According to the Nigerian media, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, at a conference in Dubai, said, “they (Boko Haram) have legitimate grievances. We don’t need anyone to tell us that that is a problem: a problem of disparity, a problem of marginalization.”
He then argued for a carrot-and-stick approach to Boko Haram that would include continued military pressure, but an openness to talk when Boko Haram is ready. He said, “… the stick aspect should have been firm… I hope with that, we will now go the carrot. The carrot is those things rightly or wrongly perceived as injustice or grievances that can now be dealt with…”
Obasanjo’s forthright acknowledgement of the grievances of Boko Haram and the marginalization of the North is rare among senior political figures not from northern Nigeria. (Obasanjo, a Christian and of the Yoruba tribe, is from the southwest.)
Obasanjo has been bitterly critical of the Jonathan government, and he dramatically tore up his membership card in the Peoples Democratic Party, of which he had been one of the founders. His actions point toward support of Muhammadu Buhari, though Obasanjo has said he will not join the opposition.
Obasanjo was military chief of state from 1976 to 1979 and civilian president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. His presidency was a high point of Nigeria’s international influence. He remains politically active.