Bill Clinton counters Jonathan, insists poverty behind Boko Haram, Ansaru insurgency

Former U.S. President, Bill Clinton
Former U.S. President, Bill Clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday Nigeria’s challenge of terrorism in the north was being fuelled by extreme poverty that increases by the day, an evaluation he once offered during a previous visit to Nigeria. It is also an evaluation Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan hates to hear.

Mr. Clinton said Nigerian leaders must share the country’s resources equitably, and develop the country’s human resources to stem extremism that has seen bombings, shootings and abductions escalate mainly in the northern states where extremist groups, Boko Haram, and Ansaru, thrive.

“You have to somehow bring economic opportunity to the people who don’t have it. You have all these political problems — and now violence problems — that appear to be rooted in religious differences and all the rhetoric of the Boko Harams and others. But the truth is the poverty rate in the north is three times of what it is in Lagos,” the former president said.

Mr. Clinton remark must have irritated President Jonathan who has repeatedly dismissed poverty or misrule as responsible for the surging terrorism and violent crimes in the North of Nigeria.

In his recent infamous interview with  CNN’s Christian Amanpour, Mr. Jonathan vehemently objected to the suggestion that widespread poverty, massive corruption and misrule were the possible root causes of terrorism in Nigeria.

“Boko Haram is not as a result of misrule; definitely not,” an agitated Mr. Jonathan said during the interview. “And sometimes people feel like it is a result of poverty; definitely not. Boko Haram is a local terror group.”

But Mr. Clinton said clearly Tuesday, not minding the discomfort his comment might cause the Nigerian government, that the administration will have to cut down inequality and lift more people out of poverty if it truly wants to eradicate extremism.

He said Nigeria needs to adopt a political structure that gives more power to the local and state governments, to decentralize governance and deliver prosperity to the rural areas.

“You have about three big challenges. First of all, like 90 per cent of the countries who have one big resource, you have a number of ways with your own money. It shows you have different ways. Now you are at least not wasting the natural gas, you are developing and selling it through the pipelines. You have to do better job of managing the natural resources,” Mr. Clinton said.

 “Secondly, you have to somehow bring economic opportunities to the people who don’t have. This is not a problem specific to Nigeria. In almost every place in the world, prosperity is heavily concentrated in and around urban areas.

“You have to have both powerful state and local governments and a national policy that work together.

“If you just keep trying to divide the power if you will, into loosening strategy, you have to figure out a way to have a strategy that will help share the prosperity.”

The former U.S. president has raised similar observation in his past visits to Nigeria, only to draw criticisms for them, with many challenging the assessment as not reflecting the Nigerian reality.

While analysts agree poverty thrives in the country, they argue that it affects every part of the country and as such cannot be cited as a justification for regional extremism.

He spoke in Abeokuta, Ogun state on Tuesday where he attended the ThisDay newspaper award. The event was also attended by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo amongst other dignitaries.

The event witnessed a dramatic start as guests protested a call by the moderator for the rendition of the American National Anthem, before Nigeria’s.

Guests were already seated when the award organizer, Nduka Obaigbena, publisher of Thisday Newspapers; and the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun; ushered in Mr. Clinton. Then, the Master of Ceremony announced that the American Anthem was to be played followed by the Nigerian anthem.

Guests swiftly kicked against the move, demanding that Nigeria’s go first.

A change was effected. The Nigeria national anthem was sung, followed by Ogun State anthem while the American anthem was eventually dropped.


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  • Mamman Bako

    Next time you see a shoe-less Nigerian with a name Goodluck please give him shoes. If someone had given GEJ shoes, Nigeria would have been saved of the current disastrous leadership.

    • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

      Rather shoe-less than brain-less. Yours has no cure.

    • Bem Katungu

      @ Mamman Bako……Are you saying President Goodluck Jonathan is the beginning and end of the kind of leadership you are mentioning here in Nigeria

  • Bem Luu

    You see, the problem with some people is that they think their system is the same with the one we operate in Nigeria. I think that is the path Bill Clinton too is trekking on.

    Bill clintoin to me is a person that has no moral right to challenge Nigeria on any of her current developmental challenges. Why didnt he tell the whole world about what he did to Monica Lewinsky? The world would have been overwhelmed with joy if he had given it an insight into that. So far as Im concerned he deviated from the issue he was invited to do and delved into an issue he knew little or nothing about?

    It is a pity that he failed to tell Nigerians that while he was US President, he helped Nigeria to get out of certain challenges.

    His infamous comment is coming barely a week after his company, Bill Clinton Global Initiative got a multi-billion naira contract in the useless name of Eco Atlantic Project.

    Nigeria will survive and gradually take here pride of place in the comity of nations, one day.

