By Oji Odu
Nigerians have not slept following the comments by former President Olusegun Aremu Okoikiola Obasanjo on the insurgent Boko Haram and the actions of government to curb its activities and agenda which he described as a threat not only to the West African sub region, but Africa as a whole.
Why this sleeplessness? Why is government on the offensive over the comment? Why are the two main religions at each others’ throat because of the comment? Is there truth in the matter, or is it because of where and the way he said it? If so, should the baby be thrown away with the dirty bath water?
Speaking at the second session of the Seventh Synod of the Anglican Communion, Oleh Diocese, in the Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, Obasanjo had criticised the kid-gloved methods by both Nigeria and West African governments in checking terrorism in the region, and called for greater collaborating among several African governments in tackling the monster.
“Intelligence was poor and governments embarked on games of denials while paying ransoms which strengthened the insurgents and yet governments denied payment of ransoms.
“Today, the security issue has gone beyond the wit and capacity of Nigerian government or even West African governments,” he stated.
Obasanjo wants the issue of insecurity be taken more seriously without fear, favouritism and cuddling, regretting that the acts of violence by herdsmen Boko Haram were not treated as they should at the beginning, hence their seemingly getting running wild.
“They have both incubated and developed beyond what Nigeria can handle alone. They are now combined and internationalised with ISIS in control.
“It is no longer an issue of lack of education and lack of employment for our youth in Nigeria which it began as, it is now West African fulanisation, African islamisation and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change,” Obasanjo said.
The former President while noting that intelligence was poor and governments embarked on games of denials, condemned governments payments for ransoms which strengthened the insurgents. “..Yet governments denied payment of ransoms,” he said.
He however wants the Federal Government to see to the right welfare packages for troops fighting the Boko Haram terrorists. He lamented: “Soldiers were poorly trained for the unusual mission, poorly equipped, poorly motivated, poorly led and made to engage in propaganda rather than achieving results.”
But government would have none of that. It described Obasanjo’s comments as not only indiscreet and far below his status as an Elder Statesman as it imputed ethno-religious motive to Boko Haram and ISWAP as deeply offensive and patently divisive.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday, the Minister of Information
and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said it was particularly tragic that a man who fought to keep Nigeria one is the same one seeking to exploit the country’s fault lines to divide it in the twilight of his life. He said Boko Haram and ISWAP are terrorist organizations pure and simple, adding that they care little about ethnicity or religion when perpetrating their senseless killings and destruction.
”Since the Boko Haram crisis, which has been simmering under the watch of Obasanjo, boiled over in 2009, the terrorist organization has killed more Muslims than adherents of any other religion, blown up more mosques than any other houses of worship and is not known to have spared any victim on the basis of their ethnicity. It is therefore absurd to say that Boko Haram and its ISWAP variant have as their goal the ‘Fulanisation and Islamisation’ of Nigeria, West Africa or Africa,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
The Minister said President Buhari put to rest the mis-characterisation of Boko Haram as an Islamic organisation when he said, in his inaugural speech in 2015, that ”Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of”.
Angered by the extent he said Obasanjo could go to discredit perceived political enemies, he said Obasanjo’s comments are therefore as insensitive and mischievous as they are as offensive and divisive in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria.
Is Obasanjo’s statement new or strange, or is a call for urgency to stem a dangerous tide? In a chat with Johnson Ojo, a political analyst, he said that there is nothing new with what the former President said, while it is not strange the reaction of government to the comments.
“ The boldness these terrorist groups are daily increasing and operating in the country is frightening and elicits grave concern. Sometimes, we need an Obasanjo who may be described by some as tactless to make things happen.
“ Nigerians have been calling on the Federal Government to expedite action and check the inhuman activities of these groups who have continued to move inwards, terrorizing, kidnapping, robbing and raping most parts of the country, and it seems that government is handicapped,” he said.
Ojo rather advised the Federal Government to read in-between the lines what Obasanjo pointed at instead of the unwanted defense. He wanted an emergency declared as the bandits or terrorists are not even sparing Katsina state, President Buhari’s home state.
Today, alleged bandits killed over 20 people in an attack in Katsina state. Nobody knows where or who they will attack tomorrow.
In her opinion, “ Nigeria is bigger than those using religion and politics to divide the country by attaching religious ethnic and political meaning to every issue. What is bad is bad, and good information should be used for the country’s good. These terrorists must be stopped. Their actions make us live in fear day and night. I wish government should urgently employ measures to check them,” Jane Adetunji said.