John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Questions After the Slaughter in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell
February 27, 2014

Residents, who were injured during an attack by Boko Haram militants, wait at the Bama General Hospital in Bama, Borno State, February 20, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


The Voice of America reports that the death toll from a “Boko Haram” attack on a federal government college the night of February 24-25 has reached fifty-nine. The method of the slaughter was characteristically horrific; the male students were deliberately locked into their dormitory and burned to death, those who tried to escape had their throats cut. The female students were unharmed but sent home with instructions to abandon western education and to find husbands. The campus appears to have been torched.

The college was an obvious “Boko Haram” target. It was a secondary boarding school run by the federal government, drew students from all over the country, and was secular. The diffuse elements of Boko Haram seem to have a common hatred of the federal government, secularism, and western education. A government college embodies all three.

The governor of Yobe state, where the killing took place and which is one of the three states under a state of emergency because of Boko Haram, noted that the few soldiers assigned to the school had apparently been withdrawn hours before the attack and failed to arrive at the campus until noon the following day, hours after the attackers left. Why? Many others are asking the same question. A Muslim non-governmental organization, Muslim Rights Concern, issued a public statement that raises important issues:

“Why is Boko Haram always attacking when they are supposed to be on the run? Why are our troops always on the defense? Is it true that Nigerian soldiers merely sit and wait for the group to attack? Is it also true that there is poor welfare for soldiers posted to the area? Is it true that soldiers in the region use their own money to pay for treatment? Who is keeping sophisticated weapons from reaching Nigerian soldiers fighting Boko Haram?” And so forth.

Meanwhile, parts of the Nigerian press are reporting that a member of President Jonathan’s public relations staff writing under a pseudonym is insinuating that “suspended” governor of the Central Bank Lamido Sanusi is linked to Boko Haram. Sanusi, a banker with an international reputation, formerly the occupant of high government appointed office, and the grandson of an emir of Kano is precisely the type of “renegade” or “false” Muslim that Boko Haram targets, more than Christians. The insinuation is ludicrous.

Meanwhile, we are waiting for the answers to Muslim Rights Concern’s questions.

Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by Saleh Ibrahim Bature

    I enjoy reading every post on this blog. I commend you for your objectivity. The government agent who hides under pseudonym to insinuate that the sacked CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a royalist, intelligent and consumate banker of repute, is connected to the Boko Haram insurgency is ludicrous. It is intended to smear his name. As a Muslim, I know for certain, Boko Haram will be happy to have people like SLS. They target Muslim civil servants, technocrats and clerics who preach against their cruelty and inhumanity. Nigerians, especially those who work for the government are hypocrites. They don’t look beyond their noses. They consider any criticisms, no matter how constructive it is, as an open enimity to the government. The earlier ALL of us, as citizens of this nation, understand that there is another opinion and belief contrary to our own, the better for us.

  • Posted by Sulayman Dauda

    The question regarding Boko Haram (BH) has been a difficult one. Many political thinkers, analyst and other commentators have given their own analysis regarding BH, their activities and solution.
    If I may argue none of this analysis has captured areas of concern to what escalate the BH absurd sand increasing campaign.
    Factors we need to put into consideration before we may arrive as to what exactly BH is all about include:
    1. When the late Sheik Jaafar Mahmoud Adam was alerting the government on the emergence of BH, the authority ignored this scholar and BH succeeded in killing this Man while leading the early Morning prayer in Kano. Nothing has been done to investigate the death of this scholar. Probably the government want him to be dead?.
    2. The Nigerian police sometime in 2007 open fire killing some BH members on their way to the cemetery to bury one of their own that die naturally and a week after this group lunch a reprisal attack with arson and killing police officers on duty.
    The big mistake made by the late president Yardua (though inexperience in security matters) was the order he gave the joint task force (JTF) to use maximum use of force to crackdown the members of BH.
    It was a mayhem, a genocide and extra-Judicial killing by the JTF. There was no adequate planing as such thousand of innocent life got killed and the media was never allow to see for itself to report the killings.
    This Security blunder draw a major sympathy among the many citizen both within and outside the Maiduguri, Yobe environs.
    3. Their have also been accusations and denial on the part of the JTF of continue extra-judicial killings, raping and all sort of threat to the various residence and wayfarers.
    4. Other allegations and the many questions that have been silently ask by many Nigerians is that, since the death of the former Security Adviser to the President, there have been no other record of Bomb blast in the country. Remember this is a Man that has been allege to be providing arms to the Militant when he was the commanding officer in Jaji cantonment in Kaduna. The allegations and finding led to his retirement from the Military before assuming the SA post.
    5. One other factor is, why the assassination of General Shuwa? This is a Man in his 80s who has no grudge with any political or religious groups other than his age. Remember he is one of the best commanding officers during the Biafran war. Could this be a revenge?
    The solution to the current situation involve all the political leaders, the religious and traditional leaders, whose the blood of Nigerians is in their hands. They know the best way to handle the situation.

