Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Federal Government has lambasted former President Olusegun Obasanjo on his recent comments regarding the state of insecurity in the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement by his Special Assistant, Segun Adeyemi, said Obasanjo’s comments were divisive and depressing.
Mohammed called on the former President, who 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 withdrew his unfortunate statement and apologized to Nigerians.
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,” said the former military head of state and civilian president.
“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.
But the government added that Obasanjo’s comments imputing ethno-religious motive to Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) was deeply offensive and patently divisive, saying such indiscreet comments were far below the status of an elder statesman.
Mohammed further said it was tragic that Obasanjo, who had fought to keep Nigeria one, is the same person seeking to exploit the country’s fault lines to divide it in the twilight of his life.
Mohammed also said Boko Haram and ISWAP were terrorist organizations, stating 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,” the statement said.
“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.”
Mohammed further said President Buhari put to rest the mischaracterization of Boko Haram as an Islamic organization 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 added that Obasanjo’s comments were as insensitive and mischievous as they are offensive and divisive in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria.
He said Obasanjo’s prescriptions for ending the Boko Haram/ISWAP crisis, which include seeking assistance outside the shores of Nigeria, are coming several years late, as President Buhari has done
that and more since assuming office.
”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,” Mohamme said.
Mohammed maintained that 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 comments which, according to him, have served more to alienate a large number of Nigerians.