By Philip Agbese
It is my fervent conviction that liberty is man’s greatest asset. It resides in everyone and in its confined seclusion; very hesitant to dare the worldly tempestuous waves, unless it is pressured by forces of disfigured pride or consciousness.
When liberty is bruised, we are usually confronted with its unsparing venom and the upshots are usually grave. Instantly, it makes us diminish our dignity and self-esteem. Abuse of liberty can plunge someone into unimaginable or unexpected troubles.
The Biblical narrative of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, who assumed the generous liberty of eating the forbidden fruit retells the power of abused liberty. We have continued to live with its repercussions to this day and so also, would our generations yet unborn.
If I properly discerned events in the country these few weeks, the Kaduna- based gregarious and controversial Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmad Abubakar Gumi has courted trouble for himself. He impulsively abused the power of liberty of expression. He is a crisis-prenuer cleric.
I don’t need a soothsayer to insight that since Gumi accused Christian soldiers of the Nigerian Army as the troops who mostly kill armed bandits in the Northwest, he consciously courted trouble for himself. By this posture, Gumi carelessly violated the doctrine of liberty and aura of a mediator. He has farted on his religious robes by his mere utterance of the profane. The aftermath and backlash on Gumi have sufficiently and pathetically summarized the dilemma of this extremists Sheik.
We are used to this timeless cliché; “Soldiers go; soldiers come; but the barracks remain.” Whether in a democracy or a military rule, the one tradition we cannot divorce from the Nigerian Army is the uncompromising defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria.
That’s the burden patriotism has conferred on them; it is the yoke they have willingly accepted for us to have peace and security. They bear the enemy bullets on our behest and serve as bulwarks to us.
Therefore, in the Nigerian Army, the common creed is comradeship and a bond of brotherhood or solidarity; it is an unbreakable cord and it does not heed to the narrowed perceptions and restrictions of tribe, religion or region. Soldiers are the only professionals I know, who share an unbreakable umbilical cord of universal fraternity, only trailed by the catholic priesthood.
A soldier sees another soldier from anywhere like his own biological family member. It is a cord too strong for Gumi to think of breaking with such senseless impunity or effeminate outpourings of hate, idiocy and imbecilic ululations. Gumi’s mindlessness in the face of very tragic national security challenges only tells me how some highly placed Nigerians are masked terrorists and bandits themselves.
So, I have followed keenly and enthusiastically, the unsolicited diplomatic shuttles of Sheik Gumi to the den of armed bandits in the Northwest. He anointed himself for this sensitive mediation role. We all thought, Gumi was a peacemaker, a cleric and a Nigerian truly concerned to the cause of peace and dousing the conflagrations and bloodbath orchestrated by bandits in the Northwest region of Nigeria.
But we were all wrong. We overrated his intentions and the antics of this bearded cleric. We only realized the climax of Gumi’s devilry with the unexpected outcome of his interfaces with leaders of armed bandits and their cursed sword bearers.
It was only at this time, it belatedly pricked our consciousness that Gumi was after an evil mission. Gumi had ulterior and inordinate agenda in opting to negotiate with the armed bandits terrorizing Nigeria. So, he rather detoured, dropping the bombshell by accusing non-Muslim soldiers as responsible for killing the armed bandits, only after we invested our trust and hopes in him.
Our sociologists and psychologists have a great assignment here. They have to interpret to us the intent, motivation and sociological contents of Sheik Gumi’s repulsive and hate-filled comments on soldiers. Is Gumi a sympathizer or a veiled financier or patron of armed bandits?
Was Gumi consciously attempting to polarize the Nigerian Army by causing internal dissention, disaffection and acrimony amongst soldiers in order to weaken their unity and coherence in fighting the armed bandits? Clearly, Sheik Gumi was on a pro-bandits’ campaign for very satanic reasons and indisputably, espoused an anti-Nigerian agenda.
Could Sheik Gumi’s comments over the killing of bandits a tacit lamentation for his bad investment in the operations of the bandits? There are a lot of posers. But straightforwardly, and even on the periphery, Sheik Gumi’s comments have exposed him as an insider-collaborator and enabler of armed bandits who are tormenting Nigerians in the Northwest region.
So, it was understandable why a pensive Gumi could not hide his feelings of pain, but publicly wailed over the deaths of bandits in the hands of Nigerian soldiers. He had to console the bandits, manifest in his weird, unconvincing and untruthful exposition that Christian soldiers were responsible for bandits deaths in the frontlines. This reckless statement and twisted logic from someone who should understand or know it better, extremely lowered Sheik Gumi’s public esteem. He wittingly abused the liberty of free speech. So, it took less than 24hrs for Nigerians to unmask him and make a total mess of his pretentious or fake posture of mediation in resolving the challenge of banditry in the Northwest.
Gumi’s actions told us plainly that he was not in the bandits’ den for the reason of Nigeria, but to console himself and his “boys” for the calamities befalling them in the trenches. Ostensibly, Gumi was in forested dens of the bandits to bolster their weakened or dampened spirits.
Therefore, from being an interventionist, Gumi suddenly transited into a terrorist-in-chief, (or is it bandits-in-chief?) enmeshed in emotions of pains and regrets over the massive extermination of bandits in the battlefields by Nigerian soldiers. Expectedly, Gumi lost all the support that all sections of the country extended to him, whilst they mistook him for a sane Islamic cleric on a noble mission.
But I trust the Nigerian Army. I know this revered institution as very calculative and coherent in all its actions. This much can be gleaned from the response to Sheik Gumi’s senseless parroting, the moment the Nigerian Army vibrated through the Army Spokesman, Brigadier General Yerima Mohammed.
Sometimes, the Nigerian Army’s riposte to public issues could come late. But when it eventually comes, it strikes and pierces the heart deeply and lands, with an explosive bang. The Army’s statement has sent shivers into the spine of Sheik Gumi and acolytes. He had to beat a retreat back to his cocoon by claiming he was “misunderstood.”
I thank God, Gumi did not say, he was “misquoted or quoted out of context,” the unusual phrase we have pleasurably adopted to rejig damaging comments (damage control) in its aftermath. Its not strange to us.
The Nigerian Army’s admonition that “… Sheikh Ahmed Gumi and other opinion merchants are please enjoined to exercise restraint not to drag the image and reputation of one of the most reliable national institutions to disrepute;” is timely and instructive. Nigerians expected nothing less from the Nigerian Army. If Sheik Gumi has any vestige of dignity attached to his identity, he should take the caution with all seriousness.
Therefore, I like to encourage the Nigerian Army never to be dismayed by the problems or shirk from it because of distractions as bandied by the likes of Sheik Gumi. As Nigerians, we know, the days and nights soldiers spend in the trenches is because of us and all Nigerians are solidly behind our Military.
Those terrorizing the country must pay the price and the feelings of demonically possessed clerics like Gumi are inconsequential. Bandits and terrorists must decode the hard fact that whether on the cyberspace or in Borno’s Sambisa forest or Sububu or Rugu forests in Zamfara or Faskari in Katsina state or Orlu in Imo state to even in the creeks of the South-South, no one should contemplate an attack on the Nigerian Army in any conceivable way.
The Nigerian Army is our cherished Army and the last consensus, publicly loud denunciations of Gumi’s outbursts by Nigerians must have sent a clear message to him that we are with the Nigerian Army without shirking. We are ready, to re-order the senselessness of anyone against our soldiers like Gumi.
Agbese is a human rights law expert and publisher based in the United Kingdom.