Former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, weekend had a meeting with people close to the terrorist group Boko Haram in a push to broker the release of over 200 secondary schoolgirls seized by the Boko Haram from their hostel in Chibok, Borno State.
The meeting which had some relatives of some top Boko Haram fighters as well as intermediaries according to a news report in AFP, which quoted a source close to the talks, held at Obasanjo’s farm in Otta, Ogun State.
The source told the news agency that the meeting focused on how to secure the girls’ freedom through negotiations with the Boko Haram.
Obasanjo had three (3) years ago tried to engage relatives of Boko Haram fighters in talks with a view to ending the violence in northern Nigeria though the effort didn’t bring hostilities to an end.
Mustapha Zanna, the lawyer who helped organise Obasanjo’s 2011 talks with Boko Haram, told the AFP he was at the former president’s home on Saturday, though he declined to discuss whether the Chibok abductions were on the agenda.
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 detained Boko Haram fighters.
President Goodluck Jonathan has ruled out a prisoner swap deal with the Boko Haram after sending intermediaries to meet with leaders of the group to secure the girls’ release.
The AFP 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.