Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday blamed President Goodluck Jonathan for the escalation of the Boko Haram insurgency in
the North East, saying the president dawdled for three years before acting due to wrong assumptions.
He said President Jonathan misread the insurgency as a religious war rather than the result of lack or poor education, misinterpretation of the teachings of Islam and poverty in the North East as factors responsible for the crisis.
Obasanjo spoke yesterday at the presentation of two autobiographies of former President of the Court of Appeal and pioneer chairman of the
Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Justice Mustapha Akanbi, in Abuja.
“Boko Haram is not simply a menace based on religion or one directed to frustrate anybody’s political ambition. It is essentially a socio-economic problem that is tainted with religion.
“Initially, President Jonathan’s understanding of the Boko Haram phenomenon suffered from wrong reading and wring imputation. That is what led us to where we are today.
“It took even the President more than three years to appreciate and understand that it (Boko Haram) is a terrible mix of poor education or lack of education, misinterpretation of what Islam and the Quran teach and stand for,” the former president.
He added that “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.”
How to end insurgency
Obasanjo re-iterated his earlier stand that the best solution to the insurgency is the use of ‘stick and carrot’ approach, adding that the poor development in the North East, in comparison with other zones of the country, contributed to the insecurity in the region.
He reeled out statistics on education, infant mortality, maternal mortality and poverty to show that the North East has the worst development indices in the country.
The former president also spoke extensively on corruption, youth unemployment, the economy and leadership deficits in the country.
He said: “Today every aspect of our national life is … riddled with corruption – the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, the military, the civil service, the media and the private sector. I must hasten to say that there are a few exceptions who stand out and would not succumb. They are unsung heroes.”
In allusion to the recent siege on the National Assembly and ransacking of Lagos offices of the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) by security agents, Obasanjo warned that “the greatest indictment against any administration is to be the destroyer of our fledgling democracy. To try to crush opposition, even within the same party let alone within the national political system, is to destroy democracy.”
Obasanjo also said corruption was one of the priorities of his administration for which he set up the EFCC and ICPC. He said the bill he sent to the National Assembly for the establishment of the ICPC was “watered down” and that it took 18 months to be passed by the assembly.
Corruption in National Assembly
Most “members of the National Assembly live above the law in their misconduct and corruption. They cannot, in true conscience, oversight anybody or any section of government in these areas,” Obasanjo said, adding that some of the lawmakers told him that if they had passed the ICPC bill as sent to them most of them would end up in jail.
“The National Assembly has never singled out offending members except where the executive led such as in the case of [Salisu] Buhari, the first Speaker, and [Adolphus] Wabara, the then Senate President… I must say again that there are still honourable and distinguished men and women in the National Assembly who will not do anything to soil their hands,” he said.
On the economy, he rued the over dependence on oil, warning that the country may have to borrow to pay salaries and allowances in future if strong political will and discipline were not adopted in lowering the country’s annual budgets by adopting a realistic benchmark in the face of drops in international oil prices.
While explaining that the GDP growth in the country does not reflect on living conditions of most people and most indigenous industries, he regretted the fact that government’s inability to protect most indigenous industries, that consume heavy energy was responsible for their collapse and the present economic “doldrums and reverse.”
Daily Trust reports that this is the second time in less than a week that Obasanjo will be criticizing the Jonathan administration openly. Speaking in Abeokuta at the Ake Arts and Book Festival, the former president rated the Jonathan administration below average.
But the presidency through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, said the rating by Obasanjo did not tally with the “facts on the ground”.