Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Thursday that he could reach out to the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents, but regretted that the Federal Government had yet to give him the green light to act.
Obasanjo, in an interview on the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation monitored in Kaduna, however, did not say if he had made formal request to the government to intervene.
“I have ways of reaching them(Boko Haram) but I have not been given the go ahead,” he added.
The former President however expressed fear that some of the schoolgirls may never return home but added that the insurgents might free those found to be pregnant or have given birth.
“I believe that some of them will never return. We will still be hearing about them many years from now, some will give birth to children of the Boko Haram members, but if they cannot take care of them in the forest, they may release them.”
He also expressed worry that the girls might have been separated and kept in different locations.
Obasanjo had previously tried to negotiate with the insurgents, especially in September 2011 after members of the sect bombed the United Nations headquarters in Abuja.
He flew to Maiduguri, Borno State where he met with relatives of the Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, who the police had illegally killed in their custody in 2009.
Obasanjo spoke on the heels of a Ministerial Meeting on Security in Northern Nigeria holding in London.
The Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Mr. William Hague, is leading his colleagues from other nations to consider what more could be done to improve regional coordination, economic and social development to counter the threat of Boko Haram.
Hague had announced that: “Since the appalling abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok, the international community has worked closely to support Nigeria in the fight against terrorism.”
But as the efforts to free the girls continued on Thursday, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar III, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to re-consider his position on the use of maximum force to curb insurgency in the country.
Abubakar, at the 7th Annual National Conference of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria in Abuja, said maximum force would only aggravate the already volatile situation in the North-East.
He therefore asked the President to talk with Boko Haram leaders and implement the reports of the Presidential Amnesty Committee on Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North.
To buttress his belief that dialogue was a sure way of ending insurgency in the country, the Sultan said the United States and the Taliban, through dialogue, recently exchanged prisoners .
The monarch said, “It amuses me when people say you don’t dialogue with criminals. You cannot fight criminals because you don’t even know where they are.
“About two weeks ago, the US government exchanged one prisoner who was even a deserter for very senior five al-Qaeda leaders who had been in Guantanamo prison for years.
“They kept dialoguing with them for five years. For them to exchange him, they must have been talking. There is need for dialogue. You cannot win any insurgency by way of force. There is nowhere in the world that that works.”
He also asked the Federal Government to carry out relevant checks on the people suspected to be Boko Haram members locked up in prisons because some of them could be innocent.
He said, “When somebody tells you that he is not a Boko Haram, please take it that he is not because if he is Boko Haram he will never denounce it.
“So if you have one out of 100 of them who say he is not Boko Haram please release him. The other 99 will say ‘yes we are, what can you do to us? It is important for us as leaders, especially as Muslims to look at these issues in a broader perspective. Let us not just be opinionated because we must reach out to everybody.”
The Sultan urged the Federal Government and Nigerians to take the issue of insurgence with utmost care to avoid another civil war in the country.
He said, “Muslim lawyers should do whatever it takes to ensure no civil war ever takes place in Nigeria again because we know its adverse effects .”
“As leaders at all levels, as Muslim leaders, we must keep on telling the government what they are doing rightly or wrongly because we need a society that will meet the challenges of the present day insecurity in our country.”
Abubakar told participants of the conference with the theme, “Rule of Law and Social Justice: A Panacea for Unity and National Development,” that no group or individual could Islamise Nigeria.”
He advised adherents of other religions in the country not to be afraid of the inclusion of Sharia in the country’s constitution.
The monarch also maintained that the Muslims were not out to force anyone to embrace Islam.