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Ex-President Obasanjo Holds Talks With Boko Haram To Free Chibok Schoolgirls

F ormer President Olusegun
Obasanjo has met with people
close to the dreaded Islamist
sect, Boko Haram, in an attempt
to broker the release of more
than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls,
a source close to the talks told
The meeting took place last
weekend at Obasanjo’s farm in
Ogun State and included
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
negotiation,” said the source who
requested anonymity, referring to
the girls seized on April 14 from
the remote northeastern town of
Chibok, Borno State.
Reports of the talks emerged as
Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff,
Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh,
said the girls had been located
while casting doubt on the
prospect of rescuing them by
Obasanjo, who left office in
2007, has previously sought to
negotiate with the insurgents,
including in September 2011
after Boko Haram bombed the
United Nations headquarters in
Abuja. Then, he flew to the
Islamists’ base in Maiduguri, the
Borno State capital, to meet
relatives of former Boko Haram
leader Mohammed Yusuf, who
was killed in police custody in
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 for the former head
of state, who remains an
influential figure in Nigerian
politics, could not be reached to
comment on the latest reported
Boko Haram talks.
But the source told AFP that
Obasanjo had voiced concern
about Nigeria’s acceptance of
foreign military personnel to
help rescue the girls .
Obasanjo is said to be 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.
Mustapha Zanna, the lawyer who
helped organise Obasanjo’s 2011
talks with Boko Haram, said he
was at the former president’s
home on Saturday.
But he declined to discuss
whether the Chibok abductions
were on the agenda. “I was
there,” he told AFP, adding that
Obasanjo was interested in
helping orphans and vulnerable
children in Nigeria’s embattled
northeast and that possible
charitable work was on the
Zanna had represented Yusuf’s
family in a wrongful death
lawsuit filed against the
government following his death
in police custody.
It was not clear if Obasanjo’s
weekend meeting had been
sanctioned by the government.
Obasanjo, who backed Jonathan’s
2011 presidential campaign,
fiercely criticised him and his
record as president in a letter
released to the public last
December and the two are widely
thought to have fallen out.
According to the source,
Obasanjo supported a prisoner-
for-hostage swap that would see
some of the girls released in
exchange for a group of Boko
Haram fighters held in Nigerian
As a private citizen whose ties to
the presidency have been
damaged, Obasanjo likely does
not have the authority to
negotiate any deal on the
government’s behalf.
The government, which has
officially ruled out a prisoner
swap, sent intermediaries to
meet Boko Haram in the
northeast to negotiate for the
girls’ release.
The source identified one of the
envoys as Ahmad Salkida, a
journalist with ties to Boko
Haram who had been close to
Yusuf before his death.
“There was contact but it was
bungled by the government,”
according to the source, saying
Jonathan backed away from the
deal after returning from a
security conference in Paris
earlier this month.
The conference saw Nigeria and
its neighbours vow greater co-
operation to tackle Boko Haram
because of the potential threat
to regional stability.
The chief of defence staff on
Monday said that despite having
located the girls, the risks of
storming the area with troops in
a rescue mission were too great
and could prove fatal for the

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Posted By bobricky On 06:12 Wed, 28 May 2014

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