Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo has said in the early days of Boko Haram attacks in the North-East, he was told by the founders of the dreaded sect that poverty and unemployment drove them into insurgency.
He made this revelation on Friday at 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 in Lagos.
Obasanjo raised an alarm that the country’s over 20 million out-of-school children were a breeding ground for more ‘Boko Haram members of the future’ if not urgently tackled.
In reponse to a member of the audience’s question on why government policies had become more political than people-centered in recent times, he said part of the country’s major problems was looking for scapegoats for its problems.
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 ex-Nigerian leader also said some of the members of the insurgent group told him that they went to school but had no jobs.
Obasanjo said; “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
“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.”