ABUJA—FORMER President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, sneered at President Goodluck Jonathan for not having adequate understanding of the Boko Haram insurgency and being unable to proffer a response to the menace starring the nation in the face.
Besides, Obasanjo also derided Jonathan’s administration for celebrating what he called “naked corruption”, which according to him, has hampered the nation’s economy and created problems for majority of Nigerians.
Obasanjo spoke at the presentation of an autobiography of the former president of the Court of Appeal and pioneer chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), retired Justice Mustapha Akanbi in Abuja.
The former President claimed that “Boko Haram is not simply a menace based on religion or one directed to frustrate anybody’s political ambition but essentially a socio-economic problem that is tainted with religion.”
He noted that apart from not having a proper understanding of the phenomenon, the Jonathan administration also wasted time in taking steps to curtail the malevolent group.
He maintained that “President Jonathan’s understanding of the Boko Haram phenomenon suffered from wrong reading and wrong imputation. That is what led us to where we are today”.
According to the former president, “Boko Haram is essentially a socio-economic problem that is tainted with religion. It is a gargantuan danger to the nation and to all Nigerians.
President Jonathan delayed
“It took even the President more than three years to appreciate and understand that it is a terrible mix of poor education or lack of education, misinterpretation of what Islam and the Quran teach and stand for, poverty unemployment, injustice, drug, gun trafficking, human trafficking, fallout from Libya, revenge, frustration, struggle against inequality, imitation of international terrorism leading to training and part absorption by international terrorist group or groups and general poor governance including corruption.
“I have always maintained that solution to Boko Haram or any organization like it lies in application of stick and carrot. We must remember that there is nexus between security and development.
“Those who say that Boko Haram is a menace waiting to happen are evidently correct. Some people have blamed the governments of the zone at the state and local government levels for the unacceptable socio-economic situation in the North-East. Of course, they must accept part of the responsibility.
“But, I would rather say it is a collective responsibility and, collectively, the situation must be addressed and redressed. The beginning of redressing the situation is education. I appreciated the importance of education in human development, state and nation-building, national development, employment generation, wealth creation, national unity, security and stability.
“When I had the opportunity as both military Head of State and elected President, I paid particular attention to education nationally through Universal Primary Education (UPE) as military Head of State, and Universal Basic Education (UBE) as President.
“In the first case, it was abandoned by the successor regime and in the second case, some states went to the Supreme Court to secure order for the Federal Government not to participate in basic education.
“It was claimed that constitutionally, it is the preserve of states and local governments and some of them did not live up to their responsibility.
“If we do not collectively invest in primary education, how can we address the situation?
“The counterpart funding instituted as a legitimate means of intervening by the Federal Government in basic education turned out not to be adequately supervised by the successor regime and became a veritable source of corruption at the state level and between the Federal and the State officials.
“And yet, the cost of primary education to the states has gone up with the policy of Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) as minimum qualification for teachers in primary schools. With that policy and closure of Teacher Training Colleges not certified for NCE, there is great shortage of primary school teachers in many parts of the country but particularly in the North.
“This is a situation that cannot be rectified by states and local governments alone.
Application of force
“I have never been against application of force in dealing with insecurity situation, but we must understand the genesis, the content and the context of each situation to determine when, where, how and what quantum of force to apply and what amount and type of carrot to feed in”.
He said further: “Let me make bold to say that if we continue to apply force alone, since Boko Haram has become an industry within the government circle and within Boko Haram itself, it may be suppressed for a while but it will not be eliminated.
“To deal with the menace root, stem and branches requires effective development programme for the zone of incubation and existence of the menace.
“If not, that zone or any other zone like it will be a fertile breeding ground for a similar menace in future or a rich harvesting ground for recruiting candidates for mischief and perpetration of insecurity internally and externally.
“Carrot must involve not excluding negotiation at the appropriate time for ceasefire, laying down of arms and peace-making terms and intervention with positive socio-economic measures to deal with apparent root-causes of the conflict and violence.
“It would appear that this understanding is beginning to be appreciated within the right circles. Better late than never!
“Just as no country is guaranteed to be permanently at peace, no country is destined to be permanently in conflict, chaos and violence because of its societal divisions.
“It is all a matter of how it is managed by governments and the institutions put in place to reduce, placate, address and redress tensions and divisions and the flows from them.
“Timely intervention in addition to early warning is both cost-effective and life-saving. We must not define ourselves in simple stereotype of Western media and so-called experts, who see us only through religious prisms. Those who do so, whether they are politicians or religious leaders, are the enemies of this country.
“Boko Haram is a menace and a dangerous one at that, but why must it be emphasized as an Islamic jihadist?
“Both words are unhelpful in the context of our own situation which requires bi-partisan and collective national understanding of the issues at stake and action to be taken.
“When they are described in such a way, it heightens the division and tension within our own society.
“A menace is a menace, a thief is a thief, a terrorist is a terrorist; not a Christian thief or an Islamic thief.
“Within our society, what is wrong is wrong. Boko Haram is dangerously wrong and we should all stand firmly against it while doing what is right to deal with it. Where there is need for advice, let us offer it; if the need is for correction, let us make it, where there is need for socio-economic intervention, let it be applied; if it is sanction, let it be given unstintingly.
“My learned Muslim friends tell me that Jihad means “struggle, inner struggle.
“And I say if that is the true meaning, who then is not a Jihadist? I don’t know about you but I am perpetually struggling to achieve one thing or the other.
“Those who emphasize and politicize religious division cannot be right. God does not create religion to destroy but to build nor to divide but to unite.
“Anything contrary to the desire of God in religious practice will amount to sin.
“Without security, you cannot have development and without development your security is seriously impaired. Prolonged lack of development is a fertile breeding ground for insecurity”, Obasanjo added.
Naked display of corruption
Obasanjo also blamed the Jonathan administration for what he called naked display of corruption, thereby hampering the nation’s economy.
He said: “For quite some time, the covered and hushed up corruption has had its toll on the economy. The non-investment in the oil and gas sector by major international oil companies has added its own deleterious impact.
“Our continued heavy dependence on one commodity has not adequately prepared us against any shock in that one commodity in the international plane. With the figure of $78 per barrel as benchmark, we will be in a bind if oil price falls to $75 per barrel.
“I am made to understand that Saudi Arabia used $68 as benchmark for the 2015 budget. Our inadequate protection of almost all local industries with heavy cost of energy has dealt a hard blow on most indigenous industries.”
Obasanjo said that if the situation was not halted it would get to a point where Nigeria would not be able to fund its budget.
“We may have to borrow to pay salaries and allowances”, he said.