In a recent article in African Arguments, Jonathan Hill, a senior lecturer at King’s College London and author of Nigeria Since Independence: Forever Fragile?, provides a thoughtful, if grim, analysis of the latest round of Boko Haram killings in northern Nigeria. He makes the important point that the recent murder of students while they slept at the agricultural college in Yobe state was only one in a series of assaults. He cites the raids on the secondary school in Mamudo in July, Dumba village in August, and Benisheik in September. He notes that these attacks took place during the state of emergency with a greatly augmented security presence that failed to prevent them.
From these attacks, he concludes that “Boko Haram appears unbowed and its campaign undimmed.” He suggests this recent round of attacks may mark a new stage in Boko Haram’s evolution. Specifically, he suggests that the style, the victims, and the brutality of the attacks resemble al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operations in Algeria. These similarities, he suggests, may indicate growing AQIM influence over Boko Haram.
Hill characterizes this evolution as “devastating,” citing the degradation of education in the North, already the least literate part of the country, the likely spread of inter-communal tensions toward the south, and Southern impatience with the costs of the counter terrorism campaign.
Hill’s stark bottom line: “That Nigeria is now a failed state is beyond question. Whether it can avoid breaking apart remains to be seen.” That conclusion, alone, is food for thought.