- Monday, 30 July 2012
- By Admin
Two former Nigerian leaders -- President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-military ruler Ibrahim Babangida -- on Sunday called for talks to end the deadly insurgency by Islamist group Boko Haram. In an unusual joint statement, the two former leaders reportedly said the violence in Nigeria has become unbearable and could put the
nation's unity at risk.
They called for community involvement, in addition to security measures, to resolve the crisis.
Kabiru Mato, chair of the political science department at the University of Abuja in Nigeria, said the joint statement is a confirmation of the two former leaders’ commitment to the unity of Nigeria.
“President Obasanjo and President Babangida have always made their stance on Nigeria’s unity very clear. Each of them at different times have made abundantly clear that, if necessary to keep Nigeria together, they are prepared to wear their uniforms and go back into the trenches,” he said.
The two former leaders reportedly called on all Nigerians, including religious leaders and grassroots organizations, to get involved in the efforts to find a solution to the country’s violence.
They specifically said religious leaders had a greater burden to use the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to instill in Nigerians the “spirit of respect, humility and forgiveness”.
Mato said the call for community involvement is overdue.
“I think the call by the two leaders, in my view, simply amplifies the growing national aspiration on the need to take more power from the center to local levels so that a lot of such issues that normally erupt from community are nib in the bud before they escalate,” Mato said.
The Boko insurgency has originated from Nigeria’s mostly Muslim north, targeting mostly Christians.
But, Mato said the fact that Mr. Obasanjo is a Christian from the southwest and Babangida is Muslim from central Nigeria does not matter.
He said the violence has persisted mainly because of the lack of political will on the part of the federal government to find a solution to the insurgency.
“I think where they are coming from is not really important. The problem in Nigeria has always been that of the weakness of the part of the leadership to and the failure to convene the citizenry that the leadership is responsible enough to hand and tackle the problems of the Nigerian people,” Mato said.
In their statement, the two former leaders reportedly said attempts should be made to “bring all armed belligerents to table for meaningful dialogue with the authorities for our future and that of our children and grandchildren”.
Mato said it is possible to bring all armed belligerents together for dialogue as was done by the late President Umaru Yar’Ardua with Niger Delta militants.
“We have seen the late President Yar’Ardua bring the militants in the Niger Delta area that had succeeded in disrupting oil supply and production in Nigeria to a roundtable and amnesty was granted to them, and Nigeria go back to its oil business. So, it’s all left to government to deploy the necessary will power to negotiate,” Mato said.
Both leaders declared that as for them, and some millions of other Nigerians, the continued unity of Nigeria was not only priceless but non-negotiable.
Their statement said in part: “While we are very much aware of the efforts various governments in the country are making to confront the escalating security challenges across the country, we believe that it is time that these efforts are scaled up to be more involving and inclusive.
“In this regard, whatever robust security measures are put in place to contain the situation, as is normal in such circumstances; they must be complemented with an equally intensive process of community involvement.
“We therefore urge all governments in the country, starting with all the 774 local councils to comprehensively engage their communities at the various levels, including elders, youth organisations, trade union and associations, women bodies, clerics and other community stakeholders.
“We also call on the Federal and state governments not only to encourage these grass roots engagements for peace and beneficial coexistence but should work out the framework to sustain the engagement.”
They said that in all these efforts, it was important to emphasise that Nigeria’s diversity should be a course for celebration and not a cause for lamentations.
Both leaders, who recently abused each other on the pages of newspapers, calling each other fools, and bigger fool however appealed to Nigerians to use the holy month of Ramadan to turn the tide against insecurity, violence and hatred.
They also appealed to religious leaders, in particular, to have an even greater challenge to use the immense virtues of this holy period to inculcate among the millions of citizens, the spirit of mutual respect, humility and forgiveness.
They furthermore revealed that ample opportunities were at hand to bring all armed belligerents to table for meaningful dialogue with the authorities for Nigerians’ future.
Obasanjo and Babangida added that no meaningful development could ever occur in an atmosphere of violence and hatred.
History, they said, had shown that any society built on the structures of violence and intolerance would not prosper.
While they said that God has blessed Nigeria with abundant resources and talents, they however said there must be peace and harmony to harness them.
They also said they were ready to do whatever was possible to promote the quest for peace and harmony in the country.