By AZUBUIKE ISHIEKWENE
ABUJA, Nigeria — Regardless of what President Goodluck Jonathan’s government would have us believe, Nigeria is losing the war against Boko Haram.
Days after the chief of defense staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, took over in January, he vowed to end the Boko Haram onslaught by April. He had barely finished speaking when gunmen struck, killing more than 70 people in separate attacks in the northeastern states of Borno and Adamawa — two of the three states that have become the hotbed of recent violence. The defense chief ate the humble pie and promptly disavowed setting any deadline to end the killings.
Since then, Boko Haram has carried out a slew of other attacks, including two high-profile ones in the country’s capital, Abuja. The most outrageous attack yet, however, was the mass abduction of 276 schoolgirls who were taking their final high school exams in Chibok, Borno state, on April 14, hours after a bus station was attacked in Abuja, killing 75 people. At least 200 of those girls are still missing, and eight more were abducted in the same town last Tuesday. On Wednesday, Boko Haram insurgents attacked another Borno town, killing hundreds and displacing even more. Full-scale war doesn’t get much worse.
It’s no use asking what Jonathan is doing about it. It took him three weeks simply to speak up about the abducted girls. Jonathan has blamed everyone and everything for the escalating violence in the northeast except his own government. At a political rally in one of the northeastern states in March, he said governors in the region who were investing poorly in education were feeding the monster. His aides have accused influential northern politicians of stoking the violence to get even with Jonathan for betraying “a gentleman’s agreement” that would have permitted him only one term in office after the sudden 2010 death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the immediate past president from the north.
But it’s nonsense to suggest that these politicians, whoever they are, would kill their kith and kin — and abduct their daughters on a mass scale — to prevent Jonathan from returning to power. The country has yet to recover from the shock that, while a distraught public was still trying to figure out the whereabouts of the abducted girls, the president was on the hustings, crowing for a second term.