The declaration of an ‘Islamic Caliphate’ in northeastern Nigeria by Boko Haram militants points to an I-am-no-less-than-you mindset of the militant group. Going by the histrionics of its leader Shekau on Internet videos, it is well within rational limits to say that he is a blood-thirsty maniac. His outpourings of venom against Nigerian authorities and diatribes against the West have created an image of perverse cruelty.
Now, Boko Haram wants to be counted in the league of another hardline Islamist group, Islamic State. Since the group has run riot in Syria and Iraq and killed hundreds after declaring a ‘Caliphate’, it has drawn global attention. Boko Haram’s move to declare a ‘Caliphate’ along the same lines points to a replication of the other militant organsiation’s moves.
Boko Haram recently kidnapped about 200 Nigerian girls from a school in northeastern Nigeria, which is a stronghold of the Islamist group. It was this incident that helped the group attain global notoriety.
An international conference in Paris under the aegis of France a few months ago took stock of the threat the militant Islamists pose to the region and the world after the kidnappings. Initially caught napping, the government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan did not do much to go after the militants and aggressively hunt the girls, who are both Muslims and Christians. Boko Haram, which translates to ‘western education is sin’ in the local Hausa language, has recently stepped up attacks.
The latest move by the group is a desperate attempt meant to raise its profile as one that can take on the might of the state.
The Nigerian military yesterday rejected Boko Haram’s claim of forming a Caliphate in Gwoza in Borno state. “The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state is still intact. Operations to secure that area from the activities of the bandits is still ongoing,” a defence spokesman said.
The Nigerian government has been unsuccessful in stemming the tide of rising militancy and growing fundamentalism in the West African state. Nigeria’s rich oil resources haven’t led to a substantial rise in income levels in the impoverished country. The Opec state still has to get its act together as far as the economy is concerned.
The government of President Goodluck Jonathan has to deal with militancy with an iron hand. Nigerian troops complain of being poorly equipped to take on Boko Haram amid a sharp dip in the morale of the forces.
A long-term plan to fight militancy should include not only better equipment and training for the security forces, but also bringing about administrative reforms. Streamlining intelligence services and giving them more power would help the security apparatus buttress its strengths•