Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s mischievous and highly controversial remarks at the second session of the Synod of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Oleh, Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State were totally unbecoming of an eminent statesman. He said Boko Haram “is no longer an issue of lack of education and lack of employment for our youths in Nigeria which it began as, it is now West African Fulanisation, African Islamisation and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change.”
Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed responded by saying Obasanjo’s comments were divisive and depressing. He called on the former President not to allow personal animosity to override his love for a united Nigeria, saying it will not be out of place if he withdrew his unfortunate statement and apologized to Nigerians. Alhaji Lai added, “It was tragic that Obasanjo, who had 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.”
According to the minister, Boko Haram and ISWAP are terrorist organizations that care little about ethnicity or religion when perpetrating their senseless killings. Since the Boko Haram crisis started, the terrorist group 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 or West Africa.
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To describe Obasanjo’s most recent comments on insecurity in the country as divisive is to understate it. It almost constitutes hate speech. Out of sheer mischief, Obasanjo coined the phrase ‘Fulanization’ in order to profile and blackmail northern Nigerian tribes over insecurity in the country, even though the same region is the worst hit by kidnapping and banditry. Besides the killing of prominent Muslims such as General Muhammadu Shuwa, the terrorist groups made attempts on the lives of prominent Northern elite including General Muhammadu Buhari, Shehu of Borno, late Emir of Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero and Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi.
If Obasanjo, a former Head of State and civilian President, was privy to intelligence reports on Boko Haram insurgents, the church wasn’t the best venue to reveal it. As a member of the National Council of State, there are avenues for conveying his observations to government without necessarily resorting to public attacks on a particular region of the country.
For most of his life, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo lived above ethnic sentiments and religious bigotry. He was hitherto seen as a nationalist and elder statesman whose patriotic position on issues was least doubted. He however has a tendency to criticise every government that he did not head. Since 1979 when he first left office, Obasanjo sharply criticised every regime, often unjustifiably. His recent attacks on the North are suspected to be born out of his fallout with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Obasanjo should not have used his soured relationship with Buhari to torpedo Nigeria’s national unity. The solution to settling his quarrel with Buhari does not rest with bringing down Nigeria. A man who fought to keep Nigeria one and who ruled this country cumulatively longer than anyone else [11 and a half years] should not have descended so low as to make these unfounded allegations. Obasanjo made a similar outburst on January 20, 2019 in which he tried to a discredit INEC, criticised Vice President Yemi Osinbajo over trader-money and condemned President Buhari’s regime over the prosecution of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen for non-declaration of assets.
Countries that have moved forward are those that managed their heterogeneous nature well. The Buhari regime, too, should stop its ridiculous blaming of the opposition for the country’s security problems. Such unfounded blaming of PDP for everything that goes wrong puts government on the same immoral pedestal as Chief Obasanjo.