The Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, has said the Fulani herdsmen that have been in constant clashes with farmers across the country and also involved in banditry are peaceful people.
In an interview with Channels TV on Monday, Sheikh Gumi said the Fulani herdsmen were pushed into criminality.
According to him, the solution is dialogue and teaching.
He said: “When I listened to them, I found out that it is a simple case of criminality which turned into banditry, which turned into ethnic war, and some genocide too behind the scene; people don’t know.
There is no excuse for any crime; nothing can justify crime, and they are committing crime. The bandits were forced into criminality.
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 into criminals because we have lived thousands of years without any problems with the nomadic herdsmen. They are peaceful people. But something happened that led them to this.”
It is a complex issue that Nigerians need to understand. The solution is very simple, but it’s not military hardware. The solution is dialogue and teaching.
These people are acting with natural instincts, not special knowledge. And they don’t have any ambition or anything. They don’t have a vision of the future. They are talking about existence; their livelihood is destroyed; because the cattle rustling that was going on for a long time, they are the first victims of it.
“So we need to investigate how cattle rustling became a big business in Nigeria and how it affected the socio-cultural behaviour of the nomadic Fulani. They were pushed into criminality.”
On the possibility of Boko Haram using the Fulani, Gumi said the Fulani bandits were not Boko Haram, noting, however, that “We have to be very careful.
“If the pressure is too much, I am afraid they can be influenced by Boko Haram. We have seen the signs that Boko Haram is going to infiltrate them.”
On why he can locate and hold dialogue with the bandits while government authorities cannot find them, Gumi said: “They (government) know. They see them (bandits) by aerial view.
“But the military has learned its lesson. The first approach they had— when they go in and start killing— they realised is the wrong way and that they were producing a monster. They are now careful.
“The only element I am adding now is ‘look, don’t just wait and watch, go in and negotiate’.”