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What Boko Haram Founders Told Me- Obasanjo

Regarding the prevalence of government policies that are more politically motivated rather than people-centered, Obasanjo attributed it to the tendency of the country to search for scapegoats in the face of its problems, which he identified as one of Nigeria’s major challenges.

By Johnson Atoukudu:

During the book launch of ‘Pillars of Statecraft: Nation-building in a changing world,’ authored by his daughter, Dr Kofo Obasanjo-Blackshire, former President Olusegun Obasanjo shared insights into his conversations with the founders of Boko Haram in the North-East region of Nigeria. He revealed that the founders of the terrorist group informed him that poverty and unemployment were the driving forces behind their involvement in the insurgency.

While speaking at the event held in Lagos on Saturday, Obasanjo expressed his concern about the nation’s more than 20 million out-of-school children, emphasizing that if the issue is not urgently addressed, it could become a breeding ground for future ‘Boko Haram members.’

Regarding the prevalence of government policies that are more politically motivated rather than people-centered, Obasanjo attributed it to the tendency of the country to search for scapegoats in the face of its problems, which he identified as one of Nigeria’s major challenges.

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.”

According to Obasanjo, a few individuals within the insurgent group conveyed to him that they had received an education but were unable to secure employment opportunities.

He said, “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,” he said.

He also added that Nigerians must learn to face their own problems squarely rather than blaming others for it.

He said, “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 20m. 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.”

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