Former President Olusegun Obasanjo seems to have murdered sleep in Aso Rock, the seat of power in Nigeria, and the authorities in a seeming nervous reaction are fighting back.
The Nigerian government wants the defiant former leader to tender a public apology over his comments imputing ethno-religious motive to the blood-spilling Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Government also wants Obasanjo to withdraw the statement it described as deeply offensive and patently divisive, claiming that such indiscreet comments are far below the status of an elder statesman.
Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, in a Tuesday statement in Abuja, the country’s capital city, 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 life.
He said 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, 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”, Mohammed said.
Continuing, he said President Buhari put to rest the mis-characterisation 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”.
According to him, 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”, the minister said.
For him, 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.
Meanwhile, in a tacit appeal, the minister said Obasanjo, who took bullets for Nigeria’s unity, should not to allow personal animosity to override his love for a united Nigeria.
Obasanjo was one of the key figures that assisted in programming President Buhari into power in 2015. But, the former president parted ways with Buhari in this year’s presidential poll. He anointed his former deputy, Atiku Abubakar, to succeed Buhari.