The Gumi theory

Admin 28-Feb-2021 Opinion

By Ropo Sekoni

In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears it ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious, he may form some picture of a mechanism, which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism, and he cannot even imagine the possibility of the meaning of such a comparison-Albert Einstein 

A theory is an attempt to find explanations for the way things are or can be. In its facile or formal sense, the objective of a theory is to describe and explain phenomena, events, and situations. In general, a theory is heuristic, that is, it can stimulate and foster further development of knowledge of the matter under study. In today’s piece, therefore, Gumi’s theory will be viewed in relation to the problem that his theory is designed to address such as restoring peace in Nigeria by preventing herders, bandits, and kidnappers from being considered as criminals, rather than victims.

The more focused a theory is, the higher its chances of serving as an effective explanation, especially if the subject of the theory is about human behavior that includes human actions and motivations and goals for taking such actions. Readers will remember when during the decades of military rule in the country, successions of military presidents popularized the concept that moving away from the pre-independence federal system to a unitary model can facilitate unification of the various cultures in Nigeria. If anything, the events of the last few weeks have shown the futility of such theory.

Similarly, the theory of Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi about why some Fulani men are involved in kidnapping, banditry, and killing of farmers in many parts of the country may explain some of the factors responsible for such immoral acts but certainly not all. Gumi’s efforts thus beckon to others in the multinational federation to proffer more theories. Currently, the energy being given to promotion of Gumi’s theory in the media runs the risk of leaving Gumi’s theory as basis for formulating public policies on a matter that certainly requires additional thinking by people who are theoretically inclined in other parts of the country. With respect to the Yoruba region, thinkers across the region should not leave thinking about how to solve the problem before the country to Sheikh Gumi, governors, and members of the state assemblies in the region alone. The current problem requires input from all opinion influencers-state and non-state actors, more importantly non-state actors.

The core of Gumi’s theory is that Fulani people involved in banditry, kidnapping, and herder-to-farmer terrorism should not be viewed as criminals, but solely as members of Fulani ethnic militia that should be given amnesty and paid reparations for past abuse or marginalization if the country really wants the return of peace and harmony. The following are some of th main themes of Gumi’s theory in his own words: “It is a complex issue. It is an ethnic war and the solution is dialogue and teaching them Islam. To them, they are talking about an ethnic existence.  

“If you have seen them (herdsmen), you will discover they have nothing like civilization other than the guns they are carrying. “If you are talking about victims, they have more victims on their side than others. “If the pressure is too much, I am afraid they can be influenced by Boko Haram and we have seen the signs that Boko Haram have gone to infiltrate them but so far, they are not Boko Haram. They are ready to lay down their arms. “I think it is a population that is pushed by circumstances into criminality. And this is what we should look for. Let’s remove the pressure, let’s remove the things that made them criminals because we have lived thousands of years without any problems with nomadic herdsmen. They are peaceful people. But something happened that led them to this.”

Many questions have arisen from the complaints from members of the ethnic militia the Sheikh met in the forest. One is whether Gumi’s ‘victims of Nigeria’ gave him any idea about the geography of the bad treatment meted to them. For example, in what ways did the people of Southwest neglect Fulani herders in Nigeria and from other countries in West Africa in the distant past or in recent time? If there is no history of mistreatment of the Fulani in the Southwest, then why would taxes paid by the people of the Southwest be used to pay amnesty and reparations to the herders, after losing lives and property to herders’ actions?

In the northern states, in which states were Fulani people dehumanized, when, how, and by whom? It is not enough to hear complaints from those with grievances, it is necessary to have specific details of such abuse that are verifiable, before papers are prepared for amnesty allowance.  Given the emphasis by many governors that the Fulani-looking people perpetrating criminal acts in Nigeria are from other West African countries, why would the Fulani of Nigeria be paid compensation by the Nigerian government from the common federation account of Nigeria? Apart from statements by the Fulani visited by Sheikh Gumi in the forest, there is need for fuller investigations to determine the credibility of the complaints made by the few people Gumi had interviewed.

Given the commitment of Gumi to justice, is he prepared to benchmark his own ideas with those of non-state actors like him in each of the country’s six regions, before a national policy document or legislative bill is prepared on amnesty and reparations to any ethnic group? This question arises because there is no evidence that the Sheikh has been given any opportunity to meet victims of herders’ terrorism in other many parts of Nigeria, especially in non-Fulani areas. To avoid each nationality group asking for amnesty because of marginalization or neglect, the least to do with the Sheikh’s findings is to submit them to a formal Truth and Restitution panel.

One important lesson from Sheikh Gumi’s dialogues and negotiations with marginalized or neglected Nigerian Fulani that had been forced into criminality in huge numbers is that leaders of federal and state governments in the country ought to, after dodging or ignoring calls for a national conference to create a constitution agreed to by all Nigerian communities should start to speak up. No country is likely to make any sustainable progress if it continues to drift from one security problem or crisis to the other.

If anything, Sheikh Gumi’s self-financed search for solutions to the festering problem of kidnapping, banditry, and herders’ terrorism of farmers across the federation, need to wake up and realize the reality of politics of identity in the country. If a respectable influencer like Sheikh Gumi can make such partisan recommendations on behalf of fellow Fulani militants, it is foolhardy for similar influencers to stop playing the game that Nigeria is endowed with special qualities to turn a non-Westphalian State into a Westphalian nation-state.

As we have said several times on this page, the dynamics of and requirements for managing and nurturing a non-Westphalian multi-national federation are starkly different from those required for Westphalian nation-states. The sooner the managers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria realize this, the better for Nigeria, the West African region, and the world at large. Nigeria has the potential to become one of the wonders of modern nation-building if it is sustained. So does it have the potential to become an embarrassment to the Africa and the rest of the world, if it is pushed into war by failing to realize its peculiarities and its need to privilege justice, equality, and equity over any manner of hegemonic rule.

Sekoni is a Public Affairs Analyst, Teacher and Columnist

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