With Nigeria’s presidential election only weeks away, Boko Haram’s unchecked rampaging here in the country’s north is helping to propel the 72-year-old general, Muhammadu Buhari (left), to the forefront, The New York Times reports:
After ruling Nigeria with an iron hand 30 years ago as the country’s military leader, Mr. Buhari is now a serious threat at the ballot box, analysts say, in large part because of Boko Haram’s blood-soaked successes…. As military ruler, Mr. Buhari showed little respect for the democratic process, rising to power in a coup that swept aside a civilian government and promising to include the political participation of Nigerian citizens “at some point.”
“The state is collapsing and everybody is frightened,” Jibrin Ibrahim, a political scientist with the Center for Democracy and Development, said of Boko Haram.
“They are able to capture more and more territory, but also increase the level of atrocity,” he added. “A lot of people are frightened that these people can take over the whole country. So a lot of people are saying, ‘Give Buhari a chance.’ ”
In 1983 as now, Africa’s leading oil producer was in the throes of an oil shock. The resulting collapse in state revenues revealed how bloated and corrupt government had become during the preceding boom, when politicians were awash with petrodollars.
Austerity beckoned, and General Buhari imposed it with a “war on indiscipline” in the 20 months before he was overthrown by rival officers. He has tried unsuccessfully to win back power at the polls three times since civilian rule was restored in 1999. But on each occasion — in 2003, 2007 and 2011 — world oil prices were either recovering nicely or close to peaking. The tough outlook this year for Africa’s largest economy, which depends on oil for more than 90 per cent of export earnings and 70 per cent of state revenues, sets the scene for a much tighter contest this time round.
“The conflict is rapidly intensifying,” Nathaniel Allen, Peter M. Lewis and Hilary Matfess, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, wrote in the Washington Post.
“Nigerian casualties are now running more than double those in Afghanistan and substantially higher than in Iraq just a few years ago. An estimated 3,120 civilian and military casualties were recorded in Afghanistan last year. In Iraq, 4,207 fatalities were estimated in 2011 in the wake of the surge. The worsening conflict in northern Nigeria already has suffered more casualties this year than the world’s most publicized contemporary wars.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, moving to prevent another key U.S. counterterrorism ally from collapsing under a militant insurgency, on Sunday warned Nigeria’s top two presidential candidates that future military assistance will depend on February’s election being peaceful and transparent, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Relations between American military trainers and specialists advising the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram [which has been described as Africa’s ISIS] are so strained that the Pentagon often bypasses the Nigerians, choosing to work instead with security officials in the neighboring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger, according to New York Times reports.