“Castle In The Air” is a young adult fantasy novel written by Diana Wynne Jones. It follows the adventures of Abdullah’s rather than Sophie Hatter in Howl’s Moving Castle. Both plots were however based on fiction.
Nigeria has become a huge stage for mixed theatre of fiction and live performances. The recent adventure of Sunday Igboho into the evil forest of Fulani banditry, kidnapping and other associated vices that has become the trademark of herdsmen among us wasn’t fiction but an unbelievable reality. The evil of these mostly migrants Nationals of our neighbouring northern borders have gone on unchecked for so long they now seem normal till there arose a Sunday from Igboho.
The North/South dichotomous relationship misinterpreted for a hegemonic nation is the fool’s paradise to which we all are confined by the Fulani Oligarchy. I don’t see their wall of Jericho built in the minds of a nation of 200 million people survive beyond 2023 for the shouts of the people seem to be getting the attention of God.
In the usual style of the North, the meat of the matter of their Southern neighbours was lost, and like a dog, they went after the bone. The bravery of Sunday Igboho has to be replicated, not from the perspective of the solution but at least to set the stage of a soft landing for their hired gorilla fighters whose businesses Igboho’s venture is set to end. So before ordinary everyday Northern Nigerian will draw inspiration from the bravery of Igboho and be determined to see like the Yorubas will say, “kini be ni Igbo to dun mohuru mohuru”, meaning, what’s in the forest making horrific sounds, the Oligarchy pulled a fast one, a trusted ally was hired, who without intelligence report, at least none that we know of, headed on a patriotic mission of his faith and fatherland.
Sheikh Gumi, in a well-written script, storms two bandits enclave at Shinkafi Forest, where he met over 700 highly armed Bandits/Kidnappers without prior information. What a magical Gumi! His exploit was timely as Shinkafi Emir hailed Gumi’s missionary journey into the forest to preach peace to a group of bandits that have sworn that the nation will not know peace.
As reported in the media, Sheikh Dr Ahmad Gumi’s peace and preaching mission to Zamfara state witnessed a major milestone in his singular effort to spread the message of Islam to the Fulani herdsmen and to promote engagement with them in an effort to rid the country of rampant instances of kidnappings and armed banditry.
Gumi’s first point of call was the palace of the Emir of Shinkafi in Shinkafi local government. There Sheikh Gumi encouraged the Emir to sustain ongoing efforts of ensuring lasting peace. His team then targets two notorious and dangerous forest known to be the enclaves of aggrieved Fulani militias accompanied by just two news medium, Desert Herald and the NTA. The presence of NTA on these trips make clear the interest of our Government in this missionary journey. Our ministry of information and by extension Honourable Minister for Information Oloye Lai Mohammed is assured of first-hand information. Our Government whose military has found this forest impenetrable had no issues releasing their Staff on this very difficult and dangerous journey to reports the gallantry efforts of Sheikh Gumi in the forest of Tubali and Makkai in Shinkafi local government, an expanse which comprises of large territories of more than 3000 hectares of Savannah grasslands all under the exclusive control of the armed Fulanis comprising mostly of young teenagers of ages 14, 15, 16 while their adults are mostly between the ages 18 and 30 years at maximum. The Fulani insurgents are in 100 percent control of command and administration of all the settlements in the Tubali and Makkai forest. Ironically report has it that the inhabitants of the two settlements are very comfortable and freely living with the dreaded bandits. What a fool’s paradise!
Yet our folly goes on. There is a military outpost in each of the two separate borders that will take you to the forest of Tubali and Makkai where the bandits are virtually ruling. Please, what is the purpose of the military outposts? To caution us from going into the kingdom of the bandits or to stop the bandits from coming out of their kingdom to inflict their usual pains on this the military? Your guess is as good as mine!
“At the first settlement in Tubali Forest,” the story continues, “where Sheikh Ahmad Gumi visited, the top Commander of the bandits, Mohammed Bello and his Assistant, one Haliru gave conditions to Sheikh Gumi before they will allow entry into the forest and to guarantee their security. Part of the conditions is that Police and other armed escorts should not enter the forest and that they should wait at the military checkpoint”.
I don’t get it. So, our military check points are liasson post for the evils lurking in our forest?
“A total number of vehicles that will go in was put at five. All visitors including Sheikh Gumi must disembark from their cars from 300 metres to the venue and trek. Sheikh Gumi’s entourage which includes the Chairman of Shinkafi local government, Hon. Sani Galadima, the Divisional Police Officer, DPO of Shinkafi, SP Abdullahi Ahmad, Desert Herald Publisher, Mallam Tukur Mamu, Sheikh Muhammad Suleiman Adam, Sheikh Sanusi Khutama, Hon. Suleiman Abubakar Gumi, Prof Usman Yusuf etc enters the Tubali forest, the presence of highly armed Fulanis with AK47, RPG rifles, pump-action, pistols and live ammunitions strategically positioned in different locations can be seen conspicuously by the highly determined Sheikh Gumi and his entourage”. But unlike Sunday Igboho’s visit to the palace of Seriki Fulani in Igangan, not one out of the over 700 armed men threatened Gumi’s not to talk of shooting at him. Who is fooling who?
