Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, on Friday, dissociated its leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, from controversial Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi.
The group’s National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, stated this in a statement titled, ‘Afenifere Leader, Adebanjo, has nothing to do with Gumi.’
Afenifere said 93-year-old Adebanjo recently “condemned the present actions of Gumi” in a joint statement issued in February 2021 by Afenifere, alongside the Pan-Niger Delta Forum; apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide; and Middle Belt Forum.
The socio-political groups had lambasted Gumi for asking for amnesty for bandits whom he said are fighting an “ethnic war”.
Ajayi in the statement on Friday said Adebanjo was “never known to be in cahoots with any criminal or those who keep company with alleged criminals and bandits”.
The statement partly read, “Our attention has been drawn to some pictures making the rounds in which the acting Leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, was alleged to be in company of Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, the Islamic preacher who is negotiating with kidnappers in the northern parts of Nigeria.
“As everyone knows, Chief Adebanjo, a lawyer, is not only a man of peace for whom human rights matter a lot, he is never known to be in cahoots with any criminal or those who keep company with alleged criminals and bandits.
“The pictures being circulated in which Adebanjo was seen in the same flight with Gumi and later in a handshake in the presence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo were taken in 2018 in the run-up to the presidential election that took place in 2019.
“It would be recalled that former Vice-Pesident Atiku Abubakar elicited the assistance of various important Nigerian personalities to help him secure the support of his former boss, Obasanjo, in his (Abubakar’s) bid to become the country’s president then. Those Atiku Abubakar approached for this purpose included Sokoto Catholic Archibishop Mathew Kukah; Bishop David Oyedepo, Founder of Living Faith Church; Senator Ben Bruce, among others.
“The picture taken in the plane was when the delegation was being flown to Abeokuta Ogun State home of Chief Obasanjo. Chief Adebanjo was in the rear of the private jet of Atiku Abubakar that convened the team to Obasanjo. Those on the same flight with Gumi and Chief Adebanjo included PDP Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
“Thus, the pictures being circulated were taken over two years ago, long before kidnapping became this rampant and long before Gumi engaged in negotiating for bandits.
“As a matter of fact, it is on record that Chief Adebanjo condemned the present actions of Gumi as contained in the statement jointly issued by Adebanjo-led Afenifere, PANDEF, Ohaneze and Middle Belt Forum among others, as reported by newspapers of February 28, 2021.”
Gumi has been seen hobnobbing with bandits and kidnappers while calling on the government to also grant them blanket amnesty. The cleric, who said bandits are fighting an ethnic war, also recently recommended the establishment of special courts to try bandits and kidnappers but many Nigerians have since flayed the cleric for being complicitous with the bandits and thus called for his arrest.
Gumi came to prominence lately when the abduction of students rose across the country. Non-state actors had in the past abducted hundreds of students from Kagara, Niger State; Kankara in Katsina; Jangebe in Zamfara State; Chibok, in Borno State; and Dapchi in Yobe State, amongst other mass and sad abductions.