As we approach the 2015 presidential election, the temptation to use the insurgency for electoral gain is getting stronger. Politicians from both the PDP and the APC are blaming each other for Boko Haram, with some even accusing their opponents of supporting the insurgents.
It’s worth remembering that politicising a conflict can make it even worse. By turning against each other, political leaders risk distracting themselves from fighting the real enemy. Boko Haram is making alarming gains in the north-east, even recently seizing the town of Damboa. Now is not the time to take our eye off the ball. Much needed funding for the counter-insurgency has also been delayed by politicking, and the demonisation of the APC is undoubtedly further fuelling discontent in the north.
The 2015 election should be a time for Nigeria to show its strength and resolve against the insurgency. The best way to do that is for politicians to avoid blaming each other and instead unite against their common enemy.
This month’s analysis includes a more detailed warning from me about the dangers of politicising the insurgency, a piece by Andrew Walker reviewing the 100 days since the Chibok abduction, new observations from Jacob Zenn about Boko Haram’s evolution, and more.
Playing politics with Nigeria’s insurgency risks civil war
This piece draws attention to the risks of playing politics with the insurgency, including further alienation of the north, distracting the country’s leadership away from Boko Haram at a time when they’re making gains, and hampering the allocation of resources to the military. The nightmare scenario is that the election causes broader unrest and violence in the north. Politicians should do everything they can to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Nigeria is dancing on the brink
John Campbell gives this interview to the Citizen. He warns there is a serious risk of instability in Nigeria and that political life has become unsettled by the approach of elections in 2015. Asked whether there’s anything he would now add to his book about Nigeria, Campbell suggests he would pay more attention to the problem of corruption.
100 days of violence, rumors, and loss
Andrew Walker gives a critical assessment of Nigeria’s response to the Chibok abduction, 100 days on. He suggests that the government’s ability to handle Boko Haram will determine Nigeria’s long-term stability and viability, and that much remains to be done. He also offers an overview of the myriad conspiracy theories that have cropped up following the abduction, and reminds us that all of the theorising and politicking surrounding Chibok are a world away from the real struggles faced by people in the north.
Boko Haram opens new fronts in Lagos and Nigeria’s middle belt
In this new analysis from Jacob Zenn, he argues that Boko Haram are expanding their operations into the middle belt and Lagos. He suggests that a new faction is responsible for the Lagos suicide attack in June, and that Ansaru has reintegrated into Boko Haram and is carrying out the middle belt attacks. He also says that Boko Haram has internalised Ansaru’s kidnapping skills and is using them to carry out abductions in the north. The biggest threat to Nigeria, though, comes from Boko Haram’s seizure of territory in the north-east. Zenn argues that they could create a region free from government control in which to found a new Islamic state.
“I have more than twenty refugees seeking refuge in my house as a result of this insurgency”
Saratu Abiola’s Testimonial Archive Project has conducted a fresh group of interviews with people affected by the insurgency, as well as subject matter experts. In this interview, a young civil servant in Yobe explains that Boko Haram attacks villages when their inhabitants refuse to cooperate. He also says the state of emergency has not been very useful in the fight against Boko Haram.
Is Nigeria’s Boko Haram Becoming Territorial?
In his latest blog, John Campbell asks whether Boko Haram is establishing territory in north-east Nigeria. He notes that Boko Haram has taken over the town of Damboa, raising its flag and establishing checkpoints. Until now, Boko Haram has been more well known for its hit-and-run attacks rather than for seizing towns. Damboa could signal a new phase of the insurgency.
Key points from this briefing
- There’s a growing risk the 2015 elections will inflame the Boko Haram insurgency unless politicians are able to avoid politicising the conflict
- The elections are going to be destabilising in general
- While conspiracy theories abound about the Chibok abduction, the people of the north need practical help to keep them safe
- Boko Haram has opened up new fronts in Lagos and the middle belt
- The greatest threat still comes from Boko Haram’s activities in the north-east, where they are trying to create an Islamic state
- Boko Haram have started to seize territory
- The insurgents attack villagers when they are not cooperative, suggesting people are forced to cooperate through fear