— Is this a subtle hint at amnesty?

— A contextual reading of Obasanjo’s theory.

— The vulnerability of Almajiris as easy targets for Boko Haram recruitment

Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has declared that the only measure that can be taken to cut the Boko Haram insurgency short is for governments to tackle the issue of hunger in the country.

While speaking on the issue of social development, Mr Obasanjo, who was presiding over a meeting of the Zero Hunger Forum in Maiduguri, Borno State, said that research has proven that most Boko Haram fighters picked up arms against the state, not necessarily for the advancement of any religious convictions but as a means of fighting hunger and the lack of a job.

Mr. Obasanjo is the Chairman of the Social Development Goal program on Zero Hunger in Nigeria and is currently leading a campaign against hunger across select states in the country. He explained at the meeting that of the 17point SDG agenda of the international community, zero hunger is number two.

“Zero hunger or ending hunger has ramification, on 14 other goals. Infant mortality, alleviation of poverty, maternal mortality and all of them have things to do with food security and nutrition

“So when the world food program asked me to lead a committee to work out and implement zero hunger in Nigeria, I was more than delighted to do so. And I want to say, that we are not trying to reinvent the wheel. We are not trying to bring new policy; we have enough policies that have been neglected by non-implementation, and if we can implement the policy that we have there will be no doubt that we will beat hunger by the year 2025”.

Obasanjo also disclosed that an interview carried out by the World Bank on the motivations of some captured members of the sect reveals that most of them joined the sect because of hunger.

“The world Bank said they interviewed 26 former Boko Haram members and 25 of them out of 26 said they were in Boko Haram because they have no job,” he said.

“Only one of them said he was there because of religious conviction. So zero hunger tends to contribute in bringing an end to insurgency – not only in the North-east, not only in Borno state, but also generally in Nigeria.

“So in the next two days we will interact, we will find out things, we will listen and share thoughts and by the time we finish we will know that we have all gained something, we have all learned and will be able to move forward in food production, and nutrition in this state and by extension in the whole of Nigeria.”

Is this a subtle hint at Amnesty?

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The statement on the motivation of the deadly sect by erstwhile President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has ignited a chain of reactions from people stating that Mr. Obasanjo is dropping subtle hints to the government with regards to the possibility of granting amnesty to the members of the sect by offering to give them food and jobs.

There is, however, no pointer in the ex-president’s statement that suggests this opinion and Mr. Obasanjo is yet to respond to the issue of him dropping subtle hints towards amnesty.

But in his  Book “My Watch” Obasanjo argued passionately against the Amnesty granted Niger Deltan Militants and suggests it will fuel Boko Haram. The solution to the problem of Niger Deltan militancy

“had taken the form of throwing money at the problem, particularly stuffing the pockets and bank of the militants’ leadership with obscene cash in reckless and unsustainable manner.”  He wrote.

A Contextual Reading of Obasanjo’s Theory

What Mr. Obasanjo did say is that the initiative was focused to initiate avenues that would create food production and jobs for people in select states in the country so as to reduce the rate of hunger in those states, and ultimately reduce the influx of people into the ranks of the sect.

Mr. Obasanjo clearly stated that the program does not and would not give money directly to feed Nigerians but that they aim to create an enabling environment for food production and job creation for the people.

“This is what we are doing; we are trying to help those who need help. In one of the states, someone asked that how much does the Zero Hunger Forum has to combat hunger and I said the truth is that we have no money; but we have what we can do to help by making sure certain policies are implemented. We have things we can do to make sure we put hunger at bay in Nigeria and particularly in the North-eastern part of Nigeria.”

The Vulnerability of Almajiris as easy targets for Boko Haram Recruitment

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An Almajiri, from the Arabic word for “immigrant”, is used for one who has left the place of his birth and traveled a long distance to attend Islamic School.

Usually, these children are kept in the care of a teacher (Mualim, usually pronounced “Mallam” meaning a learned person) who teaches them and maintains correspondence with their parents on their behalf.

However, in Nigeria, many Almajiris are abandoned by teachers who cannot afford to fund them due to extreme poverty and they cannot return home for the same reason, and with time, the need to feed and clothe forces them to resort to begging.

In 2014, a report was released by Los Angeles Times on the increasing threat of the Boko Haram sect and the potential danger that the Almajiris in Nigeria were faced with.

According to the report, the rise of the Boko Haram began when the textile industries in the regions, affected by the sect, started to die off due to uneven competitions and epileptic power supply. Many of the Almajiris were easy targets for the Boko Haram sect because of their little or no foundation in Islam and the fact that the sect uses religion as bait.

Although it is not common to hear of Almajiris joining Boko Haram, unlike is widely circulated, providing food and shelter for them will surely prevent such possibility.

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