Failure to address the Boko Haram menace in the North-East and militancy in the Niger Delta region in their infancies made them become monsters says former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo said this at a workshop in Abuja on the prevention of violent extremism.
He noted that the Niger Delta agitation grew from socio-economic deprivations.
According to him, violent extremism was one of the hindrances to reaping the dividends of democracy.
He said, “Violent extremism does not just spring overnight. For me, each of us has some form of extremism in us. What then makes extremism go violent? This happens when grievances are not immediately addressed. They go violent when they are left unaddressed or untreated. I want to illustrate with two or three examples. The militants in the Niger Delta did not start as militants. They started as people who felt they were not getting what they deserved within the economic and social millieu of Nigeria.
“I went as the Nigerian President and I was shocked about what I saw of the oil companies and the settlements of natives, where they had no water, no electricity, and no road. Their poverty was not addressed.
“When they failed to get attention and get their situation addressed, violence became part of their solution. The solution lies in developing that community.
“Also, the Boko Haram insurgents that are raging now, was started by Mohammed Yusuf who was normal, learned in Islamic religion and a good orator and preacher. When he was confronted with the poverty and lack of job opportunity for his followers, he decided to try and find a solution.
“What should we have as our narrative today? I have always maintained that it should be the stick and carrot approach. We did not have a stitch-in-time for the Boko Haram. It has festered and gone beyond Maiduguri and Nigeria and we have a monster. If we had tamed it much earlier with the right narrative, with the right action, the story might have been different.”