John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria: Growing Panic following Bayero University Attack

by John Campbell
May 1, 2012

The wreckage of a car is pictured after a bomb blast in front of the office compound of Nigerian newspaper This Day in the northern city of Kaduna April 26, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


On Sunday, a group of terrorists attacked Christians at worship services held in a lecture room and a sports complex at Bayero University in Kano. There are varying reports about the number killed and wounded, but victims include some senior faculty and graduate and undergraduate students. Security personnel are estimating that Sunday’s attack involved up to twenty operatives. The press quotes the Nigerian military spokesman as saying that the terrorists used “sophisticated” tactics. Also on Sunday, “gunmen” killed at least five people attending a church service in Maiduguri, and then today a police convoy was bombed in Taraba state.

These follow attacks last Thursday on the Kaduna and Abuja premises of ThisDay, a major Nigerian newspaper.

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the ThisDay attacks, but not yet Sunday’s in Kano and Maiduguri. However, the Bayero University attack recalls earlier Boko Haram attacks in Damaturu and Kano in January. Nigerian opinion, as reflected in the press, is that Boko Haram was responsible for Sunday’s mayhem. Organizations such as the Patriotic Alliance of Nigeria (an umbrella of opposition political parties) and the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy are taking the occasion of the Sunday attacks to urge the Jonathan government not to negotiate with Boko Haram.

Boko Haram is notoriously defuse. One hypothesis I find credible is that it consists of “nodes” in Maiduguri, Kano, and perhaps two or three other locations that operate largely independently of each other. Hence, the Kano and Maiduguri attacks on Sunday, if they were both by Boko Haram, may not have been coordinated. Thus far, there are no negotiations between the government and Boko Haram, and the latter shows no interest in talks. Nor, is it likely to do so in light of its escalating attacks.

In the aftermath of the Thursday attacks in Kaduna and Abuja, the attacks in Kano are likely to feed what appears to be a growing sense of panic among the political class in the North and Abuja. However, it remains to be seen whether attacks of increasing frequency will have an impact on Lagos and Ibadan, the heart of the modern Nigerian economy and thus far immune to the violence attributed to Boko Haram.

Post a Comment 13 Comments

  • Posted by Maduka

    I am very happy that John Campbell has finally used the term “terrorist” to refer to Boko Haram (or whoever killed Christians at BUK).

    What many Western analysts are yet to admit is that there is a religious motivation for these attacks. Christians have been specifically targeted and that is a cause for worry. (Muslims have also been killed, but reports of attacks on Mosques are rare).

    There is a growing sense of frustration and anger among the Christian community in Northern Nigeria. There is anger at Jonathan for his inability to protect lives and property. Anger at the Northern political elite for remaining silent in the face of turmoil, anger at the US for swallowing the propaganda of certain elements of the Northern elite and treating the problems of the North as problems that can only be solved within the context of Islam, Islam leadership and appeasement of the Islamic population. Finally there is red hot anger at Boko Haram.

    Unless lives and property are protected, this anger will definitely be expressed in violence. Already, Christian elders are making bold accusations against respected Muslim leaders, Northern elites and the political class. The youth tend to act on these statements.

    Yesterday, Boko Haram (or whoever) moved south-wards to Jalingo in Taraba State. Taraba State is a Christian majority state in the Middle Belt and until yesterday, extremely peaceful. This should be the most worrying sign of the reach and ambition of Boko Haram. Firstly, many Nigerian (much less Western analysts) know very little about that part of Nigeria. Secondly, the next stop from Jalingo is Makurdi and from there it is on to South Eastern Nigeria.

    Will Boko Haram “cross the river”? With increasing success and confidence, they might try.

    After a long period of sitting on the fence the US will finally declare Boko Haram as a “foreign terrorist organisation”. The longer it takes for the US to do this, the greater the perception among Nigerians that the US is a partner that cannot be trusted.