  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    Are we to believe that poverty led to the bombing of Christian worshippers in Maddala on a Christmas day? Was it poverty that is driving the roasting of northern Christians alive while in church? Was it also what led twisted Faruk to attempt bombing a US flight on a Christmas day? Muslims should just stop killing ‘unbelievers’. Pure and simple.
    Premium Times again is misquoting Bill Clinton just to suit a false narrative.
    The poverty in north was created by northern leaders especially IBB and Abacha. Jonathan is the first President in our history that is making any attempt to end the national shame of 10 million Almajiri children roaming Northern streets in feral conditions. No leader in Nigeria ever built Almajiri special schools except Jonathan.
    Jonathan is the first Nigerian leader to employ intelligence based solution in combating religious terrorism in the north. In the past, Northern leaders including Shagari, Abacha and Yaradua simply open bullets on suspected terrorists resulting in the death of thousands. Jonathan has followed a different route and is working with the available men and resources he can muster.
    Nigerians are already experience progress in the fight against hausa-fulani terrorism.

    • Easy

      Help me ask Mr Clinton I beg.

  • WHY DO PEOPLE LOVE TO OPEN THEIR MOUTH WIDE TO TALK AT ANY SMALL OPPORTUNITY GIVEN THEM TO SPEAK? THE SAME COUNTRY YOUR TALKING OF POVERTY IS THE SAME COUNTRY YOU CAME TO GET CONTRACT TO ENRICH YOURSELF MR. CLINTON. ARE THERE NO POOR PEOPLE IN ARE AMERICA? IN YOUR SAME AMERICA THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO CAN NOT AFFORD TWO SQUIRE GOOD MEAL IN A DAY. YOU SEE GOOD LOOKING ABLE BODIED PEOPLE BEGGING UNDER THE BRIDGE? AM NOT SURPRISE BECAUSE AMERICA IS KNOWN FOR CREATING PROBLEM FOR OTHER COUNTRIES DON’T COME AND MISINFORM NIGERIANS

  • lozzyfather

    poverty my foot. is poverty exclusive in the north or do we not know that Osama bin Laden came from one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia. why then did he choose d path of religious extremism?

  • Easy

    Why Mr Clinton persists with this line of thought is difficult to understand. According to the Mullahs in control of the terror activities of BH, they are fighting for Islam, to release their mates that have been caught committing acts of terrorism and to establish an Islamic republic, depending on the prevailing wind. There is poverty in the North, SE, SW and the middle Belt. But how does bombing a church enrich you as a poor man? The oil blocks that constitutes the wealth of the nation are mainly owned by Northern billionaires [old generals, their families and friends] , who have acquired the wealth through patronage and theft. May be Mr Clinton would be more relevant if he asks these thieves to account for the money they have stolen and why they are not using it to develop Nigeria by investing here.

    Talking about the education of the common man in the North, what have these thieves contributed? After all, the situation did not emanate overnight. The answer is staring us in the face. They have invested heavily in Arabia and quite a lot of the money is still in European banks. When they have invested in Nigerian Education system, they have priced the common man out of gaining a place. There is a need to tell it like it is, otherwise we are fostering a victim mentality when the problem is self inflicted.

  • Easy

    How could anyone compare Lagos with any other part of the country and expect to find equality? I have never seen anyone attempting to do this before.

  • redeem

    Was poverty behind 9/11? The ongoing crisis in the North by boko haram has nothing to do with poverty-Then its poverty that is causing Christians to be murdered in Kenya-only a fool will use poverty as the reason behind the evil activities of boko haram–may be it was poverty that led to the sack of Gaddafi as well as the ongoiung war in Syria-Nigeria has been ruled for over 40 years by the fulanis-yet some want to blame jonathan who became president in 2011-for the crisis-those doing the killings are fulanis–tuaregs

  • Aisha D.

    Whether Nigerians want to listen to the truth or not the rapid spread of crime, and terrorism specifically, cannot be explained outside poverty. Even if poverty alone cannot drive a man to commit a crime, Islamic fundamentalism, ethnicity and other factors only work hand in hand with poverty. The simple question you should ask your self is how many people who have decent jobs and a good life style resort to terrorism on a large scale? Muttallab and bin Laden, often cited, are less than 1% of the crowd of desperate young people killing themselves in the world or even in the North or even Jos. If you have a sensible job and are living at peace with your family, how many people will volunteer for suicide bombing in the name of God? Even in the Niger Delta, most of the people who took to arms were either unemployed or underemployed. I don’t know why Nigerians cannot get off their high horses and learn from others. That Nigeria is oil rich does not mean that the country is equitable. Explain to me why an oil rich country like this has 70% of the citizens living on less than 1$ per day. Jonathan did not create Boko Haram, but he is the president and if he is going to do his job, he has to drop sentiments and build this country across board. One thing he can do is to sanction those Northern governors who have obviously been looting their states instead of building schools and creating jobs. This Nigeria tire person sef.

  • gasi

    I only wonder why one would even suggets the American anthem be sang before ours, in ours own country. Am glad it was denied. There is Poverty in every region of this country, so poverty may be one but certainly not entirely the reason behind Boko Haram

  • olumide

    Clinton please tell us if it Wa̶̲̥̅̊ƨ̣̣̣̇̇̇̇ porverty that made Osama bin laden bomb america. I pity U̶̲̥̅̊r fellow fools that will buy into this rubbsih thought.