Obasanjo discloses what Boko Haram founders told him during a meeting. During the early stages of the insurgency in the North-East, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has shared the specifics of his meeting with Boko Haram leaders.
The group had initiated their campaign of terror following the killing of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, by the police in July 2009.
At the time, Obasanjo took the initiative to mediate between the group and the Federal Government, aiming to comprehend their grievances and potentially facilitate peace negotiations.
Recalling the encounter with the founders of the group, the former President revealed that they had attributed the creation of the movement to poverty and unemployment.
Obasanjo disclosed these details during the launch of a book titled “Pillars of Statecraft: Nation-building in a changing world,” authored by his daughter, Dr Kofo Obasanjo-Blackshire, at an event held in Lagos on Friday, June 16, 2023.
He said “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.”
The elder statesman added that some of the insurgents told him that they remained unemployed despite going to school.
“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,” Obasanjo said.
The former President added that Nigerians should learn to face their own problem squarely rather than trying to hold others responsible for their misfortunes.
Obasanjo 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.”