Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Zacheaus Somorin with agency reports
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has faulted the Federal Government’s anti-terror strategy as he called for more efforts in ending the Boko Haram insurgency in the country.
Obasanjo, in an interview with CNN aired yesterday, said the government’s approach to fighting Boko Haram would not lead to the quick resolution of the insecurity the Islamic sect has unleashed on the country since 2009.
According to him, more could be done to reach out to Boko Haram to find out what had led the sect to wage a war against the state.
He urged the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to adopt a multifaceted approach rather than just cracking down on the group.
“To deal with a group like that, you need a carrot and stick approach. The carrot is finding out how to reach out to them. When you try to reach out to them and they are not amenable to being reached out to, you have to use the stick,” he said.
Obasanjo said Jonathan was “just using the stick” in his efforts, adding, “He's doing one aspect of it well, but the other aspect must not be forgotten.”
He said that he had tried to reach out to Boko Haram about a year and a half ago through a lawyer who was acting as the group's proxy, and had asked if they had external backing.
The lawyer, he added, told him that the group was receiving support from other Nigerians who have resources overseas or “other organisations from abroad.”
“If they had 25 per cent support a year and a half ago, today that support has doubled,” the former president said.
Resolving the Boko Haram crisis is key to Nigeria's progress, according to Obasanjo, who now heads a foundation that is working to promote human security across Africa.
“Boko Haram undermines security, and anything that undermines security undermines development, undermines education, undermines health, undermines agriculture and food and nutrition and security,” he said.
The Islamist militants, who operate chiefly in Nigeria's restive North, have carried out numerous deadly attacks on mosques, churches and businesses and are suspected of having links with al Qaeda.
Analysts suggest that reaching out to Boko Haram may be increasingly difficult because the group has split into different factions, some with a domestic focus and others with a more pan-jihadi approach.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has put the death toll from Boko Haram attacks to over 2,800 people.
In a report published late last year, Amnesty International condemned the increasingly brutal attacks carried out by Boko Haram since 2009, but said Nigeria's security forces “have perpetrated serious human rights violations” in response. A military spokesman rejected the allegations.
The US State Department has accused Boko Haram of attacking mosques and churches to incite tension between the two religious groups, hoping to drive a wedge between them. It has condemned some of the group's leaders for alleged ties to al Qaeda.
However, despite the challenges the country faces, Obasanjo said he did not foresee Nigeria ever splitting into north and south.
“We in Nigeria now know that it would cost us much more to break up than it will cost us to come together,” he said.
Obasanjo, who also spoke on other issues, urged the Federal Government to do more in the management of the economy, especially in the oil and gas sector as well as the management of national expenditure and the budget.
On the effect of corruption on the nation’s economy, the former president said: “Anywhere in the world, corruption is a deadly cancer to the economy. What matters to me is not that there is corruption; what matters is do we acknowledge that there is corruption?
“If we acknowledge and we identify (that there is corruption), what are we doing about it? There is no society that is absolutely devoid of corruption, not in the world.
“But there are many societies in the world that do not accept corruption as a way of life. And that is what is bothering me. Do we accept corruption as a way of life? If we don’t, what are we doing about it?
“Provided we are doing something about it, then over the years, it will start going down.”