    (P.S: The US Ambassador gave an interview to one of the national dailies – the comments show that many Nigerians believe the man is talking nonsense:

  • Posted by Fnmi

    “However, it remains to be seen whether attacks of increasing frequency will have an impact on Lagos and Ibadan, the heart of the modern Nigerian economy and thus far immune to the violence attributed to Boko Haram.” End of Quote.
    I find the above quotation from John Campbell very curious, to put it mildly!
    Is this “an invitation” for Boko haram to direct the bombs to the mentioned cities? Is this a “veiled incitement” to Boko Haram that their bomb attacks is not having an impact at “the heart of the Nigerian economy” until they bomb Lagos and Ibadan, which hitherto, have remained untouched? (and why not?)

    Well, let us wait and see what follows, lets wait and see whether Boko Haram takes this suggestion by John Campbell and then and only then will it become apparent whether these bombings have the tacit and operational support of “enemies of Nigeria” masquerading as independent analysts!
    Time will tell.

  • Posted by Abdulrazak Ibrahim


  • Posted by Jacob Olupona

    1 May, 2012

    Ambassador Campbell:

    I greet you from Jerusalem where I am taking sabbatical leave. However, I write to comment on your recent essay. It is disturbing. Have your colleagues and friends failed to advise you on writing such ideological essays for public consumption? What should we make of your comments, “It remains to be seen whether attacks of increasing frequency will have an impact on Lagos and Ibadan, the heart of the modern Nigerian economy and thus far immune to the violence attributed to Boko Haram”?
    There is no such immunity! Are you aware that Boko Haram folks read these things?! You are a diplomat and former ambassador―not a journalist. The whole of Nigeria is fighting for its life while you engage in frivolous speculation. There is certainly something in your perception that is not too clear to most of us. I sincerely hope that CFR will prevail on you to write responsibly about Nigeria. The U.S. government and the State Department, in particular, have accountability to prevail on you as a former ambassador to write sensibly about Nigeria. For God’s sake, stop fueling the Boko Haram crisis.

    Best regards,

    Professor Olupona, Harvard University

  • Posted by ebipere

    Ambassador Campbell – perhaps you can explain how one negotiates with a defuse organisation?

    You are being intellectually-loose to speculate on a decentralised body with autonomous units and to expect such body to have a centralised authority that would speak on behalf of all and control all.

    Please make up your mind.

  • Posted by femi

    It seems the ambassador will love to see a mumbai styled attack on the places he just mentioned . However ,should that happen then we should just kiss the entity called Nigeria goodbye as the dogs of war would finally be released and Rwanda would look like a childs play.
    The ambassador should talk less and let us handle our troubles the best way we know how and not pour gasoline on an already flammable situation from the comfort of his office or armchair in the states

  • Posted by Maduka

    In all the reportage on the terrible loss of human life in Nigeria, the human aspect of these tragedies is either glossed over or ignored before racing on to some analysis of poverty, “Northern elite”, alienation and grievance.

    This is an important oversight. Emotions are extremely important here – and you spend for too much time on the emotions of one side, basically ignoring the other.

  • Posted by John P. Causey, IV

    Mr. Olupona:

    A blog is defined as, “A website in which an individual or group of users record opinions, information, etc. on a regular basis”. That is precicely what occurs on this blog, and the reason I read.

    Taking your own advice, perhaps Harvard, a prestegious and influential University should pull your leach, and more firmly affix you to your office chair in your ivory tower. You write as if you believe a Professor, with tremendous influence over the thoughts and beliefs of our youth, should be held to a lower standard than a former Ambassador running a blog.

    This blog fueling the crisis? Laughable. Surely, the guys blowing up cars and Nigerians are the ones fueling the crisis.

    You’ve once again confirmed my suspicion of any young person trained in many programs of the ‘elite’ US acadmic institutions.



  • Posted by Zainab

    To say that Nigerians are generally passionate, is an understatement. And perhaps this passion charged with emotion is understandable given the many complexities of the Nigerian nation-state: ethno-religious competition & skirmishes, rampant corruption, bad leadership etc. Sometimes though, we let this passion and excessive emotion come in the way of our reasoning. Let me explain.

