By Kolawole Olayinka, Abeokuta
The Kaduna-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, on Sunday had a closed-door meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo at his residence in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Gumi briefed Obasanjo on his recent peace advocacy visits to the Fulani bandits in the North with the hope that government will understand the situation better and adopt his suggestions as the best possible way of ending the current insecurity crisis.
In a statement jointly signed by Obasanjo and Gumi at the end of the meeting, they both agreed that the menace of banditry, kidnapping, other crimes and atrocities leading to general insecurity is a nationwide phenomenon.
The statement read: “We acknowledge that people from different parts of the country and outside the country are involved although some people are more predominantly involved than others”.
“We must not advertently or inadvertently, in words, action or inaction encourage or support criminality.
“We acknowledge that the security situation has gone beyond tolerance; hence Sheik Gumi’s coming to Abeokuta to confer with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
“We identified the crisis as micro ethnic conflict between the Fulani and many host communities mainly in the North West.
“We identified the remote causes as educational and economic disparities, and the negative use of religion and ethnicity by unscrupulous politicians.
“Solutions must be seen and provided on short-, medium-, and long-term bases and must be composed of stick and carrot for the offender and the vulnerable.
“All well-meaning Nigerians have to be involved in finding solutions to the crises by: desisting from blame game; desisting from ethnicising these crimes; desisting from religionising these crimes; desisting from regionalising these crimes; respecting one another individually, community-wise, locally, ethnically, religiously and socially; showing tolerance and accommodation where necessary; condemning criminal acts no matter where it is committed and by whom it is committed in Nigeria; encouraging more of carrot solution as may be found necessary; sharing information at all levels; not accepting criminality as a way of life for any individual or group in our nation.
“Since the end of the civil war, the military are the strongest and most potent instrument and symbol of national unity that we have and we must keep them so.
“State governments must have adequate means of providing security for their people and as chief executives and chief security officers of their states, they must have the means at their disposal to ensure security for all within their states.
“Federal government must be proactive, secure necessary and updated intelligence to deal with organised crimes and have common policy for the nation.
“It is not solving the problem when one state goes for negotiation and molly-cuddling of criminals and another one goes for shooting them. Nor should one state go for ransom payment and another one going against.
“Education is one main key to solve the problem in the long run but it must start now. The 14 million children that should be in school and are out of school must be put in school with local authorities, state governments and federal government working together.
“Wean those who are ready to be weaned out of the bushes and crime, settle and rehabilitate them, give them skills, empower them and let them have employment.
“The hardened criminals must be hard hit with stick. Unlawful carrying of arms should be very seriously punished.
“Federal government should take the issue up seriously within ECOWAS to work for a regional solution.
“Every community must be encouraged and empowered to stand firm and strong against criminals”.
“There should be protection and reward covertly for whistle blowers against criminals living in the community
“Special courts should be created to deal promptly with cases of banditry, kidnapping, ransom demanding and unlawful carrying of weapons.
“Let the slogan be: Security is the responsibility of all Nigerians.
“We agree to continue to work together for solutions for the security of Nigeria and to seek others to join us as we widely circulate our joint statement.
“To this end, Sheik Gumi has extended an invitation to Chief Obasanjo to visit Kaduna with a view to continuing the discourse started today and Chief Obasanjo has graciously accepted.
“We conclude that to keep Nigeria safe and secure for all Nigerians and others living in Nigeria is a task that all well-meaning Nigerians must engage in, separately and collectively”.
“Both of us resolve that we would not relent in our efforts. The delegations on both sides acceded to this statement. We agree to meet again in due course to re-examine progress and situation of security in Nigeria.”
Part of his entourage include: Prof. Usman Yusuf, Mallam Tukur Mamu, Dr. Umar Ardo, Dr. Ibrahim Abdullahi, Honourable Suleiman Gumi, Alhaji Suleiman Yakubu and Mallam Buba Mohammed.
Others at the meeting included Oba Babajide Bakre, Agura of Gbagura, Abeokuta; Bishop Tunde Akin-Akinsanya, Chairman of Ogun State Christian Association of Nigeria; Sheikh Sa’addallah Alade Bamigbola, Chief Imam of Egbaland; Chief Kenny Martins, Chief Ola Babajide Jaiyeoba; Rev. Tony Ojeshina, Chief Imams of Oke-Ona, Gbagura, Owu and Mr. Vitalis Ortese.