From Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has come under fire for his recent remarks on the insurgency in the north-east as the federal government berated him for imputing ethno-religious motive to the activities of Boko Haram and ISWAP.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement on Tuesday described the remarks as “deeply offensive and patently divisive”.
He added such indiscreet outburst were unbecoming of the status of an elder statesman.
Two days ago, at the second session of the Synod at the Cathedral Church of St.Paul’s Anglican Church, Oleh in Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, Obasanjo had reckoned that the twin evils of Boko Haram and marauding cattle herders were deliberate ploy to Fulanise and islamise West Africa, adding that the threat had incubated and developed beyond what Nigeria alone can handle.
But Mohammed took a swipe at the former President, saying it was tragic that a man who 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.
The minister classified Boko Haram and ISWAP as terrorist organisations. He also added that the group fighting to establish a Caliphate in the restive northeast, care little about ethnicity or religion when foisting its senseless ideology of killings and destruction on the hapless people living around the Lake Chad Basin. ”Since the Boko Haram crisis, which has been simmering under the watch of Obasanjo, boiled over in 2009, the terrorist organisation 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.
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 or Africa,” Mohammed said.
According to the minister, President Buhari had rejected the mis-characterization of Boko Haram as an Islamic organisation in his inaugural speech in 2015, describing Boko Haram as a mindless, godless group who are as far away from the teaching of Islam.
Mohammed said Obasanjo’s comments were insensitive, mischievous, offensive and divisive in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria.
He also wondered whether there was no limit to how far the former Head of State would go in throwing poisonous darts at his perceived political enemies. He also found a loophole in Obasanjo’s antidote for ending the Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgency, which includes seeking external intervention saying it is belated as President Buhari had done that since assuming office and had achieved phenomenal success in the flight against the terrorists.
”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,” Mohammed said.
He called on the former President to apologise to Nigerians by retracting his unfortunate statement and not allow personal animosity to override his love for a united Nigeria.