Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government and that of his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, paid ransom to kidnappers and bandits, but denied it.
Obasanjo, who said he does not believe in payment of ransom to kidnappers and banditry, charged the government to develop means of dealing with kidnappers and bandits heavily instead of ransom payment.
The former President opined that leaders must ensure 2023 birth the emergence of a new federation in Nigeria, saying “otherwise the country may be sliding into ground dissolution.”
He spoke on Wednesday at his Penthouse residence within Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, Ogun State, while playing host to members of Tiv professionals Group (TPG) led by Prof Zacharys Anger Gundu.
“I do believe that whatever else we do we have to make the year 2023 a watershed for Nigeria. The year 2023 should give us the beginning of emergence of a new federation or feeling that the rot continues, and then, we are going to be sliding back to a ground dissolution. God forbid,” the former President said.
The former President equally insisted that it requires a “carrot and stick” approach to fight insecurity challenges to a standstill.
He said “Some people are still reaching out, and hoping that lives can still be saved. But a situation whereby anybody thinks paying ransom is the way out, that person is folly. He is a folly. This is because when you pay ransom, you encourage. But if you are not going to pay ransom, you must have the means to deal heavily with it. You must have the stick to deal with it.
“Government has always paid ransom. Not only this government, even during Jonathan (administration). They paid ransom, but they denied it.”
Presenting a paper earlier, leader of the group, Prof Zacharys Anger Gundu told Obasanjo that “blood is flowing in Benue State” following killings of the people allegedly by Fulanis and bandits.
He said people are being maimed in their sleep and on their ancestral land, calling on Obasanjo and other influential Nigerians to rise to the occasion to stem the tide of killings.
While alleging skewed security architecture, Gundu said “Nigeria seems to be losing the battle against insecurity.
He, however, demanded that full compensation for the victims of killings and destruction in Tiv land, proscription of armed Fulani groups, while “land grabbing must stop and all occupied lands must be vacated.”
Gundu also called for intensified advocacy against nomadic pastoralism and hosting “all Nationalities Summit” where issues would be discussed with a view to finding lasting solutions.
He said “There are different shades of instability in the country. Nigeria is truly bleeding to death. There’s even a population fault-line which could lead to the ‘Lebanon Trap’
“All Patriots must stand together; but if others have to be enslaved before the country can survive, we will prefer, as Tiv people, to take our destiny in our hands.”