Yesterday, news broke of a horrific attack in Yobe state in northern Nigeria, where an estimated 29 boarding school students were killed during the night by the (recently-designated) terrorist organization Boko Haram. This new attack is one of many that have been carried out in Nigeria by the militant Islamic group since its creation in the early 2000s. However, what this most recent attack glaringly demonstrates is the lack of accountability and legitimacy of both the Nigerian government and military to effectively combat this violent group.
Since President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northern states – Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states – in May 2013 as a result of the activities of Boko Haram, more military support was granted to the states, and the Nigerian military set up various checkpoints throughout the states in order to provide more security for citizens. In this recent attack, though, it has been reported that the checkpoint near the boarding school had been abandoned prior to the attack. This abandonment and lack of accountability by the Nigerian military has caused outrage in the Yobe community. In addition to this particular incident of failure on the part of the security forces, many reports have come out from various organizations highlighting a number of abuses carried out on citizens in the north by the Nigerian military themselves, adding to the growing perception of the military’s illegitimacy.
The inability of the Nigerian military to conduct themselves appropriately and to combat the growing threat of Boko Haram in the north also represents a number of inadequacies in the leadership of President Jonathan. Specifically, the failures of the President to tamper the violent acts of Boko Haram calls into question his government’s legitimacy, since it cannot provide basic security to its citizens. These feelings are echoed by many within Nigeria, including a group of over 43 Civil Society Organizations, who just declared the President “not competent enough to tackle the menace of Boko Haram.” Additionally, President Jonathan has received a number of criticisms from different political leaders within the country, including from the current Governor of Borno state, one of the most states most affected by Boko Haram’s violent attacks.
If Boko Haram continues to gain strength and to remain unhindered in their violent attacks, it will not only be citizens under threat. The Nigerian state and military will continue to lose their legitimacy and thus ability to rule over one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s most powerful states, which would have immediate ramifications for not only President Jonathan’s administration and potential re-bid for election, but for regional stability as well.