Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday warned that the 15 million out-of-school children are potential members of terrorists group in the future, Leadership reports.
Obasanjo also traced the current security crisis in the country to the acquisition of arms by non-state actors in the course of The Nigerian Civil War which started on July 6, 1967 and ended on 15 January 15, 1970.
Speaking during the annual lecture of the Murtala Mohammed Foundation in Abuja, Obasanjo, who is the chairman, Board of Trustees of the foundation, said poverty, illiteracy, lack of job opportunities are behind insecurity in the country.
Mohammed was killed on February 13, 1976, barely six months after assuming office as president of Nigeria. However his family and friends established the foundation in 2001 to immortalise him.
Obasanjo, who was second in command during Mohammed’s regime, said he and the late head of state, who were under 40 years in 1976, were driven by passion for Nigeria.
Speaking on the security situation in the country, Obasanjo said “All these crises started after the civil war because of the access of weapons by the non-state actors.”
The former president stated while responding to a paper presented by the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), John Kayode Fayemi, titled, “Beyond Boko Haram: Addressing Insurgency, Banditry and kidnapping across Nigeria.”
Obasanjo, who recalled a meeting he had with the leaders of Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Borno State, said while the sect leaders admitted being interested in Sharia, they lamented that their followers don’t have jobs and that the government was chasing and gunning them down.
“In 2011, Boko Haram had no international connection. It was mainly about Nigerians who have resources abroad,” Obasanjo said of those who were supporting Boko Haram.
“Today, Boko Haram are now working with outsiders and making the security situation worse,” Obasanjo said.
According to Obasanjo, “The 15 million children who should be in school are not in school. The 15 million out of school children are the potential Boko Haram members 15 years from now.
“Kidnaping and abduction has become a separate form of insecurity. But we still have to deal with them,” Obasanjo said, adding, “It is not too late to start doing things that will make these children reject Boko Haram before the year 2030,” the former president said.
Obasanjo who linked the causes of insecurity to poverty, unemployment, social disparity, lack of education, said Nigeria must begin to re-enroll out-of-school children.
“Education is very important,” Obasanjo said, adding that lack of education is the reason behind most of the security challenges.
“If we don’t do anything with the children that are out of school, we are not doing anything about the Boko Haram of tomorrow. We must stop and reinvent our cultural and traditional way of life,” he said, adding that Nigeria is only treating symptoms rather than the disease.
In his keynote address, NGF chairman and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, said insecurity has become a national pandemic.
Noting that insecurity has been on the increase, Fayemi added that, limiting it to the 2009 Boko Haram crisis won’t help in addressing the challenge.
He said insecurity has assumed a national pandemic and has become a topmost concern of every Nigerian.
The governor listed generational poverty, illiteracy, poor life expectancy among the causes of insecurity just as he added that the lake Chad basin, which was the hub of insecurity, has now spread to all parts of the country.
“Radical extremist violence has spread to killings and kidnaping. cultism and other vices have increased insecurity in the country,” Fayemi said.
Looking beyond the Boko Haram crisis, Fayemi said the vision of oneness must be reinvigorated.
“We must promote affordable housing schemes, create jobs, provide skills to the teaming youths and drive them into meaningful bargaining of being Nigerians. What is required is a comprehensive national response,” Fayemi said.
He continued, “We must retool the public service. We must create a policy that will help in diversification of the economy. We must look beyond the Boko Haram crisis. We must go for national rebirth and look at creating jobs and employment for the youths.”