The President of the Muslim Rights Concern, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, has commended the efforts of Sheikh Ahmad Gumi for putting his life on the life to talk to bandits terrorising the Northern part of Nigeria.
He also said those asking Gumi to lead the security agents to the den of bandits want to incriminate him for doing a great service for the victims of banditry.
Akintola told Reporters on Wednesday in his reactions to criticisms against the Northern Islamic cleric who has been in the news recently as an advocate for bandits.
“We should not blame Sheikh Gumi, if he goes in there and talks to the bandits. He’s putting his life on the line and nobody should crucify him for that. However, he should not negotiate with them when it comes to money matters.
“Bandits should not turn kidnappings and killings into a business venture. Criminality is criminality. And that’s where I agree with the Nigerian government that we cannot negotiate with bandits. If they want to surrender, let them surrender and hand over their weapons.”
The MURIC leader stressed that a line of distinction should be drawn between asking bandits to embrace peace and negotiating with them by offering them ransom. While he frowned on taking ransom to bandits, he called for deradicalising them and re-orientating them, therefore extolling the Nigerian government for reportedly not negotiating with them.
He said, “The banditry as a phenomenon anywhere at all, especially in the Northern part of Nigeria is ugly, very unfortunate, but it is the fault of all of us. Having said that, I think there are two ways to it.
“I would not blame the government for refusing to negotiate with bandits. It is difficult to identify who is a bandit or who is not. And the more you negotiate with them and pay, the more they want more ransom. And the more they are given more ransom, the bolder and more vicious they become.
“If what Sheikh Gumi and the likes are doing is talking to them, deradicalising them, converting them to the true religion of Islam, I think he is doing a good job. But, when it comes to exchanging of money or whatever, that’s where I don’t want to support negotiation.
“I support Sheikh Gumi if he’s deradicalising them. I also support the Nigerian government’s decision not to negotiate. When they kidnap people and you want to negotiate, they will come back for more.
“Anybody who makes the suggestion that he should lead military personnel to the bandits is trying to incriminate him. People may not know his intention. In Islam, there is an Hadith which says, ‘actions shall be judged by intentions.’ Unfortunately, the intention is always in the heart. It’s in the mind. It’s not open.”
Akintola reiterated that the bandits are criminals and should repent and not demand compensation after repentance.
According to him, the bandits should embrace peace and live a normal life.
“So, I’m saying he can take his dawah (invitation) to the bandits. He can talk to them, deradicalise them, and make them see the reality of life. Let them understand the depth of the suffering they are bringing to Nigerians.
“Sometimes, when you listen to these stories, you might even be surprised that some of them don’t know the extent of the crimes they commit. Many of the bandits have never been exposed to civilisation and they think they are seeking redress by hurting society. They see it as a kind of revenge.
“I am not referring to amnesty. When you surrender your weapons, you will go to your village and start working as an honest person, not that you will expect the government to give you something for stopping banditry.
“An ordinary petty thief in a Lagos market who has been picking pockets, the day he decides not to pick pockets again, he cannot go to the police or Lagos State Government and say ‘I have stopped picking pockets, so give me N500,000 to settle me.’ No! If they want to stop banditry, they should stop and go home. Nothing else.”