… Says Jonathan comment is factually incorrect
By SAM OTTI
Former minister of aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has punctured the statement by President Goodluck Jonathan that the military invasion of Odi resulted in the killings of unarmed civilians, instead of taming the activities of militant groups. Jonathan’s claims that the invasion was a failed operation that left many innocent people dead was rebuffed by the former minister, who insisted that the attack stopped the incessant killings of security agents and innocent people by the militants.
“The truth is that the killing of security agents and soldiers with impunity by the Niger Delta militants virtually stopped after the operation in Odi and remained at a bare minimum right up until the time that president Obasanjo left power eight years later in 2007.
I advise those that doubt this to go and check the records,” he said. Fani-Kayode, who served Obasanjo’s administration that ordered the military operation, described Jonathan’s statement as ‘factually incorrect’ and ‘regrettable.’
During a two-hour presidential media chat on Sunday, Jonathan had argued that the deployment of military troops to Odi was an exercise in futility, as it failed to solve the problem of militant insurgency in the region. Rather than stamp out the militants, it aided the growing of restiveness of militants in the area. Jonathan’s comments, however, seemed not to have gone down well with major players in Obasanjo’s administration.
In a statement made available to Daily Sun, Fani-Kayode said those that served the Obasanjo administration needed to clarify the air further to set the records straight for posterity. He said: “I had the privilege of being briefed about all the facts by president Olusegun Obasanjo himself and Col. Kayode Are, the former director general of the SSS, immediately after the presidential media chat and I believe that it is appropriate to share some of the facts with members of the Nigerian public, given the grave assertion and serious charge that President Jonathan has made.” Fani-Kayode said Obasanjo recourse to military operation became imperative, as a result of the failure of the former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamesighya to arrest the growing criminality in the region. He said similar military action was taken against Zaki Biam in Benue State after 19 soldiers were murdered in cold blood.
He argued that with the military precision and efficiency of the attacks, terrorists were killed and those that escaped the soldiers’ bullets fled their operational base. “President Goodluck Jonathan was therefore in error when he said that Odi did not solve the problem of killings in the Niger Delta Area by the Niger Delta militants. Not only did it stop the killings, but it is also an eloquent testimony of how to deal with terrorists, how to handle those that kill our security personnel with impunity and how to deter militants from killing members of our civilian population and thinking that they can get away with it,” he said.
The former minister said Obasanjo’s comments on Boko Haram were misconstrued. According to him, the former president never said that the Odi treatment should be applied to Boko Haram. Instead, he said Obasanjo canvassed for a solution that would heal the festering wound of insecurity in the country.
“There can be no doubt that he was right on this because, according to President Jonathan’s own Chief of Army Staff, no less than 3000 people have been killed by Boko Haram in the last two years alone. That figure represents approximately the same number of people that were killed by the IRA in Northern Ireland and the British mainland in the 100 years that the war between them and the British lasted and before peace was achieved between the two sides,” he explained.
Fani-Kayode said the harvest of deaths from the bloody attacks of the Boko Haram sect was unacceptable and disturbing. He urged the Federal Government to ‘cultivate the courage and the political will to stop the killings by Boko Haram and to find a permanent solution to the problem. When president Obasanjo was in power, he handled such matters decisively, with vigour and with the utmost urgency.’