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On Obasanjo’s Warri verdict

A FEW days after the 2018 Global Terrorism Index categorised Nigeria as the third most terrorised country in the world after Iraq and Afghanistan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo gave an unusual but brutally frank assessment of the Boko Haram insurgency in the country with a damning verdict on the mission of the terror group.

Former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

Obasanjo, in a keynote address at the 2019 Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), held in Oleh, Isoko South council area of Delta State spoke on the topic, ‘Mobilising Nigeria’s Human and Natural Resources for National Development and Stability’.

Tracing the origin of the security threat to the Boko Haram insurgency and herders menace in the North, Obasanjo said: “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 youths in Nigeria which it began as, it is now West African organization, African Islamization and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change.

Holistic measures of stick and carrot

“Yet, we could have dealt with both earlier, and nip them in the bud, but Boko Haram boys were seen as rascals not requiring serious attention in administering holistic measures of stick and carrot. And when we woke up to the reality, it was turned to industry for all and sundry to supply materials and equipment that were already outdated and that were not fit for active military purpose.”

There are fellow countrymen like former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, who may want to play the ostrich as our country melts away in the hands of terrorists by advising Obasanjo to remain a “nationalist”(by living in denial) instead of becoming a “bigot” (a statesman who speaks the truth to a sinking country when sinful silence is political correctness). For people like Lamido, we need to go back to how it all started.

Maj. Mustapha Jokolo(rtd),  in 2005, as the Emir of Gwandu, made some scary  statement: “In response to what they perceived as the Obasanjo ‘menace’, the Caliphate emirs met on March 28, 2005 in Kaduna under the auspices of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, of which the Sultan of Sokoto is the traditional Chairman. At that meeting Major Mustapha Jokolo (retd), the then Emir of Gwandu, traditionally the second-in-command to the Sultan, complained bitterly that Northern Muslims had been marginalised by President Obasanjo: complaining that today they have no banks and construction companies; that their soldiers were compulsorily retired from the army shortly after Obasanjo came to power; and that their children are being denied recruitment in the army. We must decide what to do now. .Let our people withdraw from the confab. . . Muslims are not afraid and they will come out to say the truth.”(See ‘Emir’s Jihad Threat’—Insider Weekly, May 2, 2005, p.17.)

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Jokolo added that: “We (Muslims) have been pushed to the wall and it is time to fight…. Obasanjo is trampling on our rights and Muslims must rise and defend their rights. The more we continue to wait, the more we will continue to be marginalised.”

It may be coincidental but there was a sudden rise in the enhancement of Boko Haram’s terrorist capacity; and the reported sudden affluence of its leader who began to move about in expensive cars. The group became well-funded and more powerful in mid-2005 after the Emir of Gwandu called for a fight to end what was perceived as the North’s marginalisation by the OBJ government.

Under the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency, Boko Haram appeared to have become a tool in the hands of some Northern politicians who were fighting the upturn of the rotation principle in the PDP after the emergence of Jonathan following the death of Umaru Yar’Adua.

The deposed Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Al-Mustapha Jokolo, was to sensationally confirm the suspicions of many in Nigeria that Boko Haram was a tool in the hands of those politicians and their cronies who promised that “the North is determined, if that happens, to make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan or any other Southerner who finds his way to the seat of power on the platform of the PDP against the principle of the party’s zoning policy”.

It became so strident that some leading politicians of the region and Boko Haram were singing from the same hymn page. When the government of Jonathan declared emergency rule in three North East states in 2013, a leading political leader from the North made a shocking declaration on “Guest of the Week,” a Hausa programme of the Kaduna-based Liberty Radio, that the action of the Federal Government was a gross injustice against the North.

According to him, unlike the special treatment the Federal Government gave to the Niger Delta militants, the Boko Haram members were being killed and their houses demolished.

He said he was not in support of the declaration of a state of emergency in the three North-Eastern states because President Jonathan had failed from the outset in addressing the security situation in the country.

Besides, he added that the security challenges facing the country started in the Niger Delta region where he alleged that politicians desperate to retain their positions as governors recruited youths and armed them to enable them to win elections by force.

“Every Nigerian that is familiar with what happened knows this. The Niger Delta militants started it all. What happened is that the governors of the Niger Delta region at that time wanted to win their elections, so they recruited the youths and gave them guns and bullets and used them against their opponents to win elections by force.

