A former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has noted that the extremisms of the Boko Haram in the North-East and the Niger Delta militants in the South-South were not addressed on time by the government before they grew into monsters.
Obasanjo stated this on Wednesday while presenting a paper at a two-day workshop on ‘Preventing Violent Extremism in Nigeria’, in Abuja, which was jointly organised by the Office of the National Security Adviser to the president, ONSA, and CLUB DE MADRID, an international NGO.
Noting that the Niger Delta agitation grew from socio-economic deprivations, he stressed that violent extremism does not just spring up overnight but is caused by the lack of adequate communication between the ruled and the rulers.
The former president, who noted that violent extremism was among the factors hindering Nigerians from reaping the dividends of democracy, urged government to intensify and sustain its on-going efforts in tackling the activities of the insurgents and other crimes in the country.
He said, “Violent extremism does not just spring overnight. For me, each of us has some form of extremism in us. What then makes extremism go violent? This happens when grievances are not immediately addressed.
“They go violent when they are left unaddressed or untreated. I want to illustrate with two or three examples. The militants in the Niger Delta did not start as militants. They started as people who felt they were not getting what they deserved within the economic and social millieu of Nigeria.
“I went as the Nigerian President and I was shocked about what I saw of the oil companies and the settlements of natives, where they had no water, no electricity, and no road. Their poverty was not addressed.
“When they failed to get attention and get their situation addressed, violence became part of their solution. The solution lies in developing that community.
“Also, the Boko Haram insurgents that are raging now, was started by Mohammed Yusuf who was normal, learned in Islamic religion and a good orator and preacher. When he was confronted with the poverty and lack of job opportunity for his followers, he decided to try and find a solution.
“What should we have as our narrative today? I have always maintained that it should be the stick and carrot approach. We did not have a stitch-in-time for the Boko Haram. It has festered and gone beyond Maiduguri and Nigeria and we have a monster. If we had tamed it much earlier with the right narrative, with the right action, the story might have been different.”
The National Security Adviser, NSA, to the President, Maj.-Gen. Muhammed Munguno (retd.), says his office (the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA) has done a lot in the security of the country, especially in the North-East.
The NSA, who was represented at the occasion by the Permanent Secretary, ONSA, Alhaji Aminu Nabegu, said that ONSA had contributed a lot to global efforts in tackling violent extremism.
He said that tackling violent extremism demanded a comprehensive approach if the desired results were to be achieved by any country and the world in general.
Munguno stressed that the essence of the two day workshop was to chart a new narrative to ways and manner of tackling violent extremism in Nigeria.
He held that various governments must consistently invest in their people as one of the panacea to ending violent extremism in the country.
“I have no doubt in my mind that in the nearest future, countries will come to Nigeria to understudy how we were able to combat violent extremism,” he said.
The NSA also called on Muslim leaders in the country to teach their followers the tenets of Islamic religion for better understanding to avoid misinterpretation, stressing that all stakeholders must explore ways of preventing sermons in mosques from radicalising youths.
According to him, “I hope that at the end of this workshop, it will go a long way in preventing violent extremism in the country”.