What Boko Haram founders told me — Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has revealed that founders of the Boko Haram terrorist group told him that poverty and unemployment compelled them to venture into the insurgency in the North-East.


Obasanjo, who said the terrorist leaders told him this in the early days of insurgency, however, warned on Friday, that Nigeria’s over 20 million out-of-school children were a breeding field for more terrorists.


The ex-president said the country would only be saved from more “Boko Haram members of the future” if the government addresses the out-of-school children menace.


Obasanjo stated these at the launch of a book titled, ‘Pillars of Statecraft: Nation-building in a changing world’ authored by his daughter, Dr Kofo Obasanjo-Blackshire, at an event in Lagos, according to Punch.


In his response to a question by a participant on why government policies had become more political than people-centered in recent times, he said part of the country’s major challenges was looking for scapegoats for its problems.


He stated, “During the early days of Boko Haram, when the man who started the movement was said to have been killed, I said I wanted to meet with the members of the group to talk to them and know what they wanted.


“I met with their representatives and found out that they needed nothing but a better life for themselves. Can we blame them for wanting a better life for themselves?


“They said they believed in Sharia Law. I told them that Sharia was not a problem in Nigeria. It is part of our constitution.”


The former president further disclosed that some of the members of the insurgent group told him that they went to school but had no jobs.


He added, “Do we blame them if after four years, they have no jobs? Are they not entitled to a livelihood? This boils down to one of the P’s of nation-building – politics – which talks about governance and leadership.


“If that (leadership) is not properly taken care of, every other thing will go haywire.”


Obasanjo further stated that Nigerians must imbibe the culture of tackling their problems with courage rather than trading blames.


“We must ask, ‘What do we do with our people? How do we raise and value them? How do we value them?’


“We have over 20 million out-of-school children. Google how many countries in the world have less than 20 million. That doesn’t worry us? Are you thinking there will be no Boko Haram tomorrow?


“Those are the foundations of your Boko Haram tomorrow. That should be our concern. We should not say it is externally induced. Is poverty also externally induced? Poverty is the conscious, unconscious choice of our leaders. If we say no; it would be no. If we say yes; it would be yes”He said.


During the panel session, which Obasanjo was a part of, the elder statesman highlighted what he termed ‘The Five P’s of Nation-Building”, which, according to him, are population, prosperity, protection, politics and partnerships.


Addressing the sixth P – prayer and pleasing God – which was introduced by Kofo, and to whether Nigeria fell into a failed, failing, or weak state, he said, “I take the condition of our states now as work-in-progress. We cannot do anything until we have finished the work of statehood.”


Speaking of an episode he had with a former World Bank President when he was Nigeria’s Military Head of State, Obasanjo said the West knew Nigeria’s weaknesses and that when leaders show them the weakness, they exploit it.


He added, “There is a level of fragility in every state. No state is perfect, even America. I used to joke with my American friends that God gave them Trump to show that they are humans as well, and we are, more or less, the same.”


He added that for Nigeria’s democracy to work, the country must learn to manage its diversity, adding that all other forms of government – autocracy, plutocracy, gerontocracy, and others – do not really work for a long time.


Kofo, in her remark, noted that she had embarked on the course based on the advice of her father during a trip in 2017 after expressing a desire to serve others.


“As a young adult, I was incensed at the injustice and persistent corruption I observed in Nigeria. The disparity between the nation’s resources and the living standards of the average Nigerian brought me to my feet in outrage and frustration during conversations”She stated.










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