Eniola Akinkuotu, Leke Baiyewu and Olaleye Aluko
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday, said the extremisms of the Boko Haram in the North-East and the Niger Delta militants in the South-South were not addressed on time by the government before they became monsters.
Obasanjo, who said this at a workshop in Abuja on the prevention of violent extremism, noted that the Niger Delta agitation grew from socio-economic deprivations.
According to him, violent extremism was one of the hindrances to reaping the dividends of democracy.
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.”
At the workshop, which was organised by the Club De Madrid; European Union Delegation; Stop Violent Extremism Madrid + 10; Partnership Against Violent Extremism and the Counter Terrorism Centre, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno , said all stakeholders must explore ways of preventing sermons in mosques from radicalising youths.
Monguno also said the Federal Government would in August launch a national framework on prevention of violent extremism.
Monguno said that the success of the war against violent extremism would depend on “finding lasting solutions to the challenges of governance, democratic institutions, and a lack of opportunities.”
According to him, addressing security challenges demands a comprehensive regional and international approach that combines both soft and hard approaches to the threat of violent extremism.
He said that investigations had shown that extremist groups such as Boko Haram believed they were waging a Jihad war.
Meanwhile, the European Union says at least 25 out of the 27 local government areas in Borno State are affected by Boko Haram.
The Head of the EU Delegation to ECOWAS and Nigeria, Ambassador Michael Arrion, said this on Wednesday when members of the Progressive Alliance of Democrats and Socialists in the European Parliament visited members of the advocacy group, BringBackOurGirls, in Abuja on Tuesday.
While responding to a remark, Arrion said, “I am happy to tell you that very soon we will be in Borno to announce a support recovery and rehabilitation. We will be working with the Borno State authorities. I took your message. We know that 25 LGAs out of 27 need strong support in terms of rehabilitation. We will contribute to that, I promise you.”
Arrion told our correspondent that the North-East should expect at least €140m assistance from the EU.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has called on the EU and other donor agencies for more support to resolve the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency in the Nort-East.
Saraki, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, made the call when the President of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Pittella Gianni, visited him at the National Assembly in Abuja.