Last Friday at about the same time the new Nigerian president, Muhamadou Buhari, was being sworn in, 10 Nigerians were killed by a bomb at a wedding in a town called Hawul in north eastern Borno State. On Saturday, 16 more were killed in Maiduguri. The tactic in Maiduguri is referred to in reports as a suicide attack however it’s important to continue to note that the use of young girls by Boko Haram to import explosives on their person into the markets of Maiduguri is not likely the typical form of self imposed Islamist martyrdom. Until better information comes in, the question should be left open to the more likely tactic of coercion and exploitation of children to penetrate the strategically important market place which has been patrolled by concerned citizens supplementing the lack of government security. 11 more died in Maiduguri by way of more conventional mortar attacks from a smaller group.
The foundation of President Buhari’s campaign was the idea that he, as a former military dictator, had the resolve to challenge Boko Haram where former President Jonathan was bewilderingly ineffective while tens of thousands of Nigerians lost their lives to the Islamist group over the past few years. A significant amount of the former president’s failures can be attributed undermining policies by the U.S. like the failure to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group and conflating social policy with security in the midst of a crisis. President Jonathan also faced institutional corruption within the Nigerian military. Despite said obstacles, President Jonathan found, in recent months, reliable allies in Russia and South Africa and made needed and significant military victories.
As things stand now, Boko Haram as a territory holding caliphate has been dealt with in the conventional military sense and has been reduced to a scattered insurgency that will now switch to tactics understood as terrorism in the classical sense. Consequently, Boko Haram will be perceived as less of a threat. It is not. The events over the weekend illustrate this predictable transition for readers of this blog. ‘Ironic’ may not be the precise term but the challenge for Buhari will not be the same premise that he campaigned on.