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Obasanjo Criticises Jonathan’s Handling Of War Against Insurgents
By Dayo Aiyetan
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed disappointment about the federal government’s prosecution of the Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the north-eastern part of the country.
Speaking exclusively to our reporter shortly before the launch of his autobiography, My Watch, in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, on Tuesday, Obasanjo said President Goodluck Jonathan has left too many things undone in the fight against the insurgents.
Recalling that he took a great risk to intervene and meet with some Boko Haram leaders in order to understand the group’s grievances against the Nigerian state, Obasanjo said at the end of his intervention, he submitted a report to the presidency, but that nothing was done about his recommendations.
“I took a very great risk, very great risk three and a half years ago to find out what is all this about. And I reported in detail to those to whom I should report. They didn’t do what they should have done,” Obasanjo stated.
In an earlier interview with Jeff Koinange (at which the icirnigeria.org reporter listened in) at the Nairobi Serena Hotel, venue of the book launch, Obasanjo had also criticised the administration’s handling of the kidnap of the Chibok girls.
The former president said he would have gotten the girls back within 10 hours, as he would have had quickly sought and obtained enough intelligence about the abduction.
“I would have gotten enough intelligence reports on the matter. Within 10 hours, I would have been on top of them (the insurgents),” he said.
Inferring that the whole matter was badly handled, Obasanjo noted that the insurgents had only gone to Chibok in Borno State looking for food and that the kidnap of the girls was an afterthought for which they had not prepared.
“Boko Haram came to Chibok for food not the girls. From 11.30 pm or thereabout, when they came, until 5.00 am, they did not know what to do with the girls. They did not even bring adequate vehicles” he claimed, adding that intelligence obtained from the community ought to have led to the rescue of the girls within hours.
The former President declined commenting on the postponement of the general elections in Nigeria by six weeks, saying that he had been out of the country and would like to return and be properly briefed about the events that led to the decision before making his views known.
He, however, denied deliberately staying away from last Thursday’s Council of State meeting where a decision on the postponement of the elections was to be taken.
Obasanjo stated that he had been invited to the annual Munich Security Conference to deliver a paper on the security situation on the African continent and that he was attending the event when the Council of State meeting was held. He said that he was still in Munich when he heard of the postponement of the election.
“For now, I don’t want to talk about an issue that I do not know the detail. For instance, the statement made by Jega (Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC) i need to know that. What were the statements made by the key political parties, I need to know that. Also, how did the service chiefs and security chiefs come to their own position. Is that their job and is that how they should do it? What is the role of the commander in chief? All those I need to know,” he stated
Speaking further about the war against insurgency, Obasanjo said the Nigerian military is currently bedevilled by many problems that require urgent fixing.
He observed that morale appears to be low among soldiers and wondered if troops are being properly trained and equipped for the task of fighting the insurgents. He also observed that corruption in the military hierarchy might be a problem, recalling a recent television interview with a soldier who claimed that he had to buy some of his own gear.
“There is a lot wrong with the military today. First if our soldiers are to fight well, they must be in high morale. They must be well trained. And if they are battling with insurgents or terrorists, then they will require special training. But is that the case?” he queried.
Speaking further, he said: “So let us deal with the problems … recruitment, training and equipment. Are our soldiers adequately equipped to fight insurgents? You saw the soldier on TV who said that they have to buy their own uniform. The boys know what is going on in terms of corruption. You can imagine what that does to their morale.”
The former President, however, expressed optimism that Nigeria will eventually overcome the Boko Haram insurgency, reasoning that “if Nigeria could deal with the Civil War, which ravaged the country from 1967 to 1970, then we will deal with this insurgency too.”
Doing an assessment of the Goodluck Jonathan – led administration, Obasanjo, who said he is still a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, expressed disappointment that the administration has failed to continue with some of his own programmes, accusing it of even reversing some of them.
“My successor campaigned on the platform of continuity, but has acted on the basis of discontinuity,” he observed, adding that the late President Umaru Yar A’dua and Jonathan after him did not build on some of the gains made by his administration in areas such as power and the fight against corruption.
On his criticisms of the Jonathan administration, which he also helped to midwife, Obasanjo said that there is nothing personal about his comments.
“I want you to make Nigeria good, great even. You can do it. But you are not doing it enough. I have not been critical. I have just been offering critical advice. There are just things that he should have done that he has not done,” he stated.
The former President also attempted to defend himself against accusations that he attempted to perpetuate himself in office like other sit – tight African leaders through an unconstitutional third term agenda.
Obasanjo stated that he neither wanted a third term nor sponsored a campaign for it, but added smugly that if he wanted one, he would have gotten it. Obasanjo stated this twice – in his interview with Koinange, the former CNN Africa correspondent, who now hosts a one hour talk show on KTV, and in his remarks during the public presentation of his book the same day.
Obasanjo told the audience at the book presentation, which included notable Kenyan politicians, including key opposition figure Raila Odinga, that there was no time that he desired to rule Nigeria beyond two terms and that he had promised his friends in the international community that he would not serve beyond the eight years allowed by the Nigerian constitution.
But not many Nigerians, particularly politicians involved in the resistance of what is now known as Obasanjo’s third term bid, would agree with the ex-President’s narrative.
Many close associates in the ruling PDP, including Anthony Anenih, former chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees; Ahmadu Ali, former National Chairman; and Ibrahim Mantu, former Deputy Senate President, were believed to have sponsored and funded a well – oiled campaign to help Obasanjo get a third term.
In fact, a process to amend the constitution to allow him serve more than the prescribed two terms began, but was defeated at the National Assembly.