Northern elders under the aegis of North East Elders for Peace and Development (NEEPD) have said the comment by the renowned Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, about non-Muslim soldiers is capable of inciting the public against soldiers.
The NEEPD said this in a statement signed by Zana Goni, its Coordinator, on Wednesday.
During a meeting with a group of bandits in Niger State recently, Gumi alleged that non-Muslim soldiers launch attacks on communities in troubled northern states, noting that such an action is likely to ignite crisis.
But reacting, the NEEPD said it disassociates itself from the statement.
According to the group, Gumi’s statement does not represent the position of northern Nigeria, warning that such a comment, insisting that the public must view Gumi’s comment as “his personal sentiments”.
It wondered why an Islamic cleric and scholar, who had taken the initiative to discuss with bandits, would end up taking sides, as inferred by his statement.
The NEEPD said it is against the profiling of soldiers and called on prominent groups and organisations in the North to condemn Gumi’s statement in order not to create the impression that he spoke for the region.
The statement read: “As Northern elders committed to a united and indivisible nation, we hasten to condemn in very strong terms the allegations made against the Nigerian military by one of our leading Islamic scholars, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi.
“We rise in one voice to dissociate ourselves from the dangerous and divisive allegations levelled against our patriotic soldiers by Sheikh Gumi, in one of his missions to meet with bandits in a forest around Niger State.
“Ordinarily, we would have commended the Sheikh for daring to do what authorities failed, but for the profiling comments attributed to him, which we consider abhorrent and unhelpful to national development and peace.
“We warn that comments such as this have the potential of pitting the exposed soldiers against general areas in the North, where they have continued to put down their lives to protect the territorial integrity of the nation from those that seek to violate it.
“Our concern is further hinged on the possibility of the world concluding that the North may be offering tacit endorsement to banditry and associated crimes against society.
“To douse this tension, therefore, we call on relevant authorities, including prominent individuals and groups from the North, to condemn Gumi’s position in a manner that will absolve the region of conspiracy and vicarious liability, in the long run
“In whatever position we find ourselves, we must, at all material times, endeavour to put the collective interest of Nigeria over and above all other considerations, bearing in mind the fact that when the country collapses, it will do so on all of us, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or belief.
“Lastly, we urge Gumi to stop approbating and reprobating at the same time, and to immediately call-off his mission, if he has developed lethargy in the course of undertaking visits to deep forests.”