How Nigeria should respond to Boko Haram
May 3rd, 2014
10:19 AM ET

How Nigeria should respond to Boko Haram

By Orji Uzor Kalu, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Orji Uzor Kalu is a former governor of Nigeria’s Abia State and 2007 presidential candidate. The views expressed are his own.

The announcement last month that Nigeria’s economy had finally surpassed South Africa’s to become the largest in Africa should have been a cause for celebration – a shift that recognized the significant progress this country has made. Sadly, what was to have been a landmark announcement was overshadowed by an all too familiar problem.

On April 14, a bomb ripped through a crowded bus station in Abuja, claiming dozens of lives. The scene was described by some as post-apocalyptic, with body parts strewn across the area. The Islamic militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack, with one alleged representative issuing a chilling warning that “this was but a minor incident” and that “we [continue to] walk among you, yet you do not know who we are.”

The group didn’t take long to act on its threat. Less than 48 hours later, the group abducted almost 200 girls from their boarding school in the northeast of the country, with gunmen storming the school as they slept. Reports this week suggest many of the girls may since have been sold into marriage.

The two attacks are just the latest examples of an apparent upsurge in militant attacks, activity that has spilled over to neighbors such as Cameroon, whose government has warned that clerics have been recruiting members in mosques in the country.

All this suggests that it is time to rethink the threat posed by the group, not least with an acknowledgment that this is by no means simply a Nigerian problem. But in doing so, governments in the region must also be willing to take a more proactive approach – simply condemning militant action after the fact is futile. Instead, regional leaders need to cooperate in tackling the root of the problem by understanding the motives and ambitions of the group.

So what does Boko Haram want? Yes, the group is broadly opposed to the education of girls, especially through what it deems “Western” education. And the group has also long considered itself to be a nation-building movement.

But this troublingly organized militant outfit is not merely interested in imposing Sharia law in the northeast of the country, capitalizing on the indoctrination of those disillusioned by the failure of Nigeria’s leaders to introduce reforms and improve the lives of those living in rural areas. In this era of accelerating globalization, it appears Boko Haram hopes to align itself with extremist forces in Niger, Mali and potentially in the Middle East, which raises the specter of coordination on the stockpiling of munitions, intelligence gathering and future assaults.

It is in part the fear that the group may already have made progress on cross-border cooperation that has sparked discussion among officials in the region of a multinational joint border patrol, one that could comprise representatives from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and the Republic of Benin – all of whom might find themselves in Boko Haram’s crosshairs. Concrete progress on this idea could see the establishment of cooperative patrol teams along all common borders with a view to developing a partnership that would reinforce both domestic and international security.

Such patrols would also have the advantage of further facilitating the sharing of timely intelligence and modern technology on a range of cross-border concerns, not just terrorism.

Unfortunately, at least in Nigeria’s case, there are internal as well as external barriers to realizing such an initiative, not least the fragmented nature of governance here, which is compounded by mistrust between states. And although the call from leaders across the country for a united front in tackling Boko Haram is welcome, progress will be dependent on the country embracing and investing in new technologies and the enhancement of military intelligence capabilities.

But even before such investment, Nigeria should undertake a proper and thorough audit of its internal defense capabilities to ensure that future resources are directed to where they will be most effective. Establishment of a major military barracks in Borno State, where the recent mass kidnapping took place, would be one way of improving the quality of information and communication in the unsettled northeast of the country. The need for improving such intelligence was underscored by the inability of security forces to quickly establish the precise whereabouts of the girls.

Recent events have made clear that now, more than ever, Nigeria and its neighbors need some fresh thinking on how to improve security. Doing so will not only directly save countless lives, but will also ensure the kind of stable economic environment the country needs to continue its rapid development.

In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers should go out to the families of the innocent girls who were snatched from their beds – a reminder of the tragic future that awaits Nigeria if it fails to act now.

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Topics: Nigeria • Terrorism • Uncategorized

soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Peter

    Political failure and religious extremism is d main cause of this evil group boko haram. Internal traitors and external infiltrators are further complicating the whole situation. GOD HELP us.

    May 3, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Nigeria may now be the largest economy in Africa. Yet its wealth is not equally distributed. Rampant corruption and government's failure to tackle social and economic woes were one of the few reasons why Islamists and anarchists like the Boko Haram rose to prominence.

      May 5, 2014 at 10:48 am | Reply
  2. banasy©

    How they consider themselves to be nation-building when they want to eradicate education and constantly bomb their infrastructure?

    Those poor, poor girls. My heart goes out to them.

    May 3, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Reply
    • Nate

      Depends what kind of nation you're trying to build, I suppose.

