Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s comments imputing ethno-religious motive to Boko Haram and ISWAP has been described by the Federal Government as an attempt to divide the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement issued in Abuja, yesterday, said the “indiscreet”, “deeply offensive” and “patently divisive” comment of Obasanjo were far below the status of an elder statesman.
He noted that it was tragic that a man who fought to keep Nigeria one is pushing to exploit the country’s fault lines to divide it in the twilight of his life.
It should be recalled that Obasanjo had during the second session of the Synod of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Oleh, Isoko South Local Government Area, Delta State, at the weekend, said every insecurity challenge in the country must be taken seriously and addressed squarely without favouritism or cuddling.
“Boko Haram and herdsmen’s acts of violence were not treated as they should at the beginning. 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 Fulanisation, African Islamisation and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change,” Obasanjo said.
In a swift reaction, the minister noted Boko Haram and ISWAP were terrorist organisations and cared 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 organisation 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,’’ Mohammed said.
He 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.”
“The minister said Obasanjo’s comments were, therefore, as insensitive and mischievous as they were offensive and divisive in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria, wondering whether there was no limit to how far the former president would go in throwing poisonous darts at his perceived political enemies. He said Obasanjo’s prescriptions for ending the Boko Haram/ISWAP crisis, which include seeking assistance outside the shores of Nigeria, were coming several years late, as President Buhari had done that and more since assuming office, hence the phenomenal success he has recorded in tackling the terrorists.
“Shortly after assuming office in 2015, President Buhari’s first trips outside the country were to rally the support of Nigeria’s neighbours – Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger – for the efforts to battle the terrorists. The president also rallied the support of the international community, starting with the G7, and then the US, France and the UN.
‘’That explains the massive degrading of Boko Haram, which has since lost its capacity to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks for which it became infamous, and the recovery of every inch of captured Nigerian territory from the terrorists.”
He said Obasanjo’s call for wide consultations with various groups as part of the efforts to tackle the Boko Haram crisis has been neutralized by his ill-advised comments which have served more to alienate a large number of Nigerians, who are offended by his tactless and distasteful postulation.
Mohammed called on the former President, whom he said took bullets for Nigeria’s unity, not to allow personal animosity to override his love for a united Nigeria, saying it will not be out of place if he withdraws his unfortunate statement and apologizes to Nigerians.
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