“After the elections were over, they asked the boys to return the guns, the boys refused to return the guns. Because of that, the allowance that was being given to the youths by the governors during that time was stopped.

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“The youths resorted to kidnapping oil workers and were collecting dollars as ransom. Now a boy of 18 to 20 years was getting about $500 in a week, why will he go to school and spend 20 years to study and then come back and get employed by the government to be paid N100,000 a month; that is if he is lucky to get employment?

“So kidnapping became very rampant in the South-South and the South-East. They kidnapped people and were collecting money. How did Boko Haram start? We know that their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, started his militancy and the police couldn’t control them and the army was invited. He was arrested by soldiers and handed over to the police.

“The appropriate thing to do, according to the law, was for the police to carry out investigations and charge him to court for prosecution, but they killed him; his in-law was killed; they went and demolished their houses.

“Because of that, his supporters resorted to what they are doing today.

“You see in the case of the Niger Delta militants, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sent an aeroplane to bring them, he sat down with them and discussed with them; they were cajoled, and they were given money and granted amnesty.

“They were trained in some skills and were given employment, but the ones in the North are being killed and their houses demolished. They are different issues, what brought this? It is an injustice.”

Condemning the emergency rule, the Action Congress of Nigeria in a statement by its spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, advised the then President to “go ahead and disband the committee he recently inaugurated and saddled with reaching out to the insurgents, because by opting to flood the states with more troops under an ill-advised emergency rule, he has succeeded in pulling the carpet from under the committee’s feet. Who negotiates genuinely with a gun to his head? The committee’s job is over, the members can as well pack up and go home.”

Delegates to the 2014 National Conference were shocked the day the then ACF President, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, rose on the floor to defend the jailbreak by members of Boko Haram in a DSS facility near the Presidential Villa. “What do you expect those who are being detained without trial to do?” asked Coomassie, who was locking up citizens without trial under Decree 2 as IGP under Gen Sani Abacha junta without any jailbreak.

The defeat of Jonathan in 2015 was naively expected to bring Boko Haram activities to an end by those who could not appreciate the larger goal of the movement. The evil group has become much more vociferous in its murderous activities under the current administration, the head of whom the group proposed as its negotiator under former President Jonathan.

A 2014 speech by Boko Haram Spokesman, Shekau, touched on the mission and vision:  “I am using this opportunity to send this message to the infidels in Nigeria and their other infidels in the world in Hausa vernacular, the tongue that many understand and if the need arises, I will explain in Fulani and Kanuri, but let us explain to you briefly.

“People should know that it is Allah that we are serving, the Prophet of Allah SWT. This is what we put ahead of us; we are praying to die in this path and see heaven and begging Allah to grant us innermost part of heaven and may Allah shield us…

“Because of this, there is no any ceasefire or dialogue with anyone. Instead, it is a war with beating and killings and guns that we are hungry for like food with Maggi cubes. We are on course. Our focus and determination are to see that only the Quran is being used in running the world. With Allah, this is what we put ahead of us.

Discussing ceasefire

“That President Idris Deby of Chad and one Ambassador of Nigeria with Cameroon said we are discussing a ceasefire. Where did they see us? Your White man from Germany is with us presently. He is crying and if we like, we will cut him into pieces or gun him down. We are not afraid of anyone except Allah. This is our job…

“If parents of Chibok girls will know the condition of their children, they will not be worried. It is either to be with their conversion to Islam or you die with pains. You don’t know that the over 200 Chibok girls have converted to Islam. They have memorised several sections of the Quran. They have finished in the midst of John, Luke and others. They have realised that Christians have filled old testament with lies.

“We are working with Quran and no infidel will threaten us. You lacked what to do; you want to please your leaders, and you are lying; the likes of Solomon Dalung, Abdullahi Wase, the likes of Senator Ndume. The people are tired. Whether you like it or not we are working for others to convert to Islam.

“What is my business with you? Me that left my parents in our house; I left my mother and father. I came out to team up with those that want to promote Islam; you are just deceiving people with the ceasefire.”

Nothing speaks to this vision than the non-release of Leah Sharibu by Boko Haram for refusing to renounce her faith. And only sympathisers of Boko Haram will fault Obasanjo’s Warri Declaration. Nigeria can’t go far under what is going on.

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