Trying to make sense of Sheikh Ahmad Gumi recent claims about non Muslim soldiers fuelling anti state sentiments in the north by killing terrorists, is akin to labouring to understand the tantrums of a three year old–not because the Sheikh speaks like a child, but because the tantrum thrown by the child, and statements from Gumi are similar, on the grounds that they simply do not make sense.
In trying to placate terrorists, Sheikh Gumi has crossed many lines, thus creating problems, with the latest being his careless statement about the military. This is why professional mediators without a skin in the game are better suited to handle negotiations with consequences for national security than untrained hands.
What Gumi has wittingly or unwittingly done, is put a target on the backs of soldiers not just in volatile areas. At a time when fratricides among active servicemen are high, such inflammatory statements serve to inflame tensions further. We can’t make progress as a people if we keep repeating the mistakes that brought us here in the first place.
The July 1966 mutiny that led to the death of Maj. Gen JTU Aguiyi Ironsi happened as a result of ethnic disharmony that was not addressed with the January coup. While the circumstances and events of January are somewhat immaterial here, it bears stating that the counter coup in July that saw the deaths of not just soldiers of Igbo extraction, but thousands of Igbo civilians in the north, began with statements made by a section of Northern politicians who felt their regional hegemony has been threatened and needed to avenge their leaders, no less amplified by a section of the Nigerian media up north. The us vs them rhetoric has led to many atrocities not just in Nigeria, but with global consequences that should teach any serious country important lessons about managing its diversity.
That the leadership of the country’s security forces and paramilitary agencies are firmly in the hands of a section of the country which does not reflect the true extent of the country’s diversity (further flouting the federal character principle), is terrible enough. The fastest way to anarchy would be to taunt half the people who basically do the combat operations does not just put them at risk, it also puts the entire country at risk of implosion, a design feature of the Nigerian state that never seems to be too far away.