still coming.
Is it safe to say that government is sympathetic to or behind the bandits?
They are lackluster in dealing with this kind of situation. I may not say directly they are sympathetic but the issue of political will is not there. And then the serious issue of corruption is playing out so much in the management of our security affairs.
The issue of corruption is the worst thing that is affecting the fight against insurgency and banditry in Nigeria. Even in the North-East, it is largely these issues that are affecting the fight against insurgency, because if you look at the richest people in Nigeria today, apart from the top politicians, military men are the richest, whether we like it or not, anybody can quote me. And it’s largely due to this ongoing war. So how can these people, if they are not patriotic, allow insurgency, banditry to come to an end? How can they cooperate with Gumi for it to come to an end?
Do you think the present set of Service Chiefs have made any difference in the war against insurgency, banditry?
There’s no difference at all, because you have to know how to manage the crisis in the first place. On the raid of NDA by bandits, if you see the structure of NDA, you will lament the situation more. How can bandits enter NDA and do whatever they liked and instead of people resigning their offices, it was a mere official statement and the whole thing ended without any concrete action.
At the end of the day, nobody will be sacked. For example, even the Commandant is supposed to be dropped by now. If you are commanding a place like that and something like this happened and you are still there, is it not funny? They left you because you are a loyal boy to the Chief of Army Staff, what kind of a country is this?
What’s the way forward?
Until the people in the position of authority and power are made to take full responsibility for their actions and inactions, we will not solve this problem. For example, while the first and second world wars were being fought, the actors were negotiating on the table. You cannot fight any war without negotiation; that is the position of Gumi.
I listened to the NSA; he said this war cannot be won by military force alone, that we should apply carrot. What is your position?
This comment is coming rather late I must say and it’s unfortunate that he’s even saying this now. The bloodshed in Nigeria is very sad and Gumi is saying Allah will not forgive us for this. If as a governor, I will sit down with bandits and that sitting down will lead to protecting one single life, I think it is worth it.
But there was a time Matawalle came out to the public to say he was negotiating with the bandits.
There was no sincerity in that; it was just a political gimmick and political pronunciation because we had first hand interaction with the bandits. And I told you earlier that after visiting the forests and the bushes, we came to him (Matawalle) and briefed him, we even presented a report to him based on our agreement with him, and this thing lasted for about three months without much serious attack and kidnapping in most of those areas.
At least, the bandits even showed more signs of commitment to the agreement than the governor himself and what Gumi is saying is that “if you don’t have the capacity to stop people from killing, you negotiate”.
But there’s also a report out there that most of the bandits we have now are Boko Haram fighters who are being dealt with in the North East by the military. Do you agree?
I really don’t agree with that because if you tell me that some elements of Boko Haram, maybe for convenience, are gradually relocating, I will agree but for you to say that the bandits are Boko Haram fighters, honestly we don’t share that view because the population of the Fulani in that area is more than enough to create problems.
But why are these Fulani also killing their people because there are reports that they go to Fulani communities and wipe out everybody?
That’s to tell you how ignorant they are. These are people who don’t go to conventional school; they don’t even know anything about education. These are people who are into hard drugs, you will see them injecting themselves with hard drugs, smoking Indian hemp, they don’t care who you are, whether Christian or Muslim, they will beat you
they will beat you and that is why dealing with them is very difficult if you didn’t apply the right measures to do it.
Is your boss also doing something to re-orientate the women giving birth to these potential bandits to train their children, put them in school or do family planning?
Where is the school, where is even the education to know how they will do family planning? They don’t even have normal clinics and no school at all. What we are doing, we are doing with our own resources; nobody is supporting us. How do we even have the capacity to reach out to as many as possible? There’s no government support at all. These people are not operating alone; they have very good intelligence inside town. They have people around them that are giving them information. If we are sympathetic to their cause, we will not be exposing all these things because this is to their detriment as far as we are concerned.
How do you get the funding to do all you are doing?
I am a private person. Gumi is a well established man. He’s a medical doctor, he has a private school, he has a very good business and he has a lot of goodwill. People like us around him are also productive. We have our businesses and engagements. So we contribute money because we believe we are doing a service to God. We fuel our cars, pay our hotel bills, sometimes if we go to some states, they will say “okay, we will give you lunch” but, apart from that, we do everything ourselves. In fact, the budget is too high for us, Gumi said we have done the best we can, and we will no longer enter the forests again.
So for the past four months now, we have not done anything. We said let government decide whatever they want to do. But the deaths are too much, especially inside the villages. If you see the way they are attacking these innocent villages, you will pity them because these are the people living in poverty. The bandits will tell them, “I give you 24 hours to bring some amount of money, and if not, I will kill you” and definitely they will come and kill you. No protection from anybody in those places.
There’s one village inside bush in Zamfara that we visited, that territory has a population of more than 10,000 people, and the whole of that place is governed by bandits. It’s a well structured place, everybody has his house, people have their means of livelihood, but it is governed by bandits and they are living peacefully in that area with those bandits as long as they pay their taxes. You don’t have the power as a citizen of that area to say you will rear cattle; it’s only the bandits that have the authority to rear cattle. So if you see cattle inside the bush, it is owned by the bandits.
You will see the villagers coming to prostrate to the bandits, no presence of government. The local chiefs had to relocate to another place and we have many of such villages in the North. We are not afraid to say what we saw, because they know that this is the reality on the ground and for you people to be deceiving Nigerians that you are killing bandits, that you have destroyed so, so camp, it’s just mere mischief, propaganda. You are killing people and no evidence, what kind of operation is that?