Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has come under fire for his recent remarks on the insurgency in the North-east and the herdsmen attacks across the country as the federal government yesterday accused him of imputing ethno-religious motive to the activities of Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP).
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in a statement issued yesterday described Obasanjo’s remarks as “deeply offensive and patently divisive”.
Mohammed added such indiscreet outburst were unbecoming of the status of an elder statesman.
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 could handle.
But Mohammed took a swipe at the former president, saying it was tragic that a man who fought to keep Nigeria one was the same person seeking to
exploit the country’s fault lines to divide it in the twilight of his life.
The minister who was silent on the activities of the Fulani herdsmen, however, classified Boko Haram and ISWAP as terrorist organisations.
He also added that the group fighting to establish a Caliphate in the restive North-east, 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-characterisation of Boko Haram as an Islamic organisation in his inaugural speech in 2015, describing Boko Haram as a mindless, godless group who are 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.
Mohammed also found a loophole in Obasanjo’s antidote for ending the Boko Haram/ISWAP
insurgency, which includes seeking external intervention saying Obasanjo’s suggestion was belated as President Buhari had done that since assuming office and had achieved phenomenal success in the fight 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.