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Archive for the tag “Olusegun Obasanjo”

Obasanjo: Dialogue ll Resolve Security Challenges

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo


By Chuks Okocha and Dele Ogbodo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Monday said the way out of the present insecurity and violent conflicts enveloping the country was for government to engage all stakeholders in dialogue.

Obasanjo’s statement however came on the heels of a clarification by the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Muazu Aliyu, that the insurgence of the sect, was as a result of the fact that the Northern part of the country had lost the presidential power to the South.

Obasanjo spoke in Abuja, in a keynote address presented on his behalf by the former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, at the opening of a two-day National Conference on Culture, Peace and National Security.

He said: “A way forward is dialogue, enlightenment and sensitization programmes such as we are having today. We need to sensitise the youths, community leaders, village, religious leaders, local government chairmen, traditional rulers, politicians to appreciate that building the Nigeria of our dream is a collective responsibility, and therefore we must take active interest in ensuring peace and security.”

Underscoring his reason for chairing the occasion, the former President  said: “I am therefore at this conference because I feel strongly that the issue of national security should be accorded top priority attention as no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of chaos and persistence violence.”

He said his unquestionable desire and interest in the oneness of this country is to ensure that peace and security is attained at whatever cost and efforts.

However, Obasanjo identified ignorance as the major factor responsible for conflicts in the country besides, poverty, unemployment, religious intolerance, ethnic rivalry, growing acculturation and resource agitations. According to him, it was for this reason that the United Nations, Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNES-CO), was established shortly after the 2nd World war.

“It was established based on the understanding that wars or conflicts, in whatever form, arise from ignorance, suspicion and mistrust and therefore the need for defence of peace be constructed in the minds of men and women,” he said.

In his remark, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, said the conference was designed by the Ministry to serve as a platform for the robust deliberation of the cultural dimension of peace and security.
Duke said: “In this regard, an aggressive and sustained sensitisation and public enlightenment campaign is of utmost necessity. All segments of society should be educated to appreciate the nexus between the culture of peace and national development.”

He assured that NICO will be engaged to carry out enlightenment campaigns in all parts of the country, adding that no country can satisfy the yearning and aspirations of the people in an atmosphere of chaos and insecurity.

The Minister appealed to family heads, community leaders, religious leaders and youth groups to join hands with government in addressing the security challenges facing the nation.

Meanwhile, Aliyu who spoke at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national secretariat when he paid a courtesy visit to the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, said the North and the country in general would certainly overcome the present security challenge in the country, because the Boko Haram insurgency was not up to the 30 months civil war fought to keep Nigeria united.

According to him “I don’t think so that because power has been lost was reason and those of us who believe in God will know that at any given time, anything can happen. In a federation, every child in Nigeria should be given opportunity and chance to aspire to the office of leadership. Therefore I don’t buy this idea of dividing group and said that they do things of this and that”.

He explained further, “Because when you say a whole group, nobody has sat down with me to say because we have lost power, we should do this and that. If somebody dare in his ignorance is doing because of that, that is unfortunate and I don’t think we should succumb to this idea of generalised statement.”

In his reaction, the National Chairman of the PDP, Tukur said there were too many idle hands roaming the streets and that the best way to tackle the present security challenge is to ensure that employment is created.

“We must address security, food security and provide health for all. There are more idle hands out there in the cities and the best way to address these problems is to ensure that we send them to the farmlands. This is what the PDP will do”, the national chairman of PDP stated.

He urged the party governors to be loyal and committed to the PDP manifesto, saying: “it is a contract, we must all honour”, while appealing to the PDP governors to make the party to be independent, “as the era where the party will go cap in hand begging for funds is over.”

To this, the Niger state governor retorted, “If you go cap in hand begging for funds, when I go wrong, how you can correct me”.


