Tag Archives: Nigeria

Has Boko Haram Been Defeated?

In an interview with the BBC, Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria, asserted that Nigeria had “technically won the war” against the terrorist organization Boko Haram in the country. According to Buhari, Boko Haram could no longer mount “conventional attacks” against security forces or population centers in Nigeria, and had been reduced to relying on roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices to carry out attacks.

Since its founding in 2002, Boko Haram has carried out dozens of attacks, primarily against soft targets, in Nigeria and across Western Africa. In April 2014, the group was catapulted into international headlines when it kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok, in northern Nigeria, sparing the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. While more than 50 were ultimately able to escape, more than 200 others remain missing and are believed to have been married off or sold into slavery. According to many observers, that event was critical to the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign for reelection in 2015.

What do you think? Has Boko Haram been defeated? How is success against an organization like Boko Haram to be measured? And how would you advise President Buhari to deal with the group?

Oil, Terror, and Economic Development in Nigeria

This week marks the first 100 days in office for Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari’s election in May marked a fundamental turning point in Nigeria’s conflicted political history. Buhari first assumed political power through a military coup in 1983. But he later resigned and political power transitioned to an elected president. Buhari unsuccessfully ran for the elected office in 2003, 2007, and 2011. Earlier this year he campaigned again for the position and won the popular vote, marking the first time in Nigerian history that an incumbent president lost the office through a popular vote.

Buhari’s presidential campaign centered on three main pillars: defeating the Boko Haram terrorist group that occupied much of the northern part of the country, fighting the rampant corruption that plagues Nigeria, and spurring economic growth. How has he done? Boko Haram has been dispelled from much of the territory it held in northern Nigeria but remains a threat. Corruption remains rampant. And economic growth in Nigeria has been undermined by falling global oil prices.

What do you think? Can Buhari spur economic growth in Nigeria? How? What would you counsel him to do if you were his political and economic adviser?

Elections in Nigeria

Elections are taking place in Nigeria this weekend, pitting incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler.  As is often the case in Nigerian politics, the election highlights some of the sharp internal divisions in the country. Jonathan is a Christian from the southern part of the country, while Buhari is a Muslim from the north. Overlaying the election, Nigeria has faced ongoing unrest, particularly in the north, where the terrorist organization Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked villages, kidnapped civilians, and attempted to destabilize the regime and impose its own system of rule. The government’s response has been sharply criticized by many in the country—particularly those in the north—as entirely insufficient.

The election this weekend is expected to be close, and the government has imposed a strict voter identification system employing identification cards and biometric scans in an effort to stem fraud. But critics contend that the system itself is being employed to make it more difficult for critics of the regime to vote.

What do you think? Is the government of Nigeria taking sufficient steps to ensure that all citizens can vote? Is the voter identification system—and accompanying rulings limiting the ability of internally displaced person in the country to vote—an effort to retain control in a sharply contested election? Or is it an effort to ensure the integrity of the voting process? Why?

Terror in Paris vs. Terror in Nigeria

Michelle Obama holds the #BringBackOurGirls message after the April 2014 kidnapping of 273 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. Approximately 230 remain missing.

Michelle Obama holds the #BringBackOurGirls message after the April 2014 kidnapping of 273 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. Approximately 230 remain missing.

While the world’s attention has been focused on the fallout from the Paris terror attacks, Boko Haram, a terrorist organization dedicated to establishing an Islamic state in Nigeria, has intensified its operations in the country. While social media has been dominated by the message #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), referring to the attack against the satirical journal Charlie Hebdo in Paris, much less attention has been paid to the message #JeSuisNigeria.

Meanwhile, new satellite photos suggest that as many as 2,000 people have been killed and more than 3,600 structures in Baga, a town in northern Nigeria, have been destroyed. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced as a result of the attacks and ongoing fighting between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram terrorists.

Boko Haram, officially known as the People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad, has been implicated in a series of attacks and kidnappings, including the kidnapping of more than 270 girls from Chibok last April. That kidnapping launched a social media campaign featuring celebrities, politicians and others holding a sign with the message #BringBackOurGirls. In total, as many as 1.5 million people have been displaced as a result of the group’s activities in northern Nigeria, and Boko Haram has recently threatened to expand its operations into Cameroon and other countries in the region.

What do you think?  Why have the activities of Boko Haram generated significantly less international attention than the Paris terror attacks? Do you think that the international community should respond to Boko Haram? If so, how? If not, why not?

Fighting Boko Haram

First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday released a video stating that she and her family were “outraged and heartbroken” by the mass kidnapping of more than 200 girls from their school in Nigeria. A militant Islamic group known as Boko Haram http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13809501 has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. Despite threats that they would sell the girls into slavery if the West intervened, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron announced they would provide military and humanitarian assistance to the Nigerian government as it struggles to address the crisis.

Boko Haram’s primary goal is to establish an Islamic state free from Western influences in the northern part of Nigeria. The group is believed to be responsible for more than 10,000 deaths in Nigeria, but has limited influence outside the country.

The most recent round of kidnappings have provoked a sharp response, and the #BringBackOurGirls twitter campaign has garnered support from a wide variety of Hollywood stars,  professional athletes, music and recording artists, and celebrities. But US and British intervention in Nigeria could provoke a sharp response and have unintended consequences, further destabilizing the Nigerian government and leading to an increase in domestic support for radical elements.

What do you think? Should the United States intervene in Nigeria to address the rise of Boko Haram? Why? What kind of action, if any, do you think the United States should take? Can Western intervention be successful? Why?

Collecting Economic Data

The US Capitol, Washington, DC

The US Capitol, Washington, DC

It seems that House’s war on (political) science is not yet over. House Resolution 1638, The Census Reform Act of 2013, was introduced yesterday. If passed, the legislation would prohibit the U.S. Census from collecting any information beyond the Constitutionally-mandated decennial population count. Specifically, it would end collection of the U.S. agricultural census, the government census, the mid-decade census, and the American Community Survey. The United States, in other words, would lack basic economic data, such as the unemployment rate and the gross domestic product measures which are calculated using data collected by the Census Bureau.

There are many countries which lack regular reporting of basic economic data. In many African countries, for example, annual GDP reports are calculated using base year estimates and an annual multiplier adjustment calculated from a few key indicators. The problem is that the further we move from the base year, the mess accurate the economic measures become. Indeed, the problem was so pronounced in Nigeria that a 2012 revision added nearly $100 billion to the national economy overnight, increasing the size of the economy by 40%. The revision was not based on any real change in the country’s economic output—it was certainly not a function of a dramatic level of economic growth. Rather, it was simply a recalculation of the figure based on more up-to-date (and arguably more accurate) data. In 2010, Ghana similarly experienced a 60 percent increase in its GDP.

So does all this matter? Should we worry about the accuracy of GDP figures in the United States? Or unemployment figures, which would be similarly affected by the proposal? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Another Reason for Literature in the Classroom

A student emailed me a very powerful Ted talk this morning that follows nicely on yesterday’s post on Chinua Achebe. In the Ted Talk, Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian author, explains the danger of a single story.

From the video: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”