John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Kidnapped Girls Galvanize Nigerian Public

by John Campbell
May 1, 2014

Mothers of kidnapped school girls react during a meeting with the Borno State governor in Chibok, Maiduguri, Borno State, April 22, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Mothers of kidnapped school girls react during a meeting with the Borno State governor in Chibok, Maiduguri, Borno State, April 22, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

The kidnapping of more than two hundred schools girls, and the security services’ inability to find and free them, appears to have engaged Nigerian opinion nationwide, far more so than any other atrocity associated with the “Boko Haram” insurgency.

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, though the Nigerian media, reflecting the Nigerian public, appears all but universally convinced that “Boko Haram” is responsible. There is growing criticism, even rage, against what is seen as the fecklessness of the security services, especially the army. Some of this anger is being directed toward federal institutions. On April 29 there was a demonstration at the National Assembly in Abuja by parents of the kidnapped girls, according to the Nigerian media. There is a huge march planned in Abuja by women on April 30 and May 1 in support of the girls.

Leading figures in the government, and those close to it, are now taking a much harder line on “Boko Haram.” The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ayo Oritsejafor, has regularly denounced “Boko Haram” in the past. In response to criticisms directed at the military, he is defending them: “I believe that the military are doing their best; they are trying. I will not join those who condemn them; if they were not here, what would we have done?” As for “Boko Haram,” he said, “my pronouncement on them is that when they die their bodies should be given to pigs because they do not deserve more than that.” Ayo Oritsejafor is a Pentecostal pastor who, as the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria is the face of the largest Christian umbrella group in the country.

David Mark, president of the Senate, a retired general, and a Christian from the middle of the country, has in the past called for “dialogue” with “Boko Haram.” According to Nigerian media, on April 29 he said, “I have been in the forefront of saying we must dialogue with them but I think we must take the battle to a level where they must beg for dialogue. We cannot do this unless the locals on the ground there cooperate with members of the armed forces.” He also state that “Boko Haram” operatives are not “terrorists,” but “insurgents.” “The people we are dealing with are well trained.” He called for all-out war on them, extending beyond the current state of emergency in three northeastern states.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan still has not announced whether he will run for the presidency in 2015, though there are fresh rumors that he will announce his candidacy this weekend in Port Harcourt.

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