Skip to main content

Nigeria underestimated Boko Haram

UNTIL Boko Haram staged Nigeria’s first suicide bombing in 2010, most of their compatriots (this writer included) complacently assumed that home-grown Islamic militants could be controlled and were, although undoubtedly dangerous, pretty tame compared to their counterparts elsewhere. How wrong we were.

This shadowy, brutal and fearless jihadist group, which kidnapped seven French citizens in northern Cameroon last week and has killed thousands of innocents on its native soil, has made a mockery of the once-widespread conviction that no Nigerian on the planet was religious, brave or selfless enough to sacrifice his or her life for a cause.

Even when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a young Nigerian Al Qaeda devotee, was caught trying to detonate a bomb on a US-bound flight in 2009, almost every Nigerian I spoke to at the time suspected that he got cold feet and deliberately sabotaged the mission.
The “evidence” that fed this suspicion was that, having boarded the plane in Amsterdam, he sat on the bomb for several hours, and then handled the detonation exercise so ineptly that another passenger was able to subdue him fairly easily.

Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, is in the north-central part of the country. I lived there for 12 years until Oct 2011. And I witnessed Boko Haram dispelling the above myth, becoming a terrifying force and seriously undermining the public’s confidence in President Goodluck Jonathan.

Boko Haram has notched up some spectacular successes. It has blown up the United Nations building in Abuja. It has gained entry to Abuja’s police headquarters. And its outrages have had an enormous psychological impact on the nation. Many believe the movement is invincible. At one point the Hilton hotel was almost deserted because of fears it would be targeted. Meanwhile, foreign airline crews stopped sleeping over in Abuja and several children were sent abroad to school by frightened parents.

Boko Haram has now stepped up its campaign, with an aggressive and high-profile incursion into foreign territory. On Tuesday the group released a video of the hostages in which the kidnapping was described as retribution for France’s military intervention in Mali.

The borders that separate Nigeria from its neighbours have always been porous. But, until last week’s audacious Cameroonian abduction, the insurgents had restricted their terror campaign to northern Nigeria. The churches they attacked were always in the north. They didn’t venture to the south, where most Nigerian Christians live. But the fear is they may now start to do so.

If they are now crossing borders to hunt for expatriate hostages whose capture guarantees them maximum publicity on an international level, might they not also soon make an attempt to similarly expand their activities into southern Nigeria?

Meanwhile, Muslim Nigerians from the north are as concerned about the Boko Haram threat as Nigerians in the south.
According to Hassan Mohammed, a judge from the northeast: “It is laughable to describe these characters as pro-north or as defenders of Islam. They are evil anarchists who have not only killed almost every imam in the Maiduguri area, but are hell-bent on eliminating our political and traditional rulers as well.”

And he adds: “The northern elite is often accused of being in cahoots with Boko Haram … but nothing could be further from the truth. Why would we stupidly support terrorists who treat us like hated opponents and are always trying to kill us?”

Some believe Boko Haram is partly about hungry, angry, unemployed northern boys saying “enough is enough” in a country that is lamentably corrupt, with the privileged callously ignoring the poor. But Nigeria, sadly, is not going to become an oasis of enlightenment any time soon; and if a relatively sophisticated country such as Britain took decades to neutralise the IRA, it may take Nigeria at least as long to bring the homicidal and suicidal guerrilla fighters of Boko Haram to heel.

Boko Haram is a strange, amorphous, hydra-headed beast that is feeding off Nigeria’s many problems and grievances and has just demonstrated that it is willing and able to spread its terror campaign to new regions. — The Guardian, London.
The writer is a columnist for the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard.
<<Free-eBooks Click here>>> 

Popular posts from this blog

A historic moment in the Arab world

لحظة تاريخية في العالم العربي
As a democratic revolution led by tech-empowered young people sweeps the Arab world, Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera's director-general, shares a profoundly optimistic view of what's happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and beyond. In the first talk posted online from the TED 2011 conference in California, Khanfar describes the powerful moment when people realised they could step out of their homes and ask for change. "كما ثورة ديمقراطية بقيادة الشباب التكنولوجيا ذات صلاحيات تجتاح العالم العربي ، وضاح خنفر ، الجزيرة المدير العام والأسهم وجهة نظر متفائلة بشكل كبير ما يحدث في مصر وتونس وليبيا وخارجها. وفي اول حديث له نشر على الانترنت من مؤتمر تيد 2011 في ولاية كاليفورنيا ، خنفر يصف لحظة قوية عند الناس أدركت أنها لا يمكن الخروج من منازلهم ونطلب من أجل التغيير." This talk was given on March 1, 2011 in Long Beach, California. TED 2011 is taking place between March 1 and Mar…

Our Captured, Wounded Hearts: Arundhati Roy On Balakot, Kashmir And India

With his reckless “pre-emptive” airstrike on Balakot in Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inadvertently undone what previous Indian governments almost miraculously, succeeded in doing for decades. Since 1947 the Indian Government has bristled at any suggestion that the conflict in Kashmir could be resolved by international arbitration, insisting that it is an “internal matter.” By goading Pakistan into a counter-strike, and so making India and Pakistan the only two nuclear powers in history to have bombed each other, Modi has internationalised the Kashmir dispute. He has demonstrated to the world that Kashmir is potentially the most dangerous place on earth, the flash-point for nuclear war. Every person, country, and organisation that worries about the prospect of nuclear war has the right to intervene and do everything in its power to prevent it.  Keep reading  >>>>

India has built around itself an aura of a global power whose time has come. For at least the last t…

Kashmir Jihad - Analysis & Options


Kashmir is an incomplete agenda of partition of India. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars on this issue. According to UN resolutions, Kashmiris have to decide their accession to Pakistan or India through impartial plebiscite, which could not take place due to Indian reluctance. Recently, India revoked Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted special autonomous status to Kashmir, it was done to unilaterally integrate occupied Kashmir. This is a violation of the UN resolutions and the Simla bilateral agreement, which demands to maintain status quo until the final settlement. The US and world powers are emphasizing that Kashmir should be resolved bilaterally, though India has refused to hold talks with Pakistan. In the present scenario, while India has turned Kashmir into the largest prison of 9 million people, denying basic human rights and oppressing the Kashmiris' who want freedom from India, Pakistan cannot watch as a silent spec…