DAKAR, SENEGAL - In the past week, Boko Haram militants have slaughtered villagers and bombed churches and mosques across Nigeria’s north, challenging the new president’s promises to stem the six-year insurgency and testing Nigerians’ faith in his ability to do so.
As a candidate, Muhammadu Buhari campaigned on ending the Boko Haram insurgency. But since he became president May 29, the extremist group has shown no sign of abating. Within the past week, its militants laid siege to a village outside the Borno state capital of Maiduguri, killed more than 145 people in villages elsewhere in the state and blew up worshippers at a church in the town of Potiskum in neighboring Yobe State.
Bashir Abdullahi lives in the north-central city of Jos, where suspected Boko Haram bombers targeted a mosque and restaurant Sunday, killing at least 44 people.
“I seriously believe he is up to the task and he is going to deal with them," Abdullahi said of the Buhari’ camp’s ability to defeat the militants.
Buhari set high expectations for how he would handle the group. Before the March presidential vote, his All Progressives Congress party put up billboards around the country that promised, "We will defeat Boko Haram."
If Buhari does not fulfill his campaign pledge, he’ll risk losing credibility with Nigerians, said Abubakar Kari, a University of Abuja political science lecturer.
"Most Nigerians expected something drastic, something dramatic, something concrete on the ground," Kari said. "They did not expect this spate of bombings across the country. They feel that OK, by now, Boko Haram should truly be a thing of the past. They do not seem to be impressed by the handling of the situation so far."
Buhari spokesman Femi Adesina said the president is working on a plan to tackle Boko Haram that will involve troops from neighboring countries.
"The framework – the machinery – has been set in motion for a final onslaught against Boko Haram, and it will happen," Adesina said.
Buhari also has called for help from abroad and he may be getting it. The Nigerian leader is scheduled to visit U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on July 20, and the United States' deputy secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is visiting Nigeria and Niger this week.
Boko Haram is expected to be on the agenda of both visits.
Ardo Hazzad contributed reporting from Bauchi, Nigeria.