Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has cautioned the Federal government to stop paying ransom to kidnappers and banditry, saying that payment of ransom would encourage the criminals that engage in the dastardly act.
Obasanjo, who spoke while receiving members of Tiv Professionals Group (TPG) led by Prof Zacharys Anger Gundu at his residence at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
The former president said he does not believe in payment of ransom to kidnappers and banditry, saying that such encouraged criminals to indulge in the dastardly act.
He specifically noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and that of his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan had paid ransom to kidnappers and bandits, but denied it.
He noted that the government must develop means to deal with kidnappers and bandits heavily in place of ransom payment.
The former President equally insisted that it required 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’s administration. They paid ransom, but they denied it.”
While relaying the position of a military friend, Obasanjo expressed fears that those beating drums of division in Nigeria don’t think about the interest of the minority ethnic groups.
“And he would say to me if the Yorubas can stand as a country, if the Igbos can stand as a country, if the Hausas/Fulanis can stand as a country, if you major tribes decide to break up from the country, where do you want the minority ethnic groups to stand. That, many Nigerians don’t know about, unfortunately.
“Where do we want those minor groups to stand? Wherever they stand, now they are by virtue of Nigeria’s present situation a little bit protected. But if Nigeria breaks up and they are in a smaller country, they will be oppressed. They will always be exterminated. Are we thinking of that?”
“I believe that if we will get it right in Nigeria, any leader must look at Nigeria with the prism of the diversity of Nigeria. For as long as you look at Nigeria with the prism of your ethnic group, then you aren’t going anywhere, either your ethnic group or religious group”.
“But is there hope? There is hope.”
Speaking on the 2023 elections, Obasanjo said leaders must ensure that the year 2023 birth emergence of a new federation in Nigeria otherwise the country may be “sliding into ground dissolution.”
Obasanjo who bemoaned insecurity challenges, insisted that 2023 must mark a watershed for Nigeria.
He said, “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.
Earlier in his address, the 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 Tivland, 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.”