Olusegun Obasanjo

Unemployment, Poverty, Causes of Boko Haram – Obasanjo

Former President Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has attributed the existence of Boko Haram insurgency to poverty and unemployment in the country.

Chief Obasanjo, who claimed that the twin problem of unemployment and poverty were identified by the founders of Boko Haram themselves as the driving forces behind the early stages of the insurgency in the North-East warned that the presence of over 20 million out-of-school children in the country could potentially create a fertile ground for the emergence of future ‘Boko Haram members’ if immediate action was not taken.

The former president handed down the warning at the launch event of his daughter, Dr Kofo Obasanjo-Blackshire’s book titled ‘Pillars of Statecraft: Nation-building in a changing world’ in Lagos.

In response to a question about the shift towards more politically-oriented government policies at the expense of people-centered approaches, Obasanjo attributed part of the country’s significant challenges to its tendency to search for scapegoats, rather than address the root causes of its problems.

He said further that during the early days of Boko Haram when the man who started the movement was said to have been killed, he summoned the courage 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”, he claimed, asking, “Can we blame them for wanting a better life for themselves?”

Chief Obasanjo added “They said they believed in Sharia Law. I told them that Sharia was not a problem in Nigeria. It is part of our constitution.”

According to the former president, some of the members of the insurgent group also told him that they went to school, but had no jobs.

“Do we blame them if after four years, they have no jobs? Are they not entitled to a livelihood?, he queried.

All This, he noted, boiled down to one of the P’s of nation-building – politics – which talks about governance and leadership, adding that if that (leadership) is not properly taken care of, every other thing will go haywire.

The elder statesman also admonished that Nigerians must learn to face their own problems squarely, rather than blaming others for it.

He posited that Nigerians must ask what to do with our people and how to raise and value them.

Chief Obasanjo who observed that the nation had over 20 million out-of-school children wondered (finding from the Google) how many countries in the world have less than 20m, asking, whether that did not worry us as a people?

“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”, he said.

During the panel session, which Obasanjo was a part of, the elder statesman highlighted what he termed ‘The

Five P’s of Nation-Building” which, according to him, are population, prosperity, protection, politics and partnerships.

Addressing the sixth P – prayer and pleasing God – which was introduced by Kofo, and to whether Nigeria fell into a failed, failing, or weak state, he said: “I take the condition of our states now as work-in-progress. We cannot do anything until we have finished the work of statehood.”

Speaking of an encounter he had with a former World Bank President when he was Nigeria’s military head of state, Obasanjo said that the West knew Nigeria’s weaknesses and that when leaders showed them the weakness, they exploited it.

According to him there was a level of fragility in every state as no state wass perfect, even America, adding that he used to joke with his American friends that God gave them Trump to show that they were humans as well, and that we are, more or less, the same.

The two-time Nigerian ruler said for Nigeria’s democracy to work, the country must learn to manage its diversity, adding that all other forms of government – autocracy, plutocracy, gerontocracy and others do not really work for a long time.

Kofo, in her remarks, noted that she had embarked on the course, based on the advice of her father during a trip in 2017 after expressing a desire to serve others.

She said: “As a young adult, I was incensed at the injustice and persistent corruption I observed in Nigeria. The disparity between the nation’s resources and the living standards of the average Nigerian brought me to my feet in outrage and frustration during conversations,”

Source: Saturday PUNCH