The initiative by renowned Islamic cleric, Dr Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, to engage herder communities over the menace of banditry and kidnapping in the country is a commendable gesture.
Since the beginning of the year, Dr Gumi has been visiting herder communities in Kaduna State and others to preach to residents, some of whom are engaged in the kidnapping for ransom industry, to change their ways.
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He has also used the opportunity of these engagements to learn from such communities why some of their members are involved in these violent crimes and has been sharing what he learned with the authorities and other Nigerians through media interviews and consultations.
The outcome of his venture has been the repentance of several criminal elements in these communities and the continued spread of the message of peace.
Considering that the authorities seem bereft of ideas on tackling this problem, Dr Gumi’s initiative might just bring respite to Nigerians.
Already, the government of Kebbi State has decided to adopt Dr Gumi’s approach to preach to the bandits into repentance and cause the cessation of their criminal activities. It would even be more commendable if other religious or faith leaders adopt this strategy to venture into the wilderness and preach to communities harbouring bandits to repent and change their ways.
While government support is essential to the success of any initiative, and they have supported Dr Gumi by providing security escorts for him when he required such, the government must consult with Dr Gumi and other scholars engaged in similar ventures.
The post banditry rehabilitation and reconciliation that will be required going forward is something the authorities need to develop, possibly alongside those engaged in this process at the moment.
The authorities must also find ways of providing justice, even if it means social justice, for the victims of these criminalities.
While it is right and proper to encourage bandits and kidnappers to give up their arms in exchange for clemency, their victims must receive some kind of compensation for the losses they have suffered. Many of these victims and their families have been financially and emotionally ruined by their experiences in the hands of these bandits.
This is an issue that the authorities must find ways to address judiciously otherwise whatever progress is made in bringing banditry to an end will be undone by the lack of justice for the victims.
It should not be forgotten that it is the failings of the authorities to effectively address banditry, kidnappings and other forms of criminalities that has created a vacuum which people like Dr Gumi are now trying to fill with their intervention.
It is also worthy of note that people like Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho) have capitalized on the same vacuum to create anarchy and issue illegal quit notices to Nigerians who have right to lawfully reside in any part of the country they so desire. This is instructive on how people exploit government failings to act either positively or otherwise to find solutions to problems that affect us all.
While the authorities continue to provide support for initiatives aimed at restoring order to a seemingly rudderless society, it is also vital that such interventions are done within the ambit of the law, and that dubious persons masquerading as faith leaders do not sneak in with agendas that might bring further chaos to the mix.
As it is, Nigeria is too close to the edge. It needs all hands to pull it back from the brink and well-intentioned initiatives like the one by Dr Gumi should be treated as such, supported and replicated to bring about lasting peace.