Source : Thisday

BOKO HARAM: A war caught in ambiguity – Alkasim Abdulkadir

Alkasim Abdulkadir an experienced international freelance journalist blogs about his first encounter with the Boko Haram spokesman Abul Qaqa;

I remember when news filtered in that Nigeria’s former President –Olusegun Obasanjo had visited the family of Yusuf Mohammed, Boko Haram’s ideological leader killed under extrajudicial circumstances by the State. Obasanjo was not the President his successor Umaru Yaradua was. As the piece of news settled in I wonder what was going through the minds of the upper echelon of the group. During the telephone interview I had with the spokesperson of the group Abul Qaqa for CNN I had asked him if the group was willing to negotiate. He had remarked that even the Prophet had laid down guidelines before negotiating with his adversaries; in their case he said only the Federal Government’s unconditional release of all their members held captive can guarantee a step to the process of negotiations.

The twelve minutes interview was the most courageous act I had ever done in my entire life, as I asked shakily –choosing my words carefully I tried to reconcile the carnage I had seen at the UN building bomb site. I struggled to reconcile the voice on the phone sounding almost serenely and courteous as he gave me the details of Mohammed Abul Bara  the 27 years old man from Yobe who had driven the Honda Accord car loaded with explosives. The detail shocked me to no end. Aside the shock it also meant outside the group this was the first time they were revealing the identity of the UN House bombing to any one! It was  I scribbled fast and hard –my hand trembling. I asked some more questions forgetting others that had formed in my mind. When I asked what was the rationale of their acts he quoted in Arabic Surah Tauba Verse 14 which states: Fight them; Allah will pinish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing people.

This is the rallying point of all the attacks they had carried out all year long. It is the thinking and motivation of Mohammed Manga as he attempted to ram his car into the police headquarters that resulted in his death and the injuries of several policemen. It is sadly also the motivation of several hundreds of members of Boko Haram. In the words of Abul Qaqa, they are mere mortals being used by God to fight the injustice and inequality in the land; an injustice in which the UN known for its global oppression was partnering with the Nigerian government.  Before he dropped the phone he had a word for journalists and radio stations –they most stick to facts of the matter. They should get in touch with them to verify issues before going to the Press. Boko Haram didn’t want to be on a collision course with media he added. I closed my note pad and breathed in and out. The phone call sounded surreal as the images of the UN House flashed again before me. After cross-checking editorial ethics CNN released the news and the global media retold the narrative. The Security agencies released the pictures of two people that had been arrested and a man hunt for a called Mamman Nur ensued.

A typical scenario to the pointer of a city under siege is Fridays at the Abuja Central Mosque, if one was ever in doubt of the clear and present danger the scene painted here brings it closer home. That of semi-automatic gun wielding SS operative asking motorists not to park beside the mosque aided by a member of the Anti-Terrorist Squad  (ATS) checking those with bags while operatives others sit at alert in a van with the lettering ‘Anti-bomb squad’.

It’s a simple fact that ours is a case of a reactive intelligence, when those the security agents are up against are always ahead of the curve and are left to always play catch up. Our intelligence needs to move to more covert style operation, not the obvious I-am-an-S-S-guy type that we have around. This coupled with a proactive community intelligence gathering technique can change the tide of things. This should not only be applicable to militancy or terrorism alone but it should be applicable to the unsolved assassinations and even armed robberies that have bedevilled the country.

Our total lack of preparedness to tackle disasters came to fore in the wake of the UN bombing, the underbelly of our emergency response was exposed to highlight our ineffectual state.  This is despite the fact we don’t suffer from raging bush fires, tsunami, hurricanes, mudslides, volcanic eruption and earth quakes. The mere meaning of the word ‘emergency’ points to the fact that it is unexpected, but it is as if the denotation is lost on our security agencies and health care system. One of the biggest problems is not that we don’t know what to do, but how to do it. I remember begging and shouting at two policemen to allow some Red Cross officials enter the UN premises after they had begged on end. Another instance was when an Army General accosted a Civil Defence man walking with Sniffer dogs and barked at him ‘who authorized him to bring the dogs to the scene’.   The entire FCT health system which is a model to the rest of the country wasn’t prepared for an emergency of this magnitude. It didn’t expect 8 intensive care patients and more the 70 people with various degrees of injuries from the blasts as such the blood bank soon started calling for donations to augment their supply. As residents heeded the call to donate blood this in turn angered the crowd of sympathisers that had already gathered at the National Hospital.

