Extortionists, criminals behind resurgent agitation for Biafra – Obasanjo

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday said took a swipe at those campaigning for a breakaway sovereign state of Biafra, suggesting that some people were using the Biafra agitation to enrich themselves criminally.

“There is even some suspicion that the agitators embarked on the act in order to extort money from outsiders and to also extract financial support from the government,” Mr. Obasanjo, who a veteran of the civil war that suppressed the original attempt at establishing Biafra, said in a lecture he delivered at an event organised by the Yar’Adua Centre and Nextier’s Development Discourse to commemorate the Armed Forces Remembrance Day.

“The commercialization and exploitation of Biafra agitation is obscene to the point of criminal fraudulence.

“Or, how do you explain the issuance of the so-called Biafran passport that takes anyone to nowhere and for which unwary people are being charged exorbitant prices.

“We must neither allow evil to find work for our youth nor to fill their unoccupied minds with satanic ideas, thoughts, decisions and actions.”

The former president also advocated good governance driven by fairness, justice, and a complete wellbeing of the citizenry at all levels as a means of quelling the agitation.

While warning that the country could not afford another civil war or a insurgency similar to that being fought in the North East of the country under any guise, Mr Obasanjo called for the youth leading the current agitation for the creation of Biafra to be educated on the implications of their actions.

“Above all things, good governance at all levels is the key solution. The welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry with equity, justice and fairness must be the main pre-occupation of government at all levels. It must also be the pre-occupation of the family and the community and all hands must be on deck,” he said.

“Nigeria cannot afford to go from Boko Haram insurgency to any other insurgency under any name or guise. And on no account should we wittingly or unwittingly allow this to happen again. Youth education, welfare, well-being, empowerment and employment for ever must be our collective duty, obligation and responsibility.”

He called on the leaders of the country, particularly in the South East, to take the lead in the drive to educate the youth.

“In my part of the world, when a young person behaves uncharacteristically, people ask, ‘Are there no elders in your family.’ It means that he or she has not been given an education and an awareness that is more than school education. Let us speak well of ourselves collectively and cohesively among ourselves,” the former President said.

While dismissing the agitation for Biafra as “futile”, “hopeless” and one that could only have a disastrous outcome, Mr. Obasanjo said he sees the present agitation as a “cry for attention” and a call for the improvement of the socio-economic condition in the South East.

Although he acknowledged that agitation as an approach to equitable socio-economic realities might not be a bad thing all together, he warned that it should not be taken too far.

“Biafra as a secession issue is dead and nobody should follow that way. It can again only lead to disaster,” he said. “But I see this resurgent Biafra agitation not for secession or creation of an independent entity from Nigeria but as a cry for attention, amelioration and improvement of socio-economic conditions and situation especially of the youth in Nigeria in general, but in the South-East in particular – a call by the youth of that region for transformation. I see it as a platform rather than a cause.”

The former president said the resurgent call for the creation of Biafra could be linked to the outcome of the 2015 election.

The South East voted en-mass for the losing candidate in the election, Goodluck Jonathan.

He said the situation in the South East during the election was similar to what happened in the South West in 1999 when voters in the region rejected his candidacy.

He said many voters in the South East may have refused to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari due to the wrong perception created during the campaign that he was a hater of Igbo people, a fundamentalist, and jihadist who was sponsoring the Boko Haram insurgency.

“Muhammadu Buhari was presented by his political detractors—and perceived by many honest Nigerians fooled by this dangerous rhetoric—as a rabid Moslem fundamentalist, who was secretly behind Boko Haram and who, on coming to power, would islamise the whole of Nigeria. I call this The Buhari bogey! The seemingly stern and starchy appearance of Buhari and his not being seen with any known close friend in the South-East outside his military colleagues aided the misperception.

“Voting along regional lines, or voting en-bloc against or for a candidate can be regarded as normal and should not by itself be a problem. But we must hold with apprehension the fear that led to such voting and its subsequent contribution to this resurgence of protests.”

He however called on Mr. Buhari to carry everybody in the country along irrespective of political inclination.

“The solution is first for leaders and elders in the South-East to caution realism and sanity among the youth and for the President to prove that Nigeria is his constituency, he should act like God who gives rain to the good and bad, the just and the unjust, in the world equally as the world belongs to God in totality,” he said.

Read Mr. Obasanjo’s full speech here https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/?p=170520


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