Boko Haram war will not end in December – Obasanjo
In this interview with SEGUN OLUWAGBILE and TUNDE ODESOLA, former President Olusegun Obasanjo bares his mind on pro-Biafra agitations, Boko Haram war deadline, among other issues
You have some less privileged children you sponsor. Why don’t you make your philanthropic gestures public?
My bible says, what your right hand does, your left hand must not know. Why should I do good and shout it? Even in Yoruba tradition when you do that, there is no blessing of God in it for you anymore.
What motivates you to do this? I remember you adopted one kid, Nzikak Udom, among several others.
There are millions of people suffering, particularly in the area of education; if you can lift one up, you lift a lot of people up. Nzikak is special. Nzikak Udom is studying Economics in the university. He will soon become a pillar in his family and the society eventually. He too will lift people when he comes of age. It is only a foolish man that says, ‘If not for me, my friend wouldn’t have eaten yesterday’. I have a lot of adopted kids.
Is this attitude to life a result of your upbringing?
Nobody is an island unto himself. What I am is partly my DNA, partly my culture, partly my upbringing, partly my school, partly my church, partly my peers, partly my friends, partly the books I read, partly the profession I chose.
Who are your friends?
I have a very few of them. My friends in Nigeria include the likes of Akin Mabogunje, Joe Irukwu, Ahmed Joda, Christopher Kolade, Alex Okoro, Adamu Ciroma, Obafemi Olopade, Onaolapo Soleye.
As one of the leading soldiers that participated in bringing an end to the Biafra war, how do you feel about the fresh agitation for Biafra?
Fake agitation; you people make a mountain out of a molehill. These are boys who want to take people unawares and get money out of them in the name of Biafra. These are people you should ignore, I don’t talk about Biafra. (Philip) Effiong came and said Biafra ceased to exist and since that day, Biafra has ceased to exist.
Were there some promises the Nigerian state made to the Igbo nation which were not fulfilled?
Not as far as Biafra is concerned. We absorbed those we should absorb both into the civil service and into the military. Even those we didn’t absorb, who we initially regarded as being retired without benefit, later on we even gave them their benefits. Abandoned houses were returned. Within 10 years of the end of the civil war, an Igbo man became the vice-president of our country. It took the Americans 100 years before they got to that point. So, what are you talking about? They have held different ministerial positions existing in this country. We have Igbo as the Governor of Central Bank, Igbo has headed many parastatals in this country. That’s why these miscreants should be ignored. They want to get money and they go round and say, ‘We are still being victimised. We are still being treated badly in Nigeria,’ so that they can take money from people.
Don’t you think that Igbo leaders are not speaking against this phenomenon?
I won’t blame the Igbo leaders. I will ignore them (the agitators). The Igbo leaders that I’ve talked about, I mean the ones I’ve mentioned; Joe Irukwu won’t go out and do that type of thing, and many of them. The people who are doing this are the same people you will find in 419, they are the same people you will find in drugs. This (pro-Biafra agitation) is another source of money for them as far as they are concerned.
What’s your view about the Boko Haram war deadline?
I’ve talked about that. You have to have an objective, otherwise, if you say go, and you don’t an objective… An objective is not cast in concrete. Look, I want you to finish a job in two days though you know it could take probably four or five days, but you must give an objective. I believe that what the President will get and which he knows he can get, is that he can get the upper hand; the military will get the upper hand over Boko Haram and of course, I think we are working towards that. But we will not get the end of Boko Haram in three months or in six months. And even when you get the upper hand militarily, you have to do what you have to do – the socio-economic aspect.
While you were away from the country, your friend, Prof. Wole Soyinka, inaugurated a book in which he called you a child of circumstance…
(Talking in Yoruba: Se o so be?) Meaning: Did he say so?
He even said he won’t eat any food you give him without you eating from the food first…
(Continues in Yoruba: Mi o mo o.) Enhehn? I don’t know.
Obasanjo rises and walks out of his study
Why are the two of you always quarrelling?
‘Kini wahala yin?’ meaning: What is your problem?