At the Tubali forest, it was reported that Sheikh Gumi met with about 150 highly armed Fulanis. As usual, during every of such visits, they expressed their grievances and why it will be difficult for them to surrender their arms even as they expressed confidence in the sincerity of Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle to address the lingering security imbroglio. The Chairman of Shinkafi also told the interactive session that before the peace agreement with the bandits there were frequent and rampant cases of kidnappings in Shinkafi-Gusau road while instances of frequent attacks with heavy casualties including killings are rampant but that as a result of the peaceful truce the once volatile local government has now spent 7 months without a single attack. Hon. Galadima said the coming of Sheikh Gumi is a blessing to the entire state because according to him the goodwill of Gumi and the respect the Fulani bandits have for him will further strengthen and solidify the fragile peace deal.
But Igboho’s adventure was a curse to the Northern oligarchy while Gumi’s visit is declared to be a blessing! A fool at forty is believed to be a fool forever. Nigeria is sixty and still foolish!
Still, the fairy tale is not finished yet. “Their top commander, Bello spoke on their behalf. Part of their grievances includes frequent killings of their loved ones by either security agents or in towns and cities without subjecting them to the due process of the law, failed promises by governments and acts of cattle rustling that denied most of them and their parents their legitimate means of livelihood. Bello negates the position of the Northern youths who took to the streets during the #EndSARS protest to say they wanted SARS in support of the Buhari led administration against the protesters. Did I read Tukur’s report on Bello well, “frequent killings of their loved one by security agents”? In live performance, Bello is on the same page with Southern Nigeria youths but a different Chapter in the friction book titled Nigeria.
Sheikh Gumi has spent time preaching the words of Allah to them. He preached to them about the sanctity of preserving human life, how Islam forbids any act of revenge, adultery, fornication and kidnappings. He encouraged them to always seek knowledge of their religion, how to worship Allah and to avoid taking laws into their own hands. Our missionary left Miyetti Allah in our cities without a word, those who recently said a cow is worth more than 100 human lives deserve no rebuke but headed to the forest to preach to those who have chosen the jungle of animals above human estate.
Gumi further pleaded for their understanding and urged them to cease all hostilities and allow him to reach out to the President to see how their legitimate grievances will be addressed immediately. “Gumi categorically told them that they should not expect magic from him as his success depends on the cooperation or otherwise he will get from the federal government who has the authority over decision making. He presented them with Islamic books including copies of the Qur’an and wrappers. He said everything they are doing is being funded by the foundation under him and with the help of other well-meaning individuals and not the government”. I am astonished. Missionary Gumi promised to reach out to President Muhammadu Buhari who didn’t send him on this mission or is this a way of telling us he wasn’t alone?
The journey to Makkai forest is the most difficult as Gumi and his entourage had to use motorcycles midway because the largely Sahara area is filled with lots of sand and without road networks. It is the most dangerous journey so far made my Sheikh Gumi and his dedicated entourage. To the surprise and fear of almost everybody, the entourage met with more than 600 bandits all of them armed with automatic rifles. Their top commander, one Kachalla Turji welcomes Sheikh Gumi. They were all friendly and very comfortable. Turji is the boy of Buharin Daji, the notorious bandits that were killed about 3 years ago. Turji took charge of the Shinkafi armed wing of the bandits after the demise of Buharin Daji. Turji told Sheikh Gumi that they are not afraid to die and that even if he died hundreds are available to take over leadership from him. *He lamented how the government reneged over series of promises made to them*. Really? So, a series of promises has been exchanged between them and our Government? Nigerians should be interested in the details of this transaction carried out with them on our behalf.
The position of Tukur, says it all, “the lesson learnt by DESERT HERALD in this revealing trip is that no amount of bombardments can kill the morale of the Fulani bandits and that military bombardments alone can NEVER eliminate their huge number even if such bombings are precise or succeed in getting the large arms and ammunition under their control”. What a conclusion from the herald of the desert lords.
Tukur Manu went on to report the recommendations possibly handed to them: “There are several ways the government can integrate them fully into the society including converting most of them into, for instance, the Civil Defense and other paramilitary outfits in addition to using the carrot approach as adopted by Sheikh Gumi and the Zamfara state government”. What a synergy of thought! Tukur seems to have the same thoughts pattern as our President, whose mind is made up on the rehabilitation of Boko Haramists. It must be said that Tukur and Buhari have something in common; they are both sympathetic to the cause of these Jihadists, who are faithful servants of Allah, whose messengers Sheikh Gumi is.
This faithful servant of Allah, subuana robina, Sheikh Gumi brought the massage home, he believes that they have a LEGITIMATE concern and grievances and that since the Niger Delta armed militants were integrated by the federal government and are even in the business of pipelines protection, President Buhari should immediately look into how he will do same to the Fulanis and to provide them with reasonable means of livelihood including jobs, working capitals, entrepreneurship training, building clinic and schools for them as well as sending them to overseas schools like it was done to the Niger Delta militants. He emphasized that military solution alone will continue to be a waste of public resources and a conduit pipe for corrupt security agents. Sheikh Gumi also calls on President Buhari to support the laudable initiative of Governor Matawalle towards ensuring lasting peace in the state.
Thus was a castle built in the air for fools in hope of a paradise of a federation called one nation, a mirage of military sight that has placed our country in the chain since 1999. Gumi left us with an illusion to our article of union; those who if they truly want peace should be visiting National Assembly and State Houses Assemblies to activate an agenda for the restructuring of our federation are busy beating about northern forests. Nigeria is a fool’s paradise!
Dr Bolaji O. Akinyemi.
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