Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the reason the Niger Delta militants and the Boko Haram terrorist group became extremists and monsters was the failure of government to address issues that threw them up.
Obasanjo stated this on Wednesday during a workshop in Abuja on the prevention of violent extremism.
The former president who pointed out that the Niger Delta agitation came about due to socio-economic deprivations, said that violent extremism has remained one of the factors denying Nigerians the benefits of democracy.
“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,” Obasanjo said.
National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, also speaking at the workshop put together by Club De Madrid; European Union Delegation; Stop Violent Extremism; Partnership Against Violent Extremism and the Counter Terrorism Centre, called on all stakeholders to devise a means to stop sermons in mosques from radicalising youths.
The Head of the EU Delegation to ECOWAS and Nigeria, Ambassador Michael Arrion, further revealed at the event that at least 25 out of the 27 local government areas in Borno State are affected by Boko Haram.
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