BY PETER DURU, MAKURDI and Ndahi Morama, Maiduguri
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says the killings in Benue State go beyond what Nigerians see on the surface, stressing that there was the need to get to the bottom of the bloodbath in the state.
Obasanjo, who spoke, yesterday, at Genabe village on the outskirts of Makurdi town where he visited the graveside and laid a wreath at the tomb of the 73 persons massacred by suspected herdsmen on New Year’s Day in Logo and Guma local government areas of the state, noted that Nigerian leaders carry the burden of leaving no stone unturned to get to the root cause of the killings and put a stop to it.
“It is sad, it is sad beyond description and that is why I have taken it upon myself, having been to Maiduguri where we held a meeting of the Zero Hunger Forum, where if circumstances had been normal here in Benue, the governor would have been with us, because the first meeting was held here in Benue”, he said.
“I felt I should come from Maiduguri to pay a condolence visit and share the sadness of Benue people with them. And I felt coming to this graveside and laying a wreath will express sufficiently my sorrow and my sympathy and empathy with the families, the governor and all the people of the state and indeed all Nigerians without any exception because a loss of a Nigerian life anywhere is a loss to all of us.
“And the situation that has been described is that since the death of the 73 that were buried here, there had been more than 80 others killed in different parts of Benue; it is even more shocking to me to hear and I believe it will be more shocking to many Nigerians who will be hearing that, as has been put across.
“There is no doubt that we haven’t got it right. We haven’t got it right because whatever is behind this, normally, in any civilized society we must get to the root of it.
“And until we get to the root of this, we will be burying victims. We will be assuming what is not assumable, because we must know why is this happening and why we must put an end to it. And somebody must accept the responsibility to put an end to this. Or if it has to be a collective responsibility, then so be it. But there must be an end to it.
“I do hope that there would be an end to this. Governor, please accept my condolence and do not give up trying to work with men and women that have the interest of this state and the interest of Nigeria at heart to find a permanent solution.
“This to me goes beyond what is on the surface. And we need to find out what is at the bottom of it. And that is the responsibility of leaders and, of course, they must leave no stone unturned to find what the root cause of this and put a stop to it.”
Earlier, yesterday, the former President was in Maiduguri, Borno State capital, where he said the lingering Boko Haram crisis ravaging some parts of North-East had an incubating period.
He said unless the level of education in the North-East matched what is obtainable in the South-West, to inculcate the values that guard against the emergence of Boko Haram, women, children and youths will become the Boko Haram of 15 years to come.
Obasanjo spoke at the end of 2- Day Third Meeting Of Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum (NZHF) which took place at the Multi- Purpose Hall, Government House, Maiduguri.
Obasanjo, who was Chairman of the occasion, said, “Boko Haram did not start overnight. It had an incubating period, but I do not know how long,
“And although I do not know how long it took to incubate, I am sure if the level of education in the North-East matched the level of education in the South-West, there wouldn’t have been Boko Haram.
“If we do not cater for and educate women, children and youths, they will become the Boko Haram of 15 years to come.
“Education is the panacea, education is the key, it inculcates the values that guard against the emergence of Boko Haram.”
He however commended Governor Kashim Shettima for his foresight by investing heavily in the education and agricultural sectors, which, he said, had started yielding positive results for the people of the state, especially the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).