ISLAMIC cleric Sheik Ahmed Gumi has revealed that his recent trip to Zamfara State has raised fears that what is happening there is not just banditry but the beginnings of a new insurgency similar to the Boko Haram crisis in Borno State.
Last week, in a bit to resolve what appears to be an endless crisis, Sheikh Gumi, travelled from his base in Kaduna to Zamfara State to meet with the bandits. Over recent years, heavily-armed bandits have been terrorising the northwest geo-political zone, controlling large swathes of territory, particularly in Zamfara and Katsina states.
Powerless to stop them, state governors have been forced to enter into dialogue with these bandits and even offer them money to lay down their arms. So far, however, every agreement entered into has broken down, leaving several states at the mercy of bandits who attack villages and towns with impunity.
Sheikh Gumi, who met with bandit leaders Kachalla Turji and Kachalla Muhammadu Bello in Makkai Forest, said that what is currently happening in Zamfara is insurgency and not banditry. Briefing Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State at Government House about his trip, he said the bandits have completely turned into insurgents following the bad treatment from the people of the state.
According to Sheikh Gumi, most of the bandits he came across during his visit to Zamfara forests were only carrying weapons and attacking people because of persistent attacks and harassment from the vigilante group known as the Yansakai. He added that most of the bandits he interacted with during his visit had indicated their readiness to surrender their weapons and embrace peace if Yansakai stopped attacking and killing them.
He appealed to governments at all levels to embrace dialogue with the bandits and other insurgents in the country, expressing optimism that talking is the only option to end the menace. Sheikh Gumi commended Governor Matawalle for introducing dialogue with the bandits as a means of ending banditry, calling on other governors to emulate him.
Sheikh Gumi said: “In most of the bandits and Fulani camps we have visited in Zamfara, I come to understand that what is happening in the state is nothing but an insurgency. Some people are of the view that the bandits should be fought and killed but what we understand is that majority of them are illiterates who need proper education and enlightenment.”
He stressed that the steps taken by the Zamfara State government through dialogue were the best option. In his response, Governor Matawalle said his administration would continue to dialogue with the bandits no matter what his political opponents say.