- Says ‘I have access to insurgents’
By Lawrence Olaoye with agency reports
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday blamed the Federal Government for stalling his efforts at initiating negotiations with the Boko Haram insurgents as he has not been given the clearance to negotiate with the sect to release the over 200 girls abducted at the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state.
He also claimed that he had access to the insurgents in an interview on the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, monitored in Kaduna just as he expressed the fears that the abducted girls might never return again.
He said the terror group might release some of the girls who might be pregnant and finding it difficult to cater for the babies in the forest.
According to him, the girls may have been divided into groups and not likely to be at the same location.
Obasanjo said, “I believe that some of them will never return. We will still be hearing about them many years from now. Some will give birth, but if they cannot take care of them in the forest, they may be released.”
But reacting, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency and Coordinator of the National Information Centre, Dr, Mike Omeri, said he was unaware go gone former President’s claims.
He wondered why Obasanjo’s would be waiting for any formal clearance from President Goodluck Jonathan when in actual sense he had unfettered access to him.
Omeri, expressed surprise at the development “the government has not stopped any individual who have access to the sect not to come forward and intervene in this matter.
“In our last briefing we reiterated that there are three options opened to the government to find these abducted girls and the first is that any individual with access to the sect should help the government in securing the release of the girls. Second is for the Army, in collaboration with our international allies, to secure their release and for the insurgents to voluntarily release the girls.
“If he actually said so, that means he has superior equipments to those of the government and its allies.
“Besides, as a respectable statesman and a former President, I think he has unfettered access to the President to discuss this. I don’t think the pages of newspapers is the appropriate avenue to make the claims that he has access to the insurgents. I sincerely don’t understand this,” he said.
Efforts to reach both the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Dr. Reuben Abati and Jonathan’s Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, for their reaction yielded no results as they refused to respond to calls and text messages put across to them.
It would be recalled that the former President had, 18 days after the abduction of the Chibok girls by the insurgents, pointed out that they would have been recovered if Jonathan had believed that they were actually kidnapped.
He had said in an interview with a foreign media that “the President did not believe that those girls were abducted for 18 days. Now if the president got information within 12 hours of the act and reacted immediately, I believe those girls would have been rescued within 28 hours, maximum 48 hours.
“Don’t forget they were almost 300 girls. The logistics for moving them around is something and if action had been taken immediately, but unfortunately, the president had doubts – is this true or is a ploy by those who don’t want me to be president again?”
Obasanjo also said that had his initial recommendations on how to resolve the Boko Haram menace been implemented, the threat now posed by the sect would have been nipped in the bud.
Recalling his efforts to help tackle the Boko Haram problem at its brewing stage, Obasanjo said, “Three years ago, I went to Maiduguri. Actually that was when Boko Haram attacked the UN building in Abuja and they accepted the responsibility. Then I went to Abuja to find out from security leaders, the Inspector General of Police, the National Security Adviser, who are these (people)? What are their objectives, their grievances and if we can reach out to them?
“The feeling I got was: ‘Oh! They are just a bunch of riff-raffs, forget about them.’ I then went to the President and said, ‘look, should I take it upon myself to go on fact-finding visit, I want to find out.” And the President was gracious and said I trust your judgement, you can do that. Of course, I reported to the two important principals – the state governor and the President at that time.
“I believe that if action had been taken at that time as I recommended, maybe we would not have got to this stage,” he lamented.