Sim Tack: I’m Sim Tack, military analyst at Stratfor. And with me today is Mark Schroeder, our vice president for Africa analysis. We’ll be talking about recent events surrounding the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria. So mark, just in the last few days we’ve seen several attacks in Maiduguri up in Borno state. We’ve seen attacks going into Cameroon over the last few weeks. And then we’ve seen Boko Haram militants push Nigerian military out of a base up and near Lake Chad. What is actually going on there and how much does this matter to the Nigerian government?
Mark Schroeder: So book haram you’re absolutely correct has been conducting a fairly intense insurgency operation, still largely concentrated in northeastern Nigeria. We have seen a few operations across the border into Cameroon and the extreme north of Cameroon. Boko Haram is still a threat to expand its operations outside of northeastern Nigeria to other regions of Nigeria. But you’re absolutely correct that Boko Haram has waged a very intense insurgency and the Nigerian government and its military has really struggled to counter the militant group.
Sim: Why is it that the military struggles? Is this directly related to the role that the northeastern region of Nigeria plays for the government or are there other causes at play here?
Mark: Well, the Nigerian military has struggled with funding and political support from the federal government of Nigeria. And the government has really struggled to provide sufficient financing, to provide the military equipment, weapons, ammunition, more advanced platforms to the military to combat Boko Haram. And the criticisms have been that in the absence of sufficient support by the Nigerian government toward its military, Boko Haram’s actually been a superior fighting force in terms of weapons and ammunition and supplies in fighting the Nigerian military and government in the northern part of the country.
Sim: So one of the major things that we’re looking at when we’re talking about anything taking place in Nigeria right now is of course the timing. So we’re just a month before national elections where current President Goodluck Jonathan will be running against Buhari, a candidate from the north. How does all of this play out in relation to Boko Haram and other potential militancy issues in Nigeria?
Mark: Yeah that’s a very important factor that you bring up. With national elections taking place just one month from tomorrow in fact, incumbent President Jonathan is standing for re-election. It’s a controversial re-election campaign given certain understandings and oppositions to Goodluck Jonathan largely in northern Nigeria. But how that plays out in terms of Boko Haram and the insurgency, the Jonathan government has really not emphasized a very strong response or very efficient response to Boko Haram. It obviously has the whole of Nigeria that it is responsible for, the Jonathan administration. It has priorities in other parts of the country that are more important economically despite the threat by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria or northern Nigeria more generally. This part of the country really lacks any meaningful economic infrastructure to it unlike southern Nigeria where all of the oil and gas is, where the commercial capital Lagos is located. And so the absence of an efficient response to Boko Haram by the Jonathan administration will continue if Jonathan were to be re-elected. However, you bring up the candidacy of Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner Nigerian, a former military ruler, a former general, and it would be expected that if Buhari is elected president of Nigeria in next month’s election, he would command a much more efficient response to the Boko Haram threat.
Sim: So assuming that we see a really close contested election with allegations over the legitimacy of the elections based on no votes being able to take place in the northeast, how would that potential security fallout or political fallout directly affect efforts against the Boko Haram insurgency or potentially effect Nigeria as a whole?
Mark: No, that’s a good question. In the first place, we have to look for the degree of political will to counter Boko Haram. And if the Nigerian government and politicians are distracted by contests over the election, there’s going to be less will, less attention toward countering the Islamist militant group. And these concerns could play out for a long time and Boko Haram, if no checks are placed on them, and if there is no political will to counter Boko Haram, then we have to expect that the militant group will continue to intensify and expand its insurgency.
Sim: Thank you that was very interesting. Sadly that’s all we’ve got time for, but if you wish to find out more about these issues, please visit stratfor.com.
“Conversation: As Nigerian Elections Near, Boko Haram Persists” is republished with permission of Stratfor.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.