Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo has said he does not believe in the payment of ransom to bandits or kidnappers as a solution to the problems they constitute.
Obasanjo lamented that President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, had paid ransom to kidnappers and bandits.
The elder statesman spoke yesterday at his Penthouse residence in the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, Ogun State, when he received members of Tiv Professionals Group (TPG) led by Prof Zacharys Anger Gundu.
He noted that the payment of ransom encouraged criminals, adding that the Federal Government must devise means to deal with kidnappers and bandits sternly.
The former president called for a stick-and-carrot approach to fight insecurity.
He said: “Some people are still reaching out, and hoping that lives can still be saved. But a situation whereby anybody thinks paying the ransom is the way out, that person is a folly. He is a folly. This is because when you pay a ransom, you encourage it. But if you are not going to pay a ransom, you must have the means to deal heavily with it. You must have the stick to deal with it.
“Government has always paid a ransom. Not only this government, even during Jonathan (administration). They paid ransom, but they denied it.”
He said leaders must ensure that 2023 births a new federation in Nigeria to stop the country from sliding into dissolution.
Obasanjo added that 2023 must mark a watershed for Nigerians and Nigeria. He expressed the fears that the people beating drums of division in Nigeria do not put the interest of the minority ethnic groups into consideration.
“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 the emergence of a new federation or feeling that the rot continues, and then, we are going to be sliding back to dissolution. God forbid.
“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 it, unfortunately.
“Where do we want those minority 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. 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,” he said.
Prof Gundu told Obasanjo that “blood is flowing in Benue State” following killings of the people allegedly by bandits.
He said people were being maimed in their sleep and on their ancestral land, calling on Obasanjo and other influential Nigerians to rise to stem the tide of blood spilling.
Gundu alleged that the security architecture was skewed to favour one part against others, saying: “Nigeria seems to be losing the battle against insecurity.”
He demanded that full compensation for the victims of killings and destruction in Tiv land, proscription of armed groups, while “land grabbing must stop and all occupied lands must be vacated”.
Gundu also called for intensified advocacy against nomadic pastoralism and, hosting of an “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 that 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.”