Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian President, has said that the founders of Boko Haram insurgents told him that poverty and unemployment drove them into the insurgency in the North-Eastern region of Nigeria.

The ex-president made this known at the launch of a book titled, ‘Pillars of Statecraft: Nation-building in a changing world’ authored by his daughter, Dr Kofo Obasanjo-Blackshire in Lagos on Saturday.

He however warned that the country’s over 20 million out-of-school children were a breeding ground for more ‘Boko Haram members of the future’ if not urgently tackled.

Obasanjo, while explaining the reason why government policies had become more political than people-centred in recent times, said that part of the country’s major problems was looking for scapegoats for its problems.

He said, “During the early days of Boko Haram, when the man who started the movement was said to have been killed, I said I wanted to meet with the members of the group to talk to them and know what they wanted.

“I met with their representatives and found out that they needed nothing but a better life for themselves. Can we blame them for wanting a better life for themselves?

“They said they believed in Sharia Law. I told them that Sharia was not a problem in Nigeria. It is part of our constitution.”

According to the former president, some members of the insurgent group revealed to him that they went to school but couldn’t secure jobs.

He said, “Do we blame them if after four years, they have no jobs? Are they not entitled to a livelihood? This boils down to one of the P’s of nation-building – politics – which talks about governance and leadership.

“If that (leadership) is not properly taken care of, every other thing will go haywire,” he said.

Obasanjo also stated that Nigerians must learn to face their problems squarely rather than blaming others for it.

He said, “We must ask, ‘What do we do with our people? How do we raise and value them? How do we value them?’

“We have over 20 million out-of-school children. Google how many countries in the world have less than 20m. That doesn’t worry us? Are you thinking there will be no Boko Haram tomorrow?

“Those are the foundations of your Boko Haram tomorrow. That should be our concern. We should not say it is externally induced. Is poverty also externally induced? Poverty is the conscious, unconscious choice of our leaders. If we say no; it would be no. If we say yes; it would be yes.”

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