Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has met with people believed to be close to Boko Haram in an attempt to broker the release of more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls by Boko Haram, even as it emerged last night that one of the abducted girls had escaped from her captors.
Confirming this to THISDAY yesterday, the former president said the talks were only exploratory, adding: “As an African father, a Nigerian father or grandfather, any of the girls could have been my daughter or grand daughter… So I am only trying to reach out to see what can be done to secure their release.”
But despite the global effort to secure the release of the girls, the sect continued its onslaught on communities in the North-east where it killed 34 people, including armed forces personnel and policemen, on Monday.
The meeting took place last weekend at Obasanjo’s farm in Ogun State, reported the AFP yesterday.
Present at the meeting were relatives of some senior Boko Haram fighters as well as intermediaries and the former president, the source said.
“The meeting was focused on how to free the girls through negotiations,” said the source who requested anonymity.
Obasanjo had previously sought to negotiate with the insurgents in September 2011 after Boko Haram bombed the United Nations headquarters in Abuja.
He later flew to the Islamists’ base in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, to meet relatives of former Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in police custody in 2009.
The 2011 talks did not help stem the violence and some at the time doubted if Obasanjo was dealing with people who were legitimately capable of negotiating a ceasefire.
Spokesmen to the former president could not be reached to comment on the latest talks. But the source told AFP that Obasanjo had voiced concern about Nigeria’s acceptance of foreign military personnel to help rescue the girls.
“He said he is worried that Nigeria’s prestige in Africa as a major continental power had been diminished” by President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to bring in Western military help, including from the United States.
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