      May 5, 2014 at 10:30 am | Reply
    • Tolu

      Boko haram wants to eradicate education. Not the rest of the population or the government. Just Ill minded extremists

      May 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Reply
      • kojo

        You call that government.Gov cares for its people regardless but the money bags there whom you refer to as government dont understand governing but money bagging.
        Nigeria should be asking for help to run their country because they can't.
        Reason? There is no responsible government. Why did it take the shameless government to finally admit that they dont have the capability.
        ALL TOO FAMILIAR

        May 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
  3. Delex

    Well, beside the fact that Orji Uzoh Kalu is not saying anything new-probably making a political showing for an ulterior interest-I would have recommended and supported his advice, if it were not to come from someone who himself had contributed directly or indirectly in creating political turmoil in Nigeria in the past. The fact remains obvious to Kalu and all Nigerians that all the noise about this group having any religious motivation are utter insinuations and calculated blackmail, otherwise they would have left out those they claimed to be fighting for in their deadly attacks. Boko haram is no nation building group they are nothing but mindless butchers who take delight in blood sucking and cannibalism. Those who claim to know them-including Nigerian president-and those in his political class should summon the political will and fish them out and stop shedding crocodile tears-making themselves heros by issueing empty and deceitful consolations after every attacks. Take it from me, Boko haram is entirely political and can only be solved politically.

    May 4, 2014 at 4:20 am | Reply
  4. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    How should Nigeria respond to Boko Haram?
    Great spies and drones would be ideal.
    If Nigeria cannot swing that combination, a reasonable facsimile might suffice.

    May 4, 2014 at 5:22 am | Reply
    • Ridgeback

      Correct. AQ are terrified of drones which have proved to be the only weapon they fear and loathe. There is no reason why they should not be deployed against BH with similar effect. They collect intelligence in real time and can respond to situations at short notice. Collateral damage is often cited against the use of drones but if a community is supporting acts of terrorism by giving succour and solace to the terrorists then they are part and parcel of the same problem. Innocents will inevitably die but whilst these people use the general public as shields this has to be accepted in the interest of the public at large and the security of the state.

      May 5, 2014 at 7:06 am | Reply
  5. chrissy

    @ Joey, smh!

    May 4, 2014 at 11:37 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ chrissy:
      First banasy wrote "smh" to me, and now you've written the same cryptic cuteness.
      I had to call a younger friend for a definition. He had to google it.
      Thank you for calling me a se-
      xy man. How can I help you?

      May 5, 2014 at 8:04 am | Reply
  6. bobcat2u

    Boko Haram

    Aren't they the group who sang Whiter Shade Of Pale ?

    May 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      I told that joke one time on TJI, and BayerBoy took Umbrage©.
      I thought it was funny....

      May 4, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Reply
      • bobcat2u

        I just love the way that word sounds. I've been posting a lot on the Yahoo site, and umbrage taking seems to be a way of life over there. No sense of humor whatsoever. I'd throw that term at them over there, but I doubt most of them would know what it means.

        May 4, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
      • banasy©

        I love that word, as well. Sadly, most people don't know the meaning of the words they bandy about. It's rather amusing, really.

        May 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
      • rupert

        Be quiet banasy or I shall kiss u

        May 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
  7. Joe

    Don't no why the government is hesitating in initiating morden military procurement,this problem can be drastically reduced with the aid of morden military arms,alpha jets we ar using are not too good for this type of gorilla war, what we need here is atleast 50 high tech helicopter gunships and othes for air support and this nonsense will be minimized to the lowest level,governmnt you are playing politics with our life's it's high time we avenge for this wasting innocent souls get this you are their to protect the lifes of your citizens not yours.

    May 4, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  8. chrissy

    I dont know why but i cant access that site on my phone. And believe me ive tried.

    May 4, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  9. azlan

    I disagree with some aspects of this article, I strongly believe that mire prisons be built across the nation and sponsors of boko haram be arrested and imprisoned along corrupted persons and corrupt political leaders and you'll see a turn around in the way development will affect the lives of Nigerians meaningfully..... GEJ should step on toes if he wants to achieve success, Nigerians should stand up, get off there shallow ways and demand better politics and not allow recycling of same criminals whom are after stealing public funds in mass billions that's the problem northerns are facing now new political leaders are needed as a matter of urgency.

    May 5, 2014 at 6:59 am | Reply
  10. chrissy

    Lololol @ Joey. It means "shaking my head"

    May 5, 2014 at 9:55 am | Reply
  11. chrissy

    Lol @ Joey im almost afraid to ask but...what does the "h" stand for in your definition then??

    May 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  12. chrissy

    Lol so when i write "smh" you're gonna think i need "s e x y man help"? Lmao seriously!

    May 6, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Reply
  13. tifetemi

    The boko haram terrorism is not only with the issue of attacks, but also have effect on the girl child education. With the issue of kidnapping our girls, which is all over the place, has not been put to an end, the government should make more security for girls in other for them to be more secured.RUNSEWE LATIFAT AYOMIDE(Caleb university imota Lagos).

    May 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  14. Theman chukwuma

    How they consider themselves to be nation-building when they want to eradicate education and constantly bomb their infrastructure?

    May 12, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Reply

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