Renowned Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, has built a school for herdsmen at Kagarko Grazing Reserve near Kohoto Village Forest in Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria.
The scholar, who named the school as Sheikh Uthman Bin Fodio Centre, said it was funded by Sultan Mosque Foundation Limited.
Sheikh Gumi said that the centre is designed to educate herdsmen and will be replicated all over Nigeria.
For Gumi, instead of spending billions of Naira on procurement of military hardware to fight the bandits, such funds should be spent on schools and teachers to educate the herdsmen.
The Muslim cleric again said he had 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.
According to him, “if they are educated, they will not be doing what they are doing. So, we say we must take education to the grassroots 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.”
Gumi denied making a statement that Nigeria will no longer exist if bandits are declared as terrorists, adding that he was quoted out of context.
“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 terrorists because it will profile all herdsmen as terrorists because you are attaching it to herdsmen, you are not attaching it to an organization and if you say herdsmen are terrorists, 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,” he said.
Gumi said that though 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.
In their separate speeches, Fulani Chief of the community, Ardo Ahmed Tahiru, Imam Tafa Dahiru and Christian cleric in the community, Luka Mai Ungwar all commended Sheikh Gumi for the gesture, stressing that the project has brought unity.
Gumi led his delegation to the Palace of the Sarki of Kagarko, 98-year-old Malam Sa’ad Abubakar, where they received royal blessings.