Boko Haram are said to be behind the recent slaughter spree in northeast Nigeria, including the suicide bomber who killed and injured approximately 50 locals at the Maiduguri cattle market on Tuesday, June 2, less than a week after new president Muhammadu Buhari promised to stamp out the terrorist cell in Nigeria. The bomber is said to have positioned himself near a busy slaughterhouse in the center of the market. The death toll and number of injured has not been confirmed, but local eye witnesses report seeing 30 to 50 bodies on the ground. Through fear of reprisal from the terrorist group, these witnesses pleaded to remain anonymous.
Only hours before the explosion, residents came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades and automatic gunfire in what is becoming an all too familiar savage and unprovoked attack by the Islamist militants. Speaking on the telephone to members of the Associated Press during the siege, distressed homemaker Sumaila Ayuba begged for help, “The shooting is deafening,” she cried, “please, we need prayers”.
The recent slaughter spree on areas of Northeastern Nigeria began on Friday, May 29th, when a bomb planted by the Boko Haram terror group was detonated at a local wedding reception, only moments after Buhari was sworn in as Nigeria’s new president. Many guests were able to flee the scene, but 12 were injured and ten were killed in the explosion. The following day, a suicide bomber entered a mosque in Maiduguri and murdered 23. By the coming Tuesday, officials in the area believed that the attacks were carried out by Boko Haram in direct retaliation to Buhari’s pledge to eradicate the group.
Buhari, who was elected by popular vote, took a strong political stance in his inaugural address when he defiantly referred to Boko Haram as “a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of.” Speaking in full, traditional Muslim attire and with a copy of the Qu’ran in his hand, Buhari continued to defame the terrorists, attacking their leader Abubakar Shekau as an “eccentric and unorthodox leader with a tiny following” who was given “posthumous fame” due to the “bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion” of government officials. This statement could be viewed as a direct reference to a speech given during his political campaign where he told journalists that Nigeria’s Federal Government were, in fact, the ‘biggest Boko Haram”.
Mixed reports are trying to make sense of the situation in northeast Nigeria, but the general consensus is that Buhari, for all his best intentions, has just antagonized the Islamist terrorists Boko Haram. The fundamental question now is whether the newly elected president can keep one of the most important promises he could have made to the people of Nigeria. Buhari is clear about his long-term goals for conquering this problem; blaming poverty and ignorance for the rise in extremist belief systems, he vowed to invest in the education of the young, in particular Nigeria’s young women. His interest in lifting the perceptions of, and opportunities for, women and young girls will be greatly comforting to a nation still mourning the kidnapping of 220 girls from their school building a year ago. Buhari claims he does not know where the Chibok girls are, but that he will ensure his government explores every avenue to “bring the girls home”.
Under the reign of Goodluck Johnson, Nigeria’s former president, officials in the federal building in Abuja canceled an arrangement with the United States (US) to restore and retrain the Nigerian military. Buhari is quick to see this offer of support from the US reignited, and wishes to deploy a more efficient army over a wider area in the battle with Boko Haram. On top of this, he is making it very clear to all African nations that Nigeria now has a leader who is strong, capable and determined to eradicate terrorism in the region. He stated “Our neighbours in the Sub-region and our African brethren should rest assured that Nigeria under our administration will be ready to play any leadership role that Africa expects of it.” He went on to declare during his inaugural speech, “Here I would like to thank the governments and people of Cameroon, Chad and Niger for committing their armed forces to fight Boko Haram.”
The slaughter spree that Boko Haram have been on in the last week, including a suicide bomber attack in a cattle market in Maiduguri, proves that the terrorists are not backing away from a fight with Buhari. As residents of northeast Nigeria continue to run for cover during what is becoming a daily attack on their lives and their properties, Buhari and his government must first rectify the errors of their predecessors. As reports today announce possible human rights violations conducted by the Nigerian army, Buhari’s pledge to reform Nigeria and oust Boko Haram seems like an almost insurmountable task.
Opinion By Alison Klippenstein
Gaurdian: Boko Haram bombs Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria, killing 20
AlJazeera: Explosion kills dozens at Nigeria cattle market
CTV News: Boko Haram attack rocks busy area in northeast Nigeria
Council On Foreign Relations: Buhari’s Strategy for Stopping Boko Haram
Vanguardngr: Read President Buhari’s inaugural speech
In-line Photo Courtesy of GovernmentZA’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License