By Ndubuisi Michaels
The federal government has described former President Olusegun
Obasanjo’s comments imputing ethno-religious motive to Boko Haram and
ISWAP as deeply offensive and patently divisive, saying such
indiscreet comments are far below the status of an elder statesman.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday, the Minister of Information
and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said it was particularly tragic that
a man who fought to keep Nigeria one is the same one seeking to
exploit the country’s fault lines to divide it in the twilight of his
He said Boko Haram and ISWAP are terrorist organizations pure and
simple, adding that they care little about ethnicity or religion when
perpetrating their senseless killings and destruction.
”Since the Boko Haram crisis, which has been simmering under the
watch of Obasanjo, boiled over in 2009, the terrorist organization 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,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
He said President Buhari put to rest the mis-characterization of Boko
Haram as an Islamic organization when he said, in his inaugural speech
in 2015, that ”Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far
away from Islam as one can think of”.
The Minister said Obasanjo’s comments are therefore as insensitive and
mischievous as they are as offensive and divisive in a multi-ethnic
and multi-religious country like Nigeria, wondering whether there is
no limit to how far the former President will go in throwing poisonous
darts at his perceived political enemies.
He said Obasanjo’s prescriptions for ending the Boko Haram/ISWAP
crisis, which include seeking assistance outside the shores of
Nigeria, are coming several years late, as President Buhari has done
that and more since assuming office, hence the phenomenal success he
has recorded in tackling 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,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
He said Obasanjo’s call for wide consultations with various groups as
part of the efforts to tackle the Boko Haram crisis has been
neutralized by his ill-advised comments which have served more to
alienate a large number of Nigerians, who are offended by his tactless
and distasteful postulation.
The Minister called on the former President, whom he said took bullets
for Nigeria’s unity, not to allow personal animosity to override his
love for a united Nigeria, saying it will not be out of place if he
withdraws his unfortunate statement and apologizes to Nigerians.