Bandits can be won over by showing them respect and understanding, says controversial Islamic cleric Ahmad Gumi.
Mr Gumi, a self-appointed mediator for the brigands that have been wreaking havoc in many northern states, says his interaction with the bandits have been easy because he always “go(es) through the door.”
“I go through the door, not the window. If you go through the door, you will go in and come back safely,” Mr Gumi said while fielding questions from students at a lecture in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on Wednesday.
The Islamic cleric said if the bandits are given a listening ear, their resolve would be softened and would become more amenable to abandoning their violent ways.
A student had asked why the bandits have not kidnapped him despite his numerous visits to their den.
Mr Gumi explained thus: “When we meet them we don’t speak, we give them the microphone to speak even for one hour.
“When we first approached them we saw that they were holding their warrant ready to fire. By the time we finish our meeting, they will hand in their weapons and we will be taking pictures.”
“So this is the power of human interaction which is what we are here to study as social scientists. That is the approach,” he added.
Gumi among bandits
The preacher said he has been able to gain the bandits’ sympathy because he “treats them as human beings and respects them.”
“That is the respect I give them. I say come, come and sit with me. Come and sit down. I want to hear from you. With that respect, the Fulani man, you can get him.
“So don’t be surprised, if you are nice to him, if you are ready to listen to him, if you are trying to understand his problem, if you put your legs in his own shoes, he will listen to you, you will go to the forest and return safely insha Allahu,” Mr Gumi assured.
A Niger East senator Mohammed Musa had on Wednesday suggested that Mr Gumi be summoned by security agents to explain his interactions with the bandits.
Mr Musa said all entreaties to the bandits had failed. Zamfara governor Bello Matawalle had also expressed such frustration about how the bandits are reneging on their promises and frustrating his amnesty deal with them.
Before now, president’s spokesman Femi Adesina has derided Mr Gumi, calling him bandit lover for his open alliance with the bandits who have been responsible for widespread killing, destruction and mass abduction of citizens, including schoolchildren.