At the UN House blast site near the epicentre rescue operation was in full uncoordinated swing with members of the FRSC disagreeing with the fire service and the  Anti-Terrorist Squad watching in disbelief, the Army and Police all trying to do  their to secure the perimeter of the building. The bottom line remained that their efforts weren’t coordinated as a team on rescue and evacuation. There were too many weak links. I remember a NEMA top official complaining that people were tampering with the evidence; I had to tell him as the NEMA official in charge of the operation he should ask them to leave and come behind the accident tape barrier. However, it was a lot of courage for the men who did the rescue and evacuation, ferrying so many injured and dead people, gathering mangled flesh in body bags required more than a requisite training but also deep humanity.

The hospitals on the other hand were and still ill equipped and under staffed by an ill motivated work force. The latter coupled with an inept and sluggish bureaucracy is the distressing quartet that is Nigeria’s red tape to a viable health sector.

The sad aspect of the aforementioned is how doctors in Nigeria get paid pittance and end up working twice as hard as they should. It is this scenario that makes doctors join the brain drain wagon to practice in other climes where their trade is highly appreciated and well remunerated.   This singular absence of inspiration is the reason for the impersonal and near loathsome nature of nurses, midwives and other paramedics towards patients.

Information management during emergencies is one area that needs tightening NEMA and the security agencies should set up a Joint Communication and Data Centre that will be authorised to give out reliable information to news agencies, relatives and the general public. Not until FCT PRO Jimoh Moshood rallied the journalists present for an on the spot briefing by Police Commissioner Micheal Zoukomor -the first official statement almost 4 hours after the explosion; before then we had gathered the bits of evidence and at some point journalists had more information than the officials. Even though Channels, AIT, ITV and even NTA were on ground and had started covering the blast.  The Nigerian Television Authority, Africa’s largest TV network located about 20 minutes from the blast site was showing the Osogbo Festival while I had already gone live on CNN. I received a call from Kristoffer Rønneberg of Aftenposten, a Norwegian Newspaper. They called after seeing my tweet on the death of a Norwegian lady later identified as Ingrid Midtgaard. They calls kept coming from BBC Wales, BBC TV, CNN Wires and later at about 8 pm I was a guest on the BBC Have Your Say Program. The last interview came at 10 PM on France 24. It is inexcusable that we wait for others to tell our people the narratives of our tragedy. The days of NTA’s editorial guidelines asking it to be pro-government should have ended in 1999.

I have always advocated for dialogue in this on going war in which we are not ready for. Military action as exemplified by similar examples in other parts of the world has the tenacity to breed more foot soldiers. Each deadlier than the last; pacifism is also a strategy.

The army of unskilled, uneducated, unemployable disenchanted young men growing in Nigeria –especially in Northern Nigeria must be giving hope beyond measure. The only war we can fight against future insurrection and the only fruitful engagement we can with future armies that may rise in this nation is to deliver continuously on the mandate of good governance and accountability. We must pray hard in order to get it right. Afterwards we must get it right.

This article first appeared in Ynaija magazine in 2011.

Alkasim Abdulkadir: has worked as a Producer for the BBC-WST he has also contributed stories to CNN, BBC and France24. He also contributes regularly to the Nigerian Dialogue online platform.

Insecurity: El Rufai cautions FG


FORMER Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, yesterday, warned the Federal Government to review its stance on the security situation in the country,  but if it fails, “they will not be in government for too long”.