  • Posted by Chike

    This is a dangerous time & Nigerians are not Americans “who share common values”.

    The truth is that the area under “emergency rule” is bigger than England – and the Nigerian Army cannot police every single school in such a large area – it lacks the manpower & logistics to do so.

    Another thing could be that this story points to infiltration of the Nigerian Army by Boko Haram – not out of the realms of possibility since Boko Haram & Nigerian soldiers are – Nigerians.

    This is where it gets tricky – most Nigerians from the South believe that Boko Haram is a deliberate attempt by Northern leaders to destabilise Nigeria & ensure Jonathan fails as president. There is almost nothing you can do to convince them other wise.

    Similarly, many Northerners (the Muslim ones that is), believe that Jonathan is orchestrating Boko Haram behind the scenes.

    The problem with these competing narratives is that it is almost impossible to get people to change their minds & the “truth” no longer matters. Nigerians have chosen to interpret these events in their own peculiar ways.

    So we are going in 2015 as an even more divided nation. In a way, Boko Haram has succeeded in dividing Nigeria even further – & when one considers how easily people in Central African Republic turned on each other – not very comforting.

    I don’t think Nigeria needs elections as much as it needs a new internal political architecture. Nigeria will NEVER be a France or a US – nations with strong national identities & a national ethos.

    No, Nigeria is made up of people who barely tolerate each other, who hate each other desperately. People who bear the scars of wounds from a violent and blood past & present.

    The best way forward would be to reflect that reality in a new constitution – not “more elections”.

  • Posted by anonymous

    Type your comment in here…The answers to questions raised by MURIC will never be obtained because the questions themselves become rhetorical in the light of realities on ground. Lets leave it at that for now

  • Posted by Mike Onyibe

    The 3 foregone comments are interesting and insightful because the views of the authors typify in no small way the educated popular personae and opinions fairly describe which part of the country they come from and which side of the political divide they stand with. To be fair, all 3 are somewhat correct in their interpretation of what’s going on the Boko Haram palaver. What still needs to be realized that Boko Haram and their has been long in their wait to take on Nigeria. Popular CIA intelligence say since probably as far back as 1995. Since BH did not come into Nigeria’s political lexicon until 2009, it means they already have say 15 years headstart on us. Quite similar to the Nazis who had been preparing for the Battle of Britain since 1933 before the actual attack in 1940! I think we all need to do a reality check right now, stop all this meaningless blame game and start asking the right questions. Maybe the National Conference will provide a useful forum. Question 1: Do we want to remain one country? Qusetion 2: Do we expect FREE speech, religious expression in both public and private life in all parts of Nigeria? QUESTION 3: Do we recognize the citizen of all Nigerians in all parts at the same time under all circumstances? Question 4: Do we accept that All written down NIGERIA LANGUAGES shall become OFFICIAL in public and Private Business throughout the country? Question 5: Must we all practical the same political system in all regions of the country? If we can agreement as a common ground on these basic questions and make it enforceable as common bond, let us see if Nigerians will not TOGETHER fight any internal or external intruder whatever the name may be to preserve our common SHARED values!

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