The federal government has asked former president Olusegun Obasanjo to apologise to Nigerians and withdraw his recent comments that Boko Haram and ISWAP have ethno-religious motives in Nigeria.
Obasanjo had on Saturday decried the high level of insecurity in Nigeria, stating that the Federal Government alone cannot tackle the menace.
He regretted that both Boko Haram and herdsmen acts of violence were not treated as they should at the beginning.
According to him, “They have both incubated and developed beyond what Nigeria can handle alone. They are now combined and internationalized with ISIS in control.
“It 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 fulanization, African Islamization and global organized crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change.”
But reacting in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, averred that such “indiscreet, deeply offensive and patently divisive comments are far below the status of an elder statesman”.
He added that, “It is 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 life”.
The minister stated that Boko Haram and ISWAP are terrorist organisations 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 organisation has killed more Muslims than adherents of any other religion.
“The terrorist group 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,” he said.
Mohammed pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari put to rest the mis-characterization of Boko Haram as an Islamic organisation 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”.
He reiterated that Obasanjo’s comments were therefore, “as insensitive and mischievous as they are as offensive and divisive in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria”.
“It is wondering whether there is no limit to how far the former President will go in throwing poisonous darts at his perceived political enemies.”
The minister noted that Obasanjo’s prescriptions for ending the Boko Haram/ISWAP crisis, which include seeking assistance outside the shores of Nigeria, are coming several years late.
He said President Buhari had 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,” he said.
The Minister also noted that Obasanjo’s call for wide consultations with various groups as part of the efforts to tackle the Boko Haram crisis has been neutralised 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.
He 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.