He also disabused the minds of many Nigerians that the insurgence of the sect was the handiwork of some Northern leaders to make the nation ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan.

Specifically, he exonerated the former military rulers, General Ibrahim Babangida and Muhammad Buhari from the bloody confrontations of the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram which have led to the death of more than a thousand people since its emergence.

The ex-minister who was the guest speaker at the 2012 annual May Day lecture organized by the Silver Knights, Lead City University spoke on the topic entitled “Between Terrorism and Corruption: Implications for Nigeria.”

While ruling out the use of force to silence the aggrieved sect, el Rufai said: “There is nowhere insurgencies like Boko Haram have been defeated purely through military force and occupation. Those who are saying “crush them” should know that recent history of the war on terror is not on their side. We want a country that works for everyone, and this senseless loss of lives must end soon. The government that has the responsibility for our security must bend over backwards to deliver it. If they continue to fail in this regard, they will not be in government for too long”.

Explaining the reason why he exonerated the former military leaders from the activities of the sect, he said the insurgence of the sect started when the late President, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, who was a northerner and a muslim was at the helms of the affair and that there was nothing like Boko Haram during the tenure of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who is a Christian and a Southerner.

He said: “Those who are saying crush Boko Haram have not got the true picture of the situation. You can only kill and crush those you know. Give me the roadmap of where it was done anywhere in the world. I am not an apologist for Boko Haram.”

In addition to reviewing what he described as failed military strategy now in place and scaling back what has become militarization of the North, he called on the government to  “work with community leaders in Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Kano and Kaduna States to identify interlocutors that would enable honest discussions with Boko Haram to establish what they really want.”

I don’t think that anybody really knows what they want. The government knows what they want, but they do not want us to know”.

The former government officer who said at the beginning of the speech that he was not representing his political party-Congress for Progressive Change(CPC) but would speak from his own personal view further noted, “Terrorism is a harder nut to crack. I am of the view that a multi-track approach is necessary to increase the chances of its success. First, the prevailing narrative in the in the Jonathan camp must be discarded. This narrative is what the national security adviser tried to communicate at the Asaba summit of South-South leaders, but he was misunderstood by the media. Jonathan and his inner circle believe that Boko Haram is a Northern conspiracy to prevent Jonathan enjoying his presidency. And Northern political leaders like IBB and General Buhari aare the sponsors and financiers of Boko Haram”.

This narrative, he added, was the belief of most Niger Delta leaders because of their own experience in organizing, training and arming the militants and providing funding for Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta(MEND) during the period of resource control agitations of the Obasanjo administration. Because theirs was a conspiracy of the political elite, they think the North must be doing the same and they also feel that Boko Haram largely kills northerners or “parasites” as one presidential aide allegedly tweeted.

He traced the genesis of the insurgence of the sect to rewarding those who take up arms against the state with the cash hand-outs called amnesty programme has to be reviewed.

Any society, he continued, that rewards bad behavior with cash creates a moral hazard that may consume that society. “Those giving out the cash should know  that they are doing no favours to anyone. Indeed, they are fostering an entitlement culture that would be ultimately be the undoing of that part of the country. Boko Haram does not appear to be motivated by money, so those thinking of an amnesty-like program may need to go back to the drawing board.

According to him, there are four variants of Boko Haram. He clarified that there are normal Boko Haram members who operate in the North East and North West of the country, this group, he said, is very few.

He second variant, he said, is the criminal Boko Haram who mainly attack banks and the third one is the political Boko Haram which the politicians use to attack perceived opponents and the fourth, he noted, is the security Boko Haram who are being sponsored by the fifth columnist.

“But, each time, we hear of bombings, people say they are Boko Haram. But, those of us who keep records know that not all of them are Boko Haram. There are bombings that Boko Haram disclaimed, but the media keep saying it is Boko Haram even when the sect did not claim responsibility, we overlook that”, he noted.

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