Why Niger Delta militants, Boko Haram became monsters – Obasanjo

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed the security threat posed by the Niger Delta militants and Boko Haram fighters to the country, on the failure of the past governments to address grievances.

Obasanjo speaking at a workshop on the prevention of violent extremism in Abuja, said everybody has some of extremism in him, which could graduated into violence if not immediately addressed.

The indifference on the part of the governments in the past to grievances turned both the Niger Delta militants and Boko Haram sect into monsters.

For instance, Obasanjo stated that today’s militants in the Niger Delta region were once regular people pushed to resort to violence when the grievances of the people of the region were ignored by the constituted authorities.

He listed the grievances not addressed as including extreme poverty in the region and the indifference of oil companies prospecting for oil to the plights of the host communities.

Obasanjo also said that Boko Haram began as a normal religious sect.

He said, “Violent extremism does not just spring overnight. For me, each of us has some form of extremism in us. What then makes extremism go violent? This happens when grievances are not immediately addressed. They go violent when they are left unaddressed or untreated. I want to illustrate with two or three examples. The militants in the Niger Delta did not start as militants. They started as people who felt they were not getting what they deserved within the economic and social millieu of Nigeria.

“I went as the Nigerian President and I was shocked about what I saw of the oil companies and the settlements of natives, where they had no water, no electricity, and no road. Their poverty was not addressed.

“When they failed to get attention and get their situation addressed, violence became part of their solution. The solution lies in developing that community.

“Also, the Boko Haram insurgents that are raging now, was started by Mohammed Yusuf who was normal, learned in Islamic religion and a good orator and preacher. When he was confronted with the poverty and lack of job opportunity for his followers, he decided to try and find a solution.

“What should we have as our narrative today? I have always maintained that it should be the stick and carrot approach. We did not have a stitch-in-time for the Boko Haram. It has festered and gone beyond Maiduguri and Nigeria and we have a monster. If we had tamed it much earlier with the right narrative, with the right action, the story might have been different.”

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