    First of all, this is a blog by a FORMER Ambassador, expressing his personal opinions and how he sees things. I of course, emphasized on “former” as this is not the official position of the US government. The critics above seem to forget about that “irrelevant” little thing called freedom of speech and expression right? This especially goes to Maduka and the Hon. Professor Olupona from Harvard. If you don’t agree, then simply close your browser window and move on to other things, no need for getting all emotional and even saying the Ambassador is “talking nonsense”. If he’s talking nonsense Maduka, then you seem to dedicate a lot of time to this “nonsense” since you NEVER fail to leave at least one comment on EACH post that has to do with Nigeria on this blog.

    There are quite a lot of things I personally don’t agree with on this blog, especially the persistent (faint?) allusion of an underlying Northern-Muslim elite grievance as the root cause of Boko Haram. The Boko Haram phenomenon is much more nuanced and more complicated than that. However, I actually see nothing wrong in this part of the post which some people are misinterpreting: ” However, it remains to be seen whether attacks of increasing frequency will have an impact on Lagos and Ibadan, the heart of the modern Nigerian economy and thus far immune to the violence attributed to Boko Haram.”

    How on earth can anyone say that this is incitement!? Many Nigerian analysts, commentators, journalists etc have more or less said the same thing: that Boko Haram’s attacks which have been focused on the North are destroying and crippling an already comatose Northern economy. The Professor from Harvard of all people should understand the imperative for continuous debate on such complex issues, in a very complex country such as Nigeria.


  • Posted by John Ojeah


    I saw the terrorist label on Boko Haram’s activities for the first time on this blog. I hope it is not because BH included the ‘Voice of America Hausa Service’ as a possible target.


    Please read Maduka’s first post again. The ‘nonsense’ he referred to was implied from the comments by Nigerians on the interview of the ‘current’ US Ambassador to Nigeria. Click the link on Maduka’s post to read the Ambassador’s interview and readers’ comments there.

    Personally, I think the Ambassador’s suggestion of the creation of a ‘Ministry of Northern Affairs’ is uncalled for and is more or less a provocation. Only Northern elites can solve the North’s problem and the best solution, in my opinion, is the same that Awolowo recommended in the early 1960s but was ignored by the Sardauna and co… the North should do away with the Feudal system.

    Considering the contents of the articles on Nigeria posted on this blog the Professor is not wrong for thinking that this blog may have an ulterior motive of fueling crisis in Nigeria such as the Boko Haram crisis, at least, to discredit the current government. In this regard, it is not out of place to infer from the comment, “However, it remains to be seen whether attacks of increasing frequency will have an impact on Lagos and Ibadan, the heart of the modern Nigerian economy and thus far immune to the violence attributed to Boko Haram.”, that there is a wish for Boko Haram’s terrorist activities to adversely affect the Nigerian economy, hence a veiled directive inherent in the above quoted comment on how it (Boko Haram) can best achieved such an outcome.

  • Posted by Jidda

    Terrorists are like children, attention seeking. They throw deadly tantrums. The result of ignoring the tantrums of the BH as they cause destruction to the north and it’s economy is predictable. An escalation to the south. Every parent knows what I mean. And the tantrums from our southern brothers in this blog is more a reflection of denial and fear of a painful reality- the inevitability of a southern escalation.
    Maduka, your prejudice clouds your judgement.. and your allusion to the middle belt, an elitist Christian-animist utopia as a viable geo-political entity is another southern-Christian elitist incitement of northern minorities. It does not solve problems. It create more.
    We have to work together as people with a common stake, this crisis will consume us all if we see it as a northern problem or as a means of causing more divisions among northerners.

  • Posted by John Ojeah
  • Posted by Jidda

    Dear John,
    These elders, are true elders. They spoke like people who reflect before they speak.
    Their statements were devoid of threats and ultimatums. They represented a group within a group, who identified with a group but, who feel marginalized within the group.
    An enemy does not give you 3 years notice to change within an election cycle of 4 years. Only a brother does that- it is left to ‘Arewa elders’ to reciprocate.
    Finally, the middle belt is not a geo-political entity, it is rather a confused amalgam, an ethnic-religious-political contrivance of educated Christian Elites who also speak on behalf of animists- it remains an utopia

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