A former Provost Marshal of the Nigeria Army, Brig. Gen Idada Ikponmwen (rtd), has advised the Federal Government to caution the popular Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, over his romance with armed bandits and his quest for a ‘blanket amnesty’ for them.
Ikponmwen, a security strategist and lawyer, expressed concern that the rhetoric emanating from Gumi’s series of meetings with these bandits in the forests have the tendency of instigating further crises in the country.
The bearded cleric had come under fire in recent days, following the release of a video of one of his meetings with the bandits in a forest in Niger State. In the video, which has since gone viral, Gumi was heard speaking in Hausa and alleging that there was a ‘Fifth Columnist’ in the Nigeria Armed Forces, made up of Christian zealots who are causing mayhem and genocide.
The cleric, who was addressing a gathering of armed men suspected to be Muslims of the Fulani ethnic stock, told them that it was the Christian zealots in the Nigeria Army that were responsible for the alleged bombardment of Fulani communities and the killing of Fulani men, women and children during military operations.
“You know that among the military, there are those that are Moslems and there are those that are not Moslems. I hope you know that. So it is the non-Moslem soldiers who are on the agenda of causing conflict that come to hunt down and kill your members,”
Gumi was quoted to have said in the video. In a subsequent interview on national television, Gumi also alleged that this so called ‘Fifth Columnists’ has been responsible for a number of coups dating back to 1966 which led to the assassination of some prominent Northern leaders as well as the attempt to expunge Northern Nigeria from the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1990.
The cleric urged the bandits to hold their fire and allow the military authorities to flush out the ‘Fifth Columnists’ from the system.
Ikopnmwen, who expressed his displeasure over Gumi’s ‘Fifth Columnist’ theory, said such utterances were capable of not only instigating a religious dichotomy within the Nigeria Army, but worsening the mutual suspicion among the diverse ethnic and religious groups in the country.
“The allegation that Nigerian Army harbours some so-called ‘Fifth Columnists’ consisting of ‘Christian zealots’ who have been causing conflicts in the country and committing genocides against the Fulani People cannot be true.
The mere fact that our Commander-in- Chief, the Minister of Defence and COAS as well as various commanders of military establishments have, in recent times, been Muslims makes it impossible for the situation of Gumi’s description to exist without it being nipped in the bud.
“One can therefore say that the call by Sheikh Gumi to cleanse the Nigerian Army of Christian zealots is ill- motivated. It would appear that the opportunity of the ‘Peace Mission’ to the forest allowed Sheikh Gumi to be turned into an avenue for diversionary, inflammatory and destructive manipulations.
“This trend, if not immediately checked by the government, would aggravate the already bad security situation in Nigeria. Government should disregard this cry of wolf and stop the Sheikh from contributing further to the existing ethnic tension in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Army and indeed other branches of the Armed Forces have no tolerance for ethnic cleansing and its disposition as the last hope in ensuring the security of the nation should not be recklessly impugned,” Ikponmwen said.