News / Africa

In Nigeria, a Political War Behind the War on Boko Haram

FILE - Abubakar Shekau, who claims to be the leader Boko Haram, is seen in a video screen grab, at an unknown location, Sept. 25, 2013.
FILE - Abubakar Shekau, who claims to be the leader Boko Haram, is seen in a video screen grab, at an unknown location, Sept. 25, 2013.
Heather Murdock
Politicians worldwide often vilify their opponents, and those in Nigeria are no different. As the 2015 elections approach, Nigeria’s two main political parties are blaming each other for the violent Boko Haram insurgency in the north.

In the past five years Boko Haram militants have killed thousands of people, and the insurgency appears only to be growing as 2015 elections draw near.

More than 2,000 people have been killed this year alone in attacks on markets, military bases, bus stations and even football viewing centers. In April, the Islamist radical group kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls.

At his home in the Niger Delta, Ovie Joseph, a local leader within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) says the opposition funds the violence, trying to make the country “ungovernable.”

“When problems of kidnapping ... occur, it’s a style of destabilizing the ruling party," he said. "It’s the opposition [doing this].”

The opposition he speaks of is the All Progressive Congress, or APC, a mega-party formed last year when several opposition parties merged.

Joseph says Boko Haram’s increasing strength is evidence that wealthy politicians must be supporting the group.

Analysts say if the party can stand behind a single candidate next year, it could prove to be a formidable opponent to the PDP, which has governed Nigeria since 1999.  

Christian Onodjacha, assistant secretary of APC in Delta State, blames the ruling party for failing to stop the insurgency.

“What they are now trying to do is to trade the blame on us, that we are involved," he said. "But we are not involved. We are not in charge of the federal security apparatus. They are in charge.”

The ruling party, Onodjacha says, is wasting time “pointing fingers” when it should be fighting the insurgency. He concedes that individual politicians may be involved, but he thinks they are from the ruling party.

“Our members are clean," he said. "They are people that we know can salvage this nation from the quagmire that it is in currently.”

But some analysts say that, on this issue, both parties are correct and both are wrong.

Yan St-Pierre, the CEO of Berlin-based security consulting firm MOSECON, says Nigerian politicians often hire thugs to intimidate their opposition.

“Both sides use them," he said. "Depending on how greedy or ambitious the local politician was, they would sometimes use more of their services, sometimes less, but both sides. All parties are involved.”

St-Pierre says the politicians may not be interested in Boko Haram’s goals, but in northeastern Nigeria the Boko Haram members happen to be the guys with the guns.

The group is believed to be controlling villages along the Chad and Cameroon borders, he says, and in those areas even conducting an election will require support from Boko Haram.

“They intimidate, they terrorize and, when possible, they actually provide goods and services which gives them the legitimacy, that sometimes despite everything they’re doing, that the government doesn’t seem to have,” St-Pierre said.

Boko Haram's name means “Western education is sinful” and the group has threatened President Goodluck Jonathan by name. However, St-Pierre says while Boko Haram may be partially supported by a corrupt political system, the insurgents probably do not care who wins. 

Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta.

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Comment Sorting
by: Sampson Atsu from: Accra
June 28, 2014 10:59 AM
Nadeco and opc helped Obj to power,the niger delta militants helped Gj to power. Now it seems some people are employing the same tactics in the power shift syndrom. If Jonathan steps down the bakassi boys will rise up for an igbo president employing the same tactics. Buhari is seriously against govt action on bh. Why,is it cos.................?

by: josh from: maidugiri
June 21, 2014 12:57 PM
the best way to combat book haram in this country is to hold those top officials exterminate them so that we have peace.

by: Joseph Effiong from: Calabar - Nigeria
June 20, 2014 10:07 PM
Former president buhari made it claer that he will make nigeria ungovernable for president Jonathan if he loss the presidential election. And he did it. When boko haram started, nigeria police arrested and detained some of them wihile some dead. Human right and opposition were blaming the police why should they be detained more 48 hours and why some are killed. They caused the dismissal of those officers for the good work they have done and today nobody talks about those policemen and look at what boko haram is causing. Lamentation, tears , destruction, killing in thousands but nobody asked what of those officers dismissed because of islamist terrorists. And someone. Is saying Jonathan should not contest so that peace will reign because of hausas. If Jonathan is not contesting so that hausa take back the sit, within a week nobody will hear about this terrorists. Let be watching.

by: meanbill from: USA
June 20, 2014 5:49 PM
CRAZY isn't it? -- Shouting Allahu Akbar, "God is Great" the Muslims kill the Christians and Jews like Muhammad did, when he spread his Muslim religion by the sword.....
In Response

by: AHMED from: INDIA
June 21, 2014 12:54 AM

by: Nwanguma Emmanuel O. from: Nsukka, Enugu state
June 20, 2014 4:16 PM
Take it or you leave it, the most peaceful way of solving this problem of insecurity in Nigeria is for the president to abstain from any near-presidential election activity including declaration of such interest, please, just for the interest of the poor and helpless Nigerians. We are tired of constant government's void strategies to combat Boko Haram, please, enough of the experiment.
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 21, 2014 3:00 PM
Shut up, Emmanuel, if you don't know what to say. Nigerian is beyond begging anyone to do what is right. It is not to ask Jonathan not to run if he wants to be president again. What we are asking him to do is to be proactive and stop being reactionary where this trouble is concerned. He is too dull for a president, and he has no brain at all when it comes to ruling a vast nation like Nigeria. He should not step down because of boko haram - it is every Nigerian's right to vie for that post - but he should sit up and be president if he wants to rule again, face boko haram squarely and defeat the sharia incursion. It is the failure of the sharia states to achieve the fulani dominance over the country that gave birth to boko haram. If Jonathan can neutralize the sharia states - it's his business how he wants to do it - then he can rule the country. No one should run away because of boko haram or the scheming of the islamists. God forbid!

by: Nwanguma Emmanuel O. from: Nsukka, Enugu state
June 20, 2014 3:55 PM
With referrence to St. Pierre content, it is not even certain that Nigerian government does not need the assistance of Boko Haram to conduct free and fair elections in all the states of Nigeria considering the growing security concerns and increasing rumours of its expansion outside northern states.

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