Renowned Muslim preacher, Sheikh (Dr.) Ahmad Gumi has established a school for herdsmen inside a Kaduna forest, insisting that the provision of infrastructures to herdsmen in their remote locations could help in curbing their violent ideologies.
He said insecurity in Nigeria, particularly banditry can become a thing of the past, as bandits are ready to drop their arms if opportunities like education and other basic amenities are provided for them at the grassroots.
He named the school Sheikh Uthman Bin Fodio Centre, located at Kagarko Grazing Reserve near Kohoto Village in Kaduna state.
The school was built by Sheikh Gumi funded Mosque Foundation Limited, Kaduna. “If the centre which is designed to educate the herdsmen is replicated everywhere in the Country, Nigerians will live in peace,” he said.
“Instead of spending billions on military hardware to fight the bandits, Nigeria should spend such money on schools and teachers.I have spoken with the bandits and they have expressed willingness to drop their arms and embrace peace, if their children can be given education and other social amenities,” he said.
“What motivated me to start this project was to solve the insecurity problem we have from the root because every crime has its perpetrators and perpetrators are drawn from a pool so we want to go there and dry the pool and we found out that education is the best cure.”
“If they are educated, they will not be doing what they are doing. So, we say we must take education to the grassroot and we embarked on the project to also be an example for others, local government, state and federal and rich individuals even cooperative societies to come together and make sure that we are directed across the forest to know what we can do to carter for nomads; it does not cost much, very little and it will help to educate them and we will live peacefully with them.”
“What we have here is a centre containing six classrooms that can be used for primary, secondary schools and at various times you can teach all categories at all times and the place will be engaged for 24 hours because the herdsmen usually take their cattle out by 10am and bring them back by dawn or sunset so they have 2 hours before they take their cattle away and we have 2 to 3 hours because we like to put some solar light so that they can read 8, 9, 10 in the night so that the herder can go and come back.”
“We have schools, we have hospital and also showing them how to grind the foliage which they can use to feed their animals, some of them don’t need to go out because those things are so cheap and farmers are throwing those things away, soon farmers will start charging for it. If we can duplicate this everywhere Nigerians will live in peace.”
While he denied saying Nigeria will seize to exist if bandits are declared as terrorists, he said, “It is a quotation out of context , I didn’t say there will be no Nigeria, I said if banditry now has turned into terrorism, fanatical religious terrorism which is there because Islam recognises religious terrorism so if we allow the herdsmen to turn into religious fanatic and extremist it will not be good for us as a nation.”
“99% of the herdsmen are not into banditry but if you turn it into religious struggle they will just go there committing crime, so it is not good to label them as terrorist because it will profile all herdsmen as terrorist because you are attaching it to herdsmen, you are not attaching it to an organization and if you say herdsmen are terrorist Nigeria will have problem, the whole course will be on fire, the north south and east will be on fire and nothing will remain of Nigeria if everywhere is on fire”.
“There is a lot that can be done to improve insecurity in Nigeria such as having this kind of centre instead of spending billions on hardware, let’s spend it on schools and teachers even the bandits I have spoken with them as i’m speaking with you to drop down their weapons to study, so long their women and Children will learn they are ready to drop their weapons, so why won’t we embrace peace?”
He said although the construction of the centre is still ongoing, the three tiers of government can come in and partner on training the herdsmen on how they can be economically viable.
“We want Nigerians to know that the herdsman is the most peaceful. For those that have used banditry and criminality to express their grievances, we want them to know that there is another way. We call on the three tiers of government, corporate organisations and public spirited individuals to support in bringing development to the grassroots,” he said.