A 14-minute YouTube video is heightening tensions between Nigeria's government and a violent Islamist sect President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to destroy. Analysts say the video has revealed the president’s miscalculation of the extremist threat.
The YouTube video opens with graphics of spinning flowers and crossed AK-47s. Bubble letters identify it as a message to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan made by the group that calls itself People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad, more commonly known as Boko Haram.
The group's suspected leader, Abubakar Shekau, is seated with four armed and masked men. He tells viewers the Nigerian president was boasting two weeks ago when he said the government would destroy the group within three months.
“We have sworn and we are telling you, Jonathan, that there is nothing that you can do to stop us,” Shekau says.
Taking war to the ‘doorstep’
University of Abuja senior lecturer Abubakar Umar Kari says the president’s statement and Boko Haram’s video have succeeded in heightening tensions in Africa’s most populous country and biggest oil exporter.
Kari says the group should be identified as an international terrorist organization and Nigerian security forces should get assistance, like specialized training, from other countries.
"Now decidedly a line has been drawn. They are ready to take the war to the doorstep of the government, because now they have made a direct frontal attack - frontal verbal attack at the government.”
Boko Haram has been blamed for the Easter Sunday bombing that claimed dozens of lives, but it has not taken responsibility. The Taliban-like group is believed to have killed about 1,000 people since it began violent operations in 2009, including attacks on churches, the U.N. headquarters, police stations and other government buildings.
Kari says the video will succeed in scaring the people, because they are more likely to believe Boko Haram threats than government assurances. On Easter Sunday, a Nigerian newspaper quoted the defense minister as saying more than 95 percent of local governments had been secured against the threat of Boko Haram.
"In the past, the government has made similar statements. Like, within so-and-so days the Boko Haram menace was going to be the order of the day. But in contrast these people have only stepped up their attacks. The Boko Haram people have demonstrated a better capacity to act than the government.”
Response to ‘naive’ statement
International Crisis Group senior analyst Kunle Amuwo says it is impossible to be 100 percent sure the video represents Boko Haram, a fractured sect with no clear structure. He says the video is a response to what he calls the “naive” statement by Nigeria's president. Amuwo says that even if the president had the capacity to crush the group, he never should have said so publicly.
“I think that it is a mind game going on, a very disastrous one, it is the kind of mind game you find in big-time soccer.”
Amuwo also says Boko Haram’s presence in Nigeria is misunderstood by foreign critics who say Nigeria needs to develop the impoverished, mostly-Muslim north to lessen the threat. Amuwo says if violence was simply a product of poverty, terrorist attacks would be nation-wide.
"You do not expect the Nigerian government to eradicate a terrorist group within a few months. And they can not do it alone. The United States and the European Union have not been able to deal with al-Qaida."
Besides costing lives, Boko Haram attacks have also stagnated many local economies and made travel more dangerous and time consuming. Kari says military checkpoints can double time on the road, and innocent people have been shot by nervous security officers under the constant threat of attack.