Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has stated that the Boko Haram sect has legitimate grievances which must be addressed if the country is serious about dealing the insurgency ravaging the North east.

The former president who criticized the response of the federal government to the insurgency and highlighted low level of education in the northern part of the country as a contributory factor to the situation, asserted during a global education conference in Dubai, United Araba Emirates, UAE, that “they have legitimate grievances”.

“We don’t need anyone to tell us that that is a problem. A problem of disparity, a problem of marginalisation,” he stated.

The Nigerian leader said further that the initial response of the government was inadequate, reasoning that when “Boko Haram started showing their fangs about four years ago, the reaction should have been firm and unmistakable.”

The former president also recommended a carrot-and-stick approach, stating that the heat that the sect is facing from the military at the moment could force it to dialogue with the government.

“If Boko Haram is ready to talk, we should talk. But they will need to be pounded a little bit by the military and then, they would be ready to talk.”

The former president who has been critical of the present administration volunteered in September 2011 to dialogue and negotiate with the sect, meeting in Maiduguri, Borno State capital, with the family of Mohammed Yusuf, the leader of the Boko Haram sect who was killed in detention.



    Obasanjo, who described the meeting as a personal initiative, had urged the family to forgive and forget the past.

    “This is a personal initiative. I urge you to forgive and forget the past. I plead with you, give me the chance to mediate between the family and government.”


    Yusuf’s brother-in-law, Babakura Fuggu, whose father was also executed in 2009 had received the former president, stating that “since 2009, this is the first time any high profile figure would be commiserating with the family.

    “We are happy with this visit. About 30 to 40 per cent of our members are scattered in neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroun.”


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