Nigeria’s Civil Society

This past Monday, Islamist militant group Boko Haram orchestrated an attach on college students in northeastern Nigeria. Sparing only the female students, Boko Haram burned down the college dormitories and shot those trying to escape. Part of this month’s seemingly random attacks, Boko Haram killed at least 29 (some estimates go as high as 40) people on Monday, increasing fatalities of this month alone to more than 200.

This is not the first of Boko Haram’s attacks on universities or colleges. Government attempts to prevent the violence have been largely unsuccessful. In fact, president Goodluck had sent top military personnel to the area just three days before the attack.

This act, along with other acts of terror carried out by Boko Haram, point toward the inability of President Goodluck to provide security to Nigeria’s citizens. This is one obvious facet that questions the legitimacy of the current administration. However, could this targeting have greater effects on civil society in Nigeria?

Civil society is a large part of any functioning democracy. Civil society can place checks on the government, expose corruption, help enact good governance/anti-corruption reforms, and promote political participation. Civil society also gives citizens a space to develop their opinions and express these views in a manner than is conducive to a stable democracy. Perhaps most important in a Nigerian context, civil society allows for cross-cutting between ethnic, linguistic, religious, or regional divides. In a country that is so deeply divided on many different levels, civil society could be one potential way to unify different sectors of the population.

This most recent targeting of a university is horrific in terms of its human expense, but it could have even more drastic consequences in terms of democracy in Africa’s most populous country.

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3 Responses to Nigeria’s Civil Society

  1. etomatore says:

    I wonder why there was an attack on college students. I believe last week the target was the government where an extremist group set off a bomb in front of the President’s house, which makes a little more sense the group would be an opposition to the current government leadership. Was their attack based on a perception that colleges promote Western ideals? Otherwise, the attack could have negative impacts on the extremist group, either for the potential of recruiting new members or gaining support. Unlike Danny’s argument in the case of Libya where a failure in democracy could lead to more consolidation of extremist groups, Boko Haram seems to be pushing potential supporters away. Was there any mention as to why they targeted students?

  2. amandacatalina says:

    Thats a good point. I think that to some extent, the attack was against Western ideals and the proliferation of these ideals in colleges. I think in one article, one of the victims said that she was told “go home and find a husband,” or something along those lines. It is interesting too that the group decided to spare women in the college and only attacked the men. I’m not sure if I can make much sense out of it.

  3. In relation to both of your comments, here is an article that describes the evolving tactics of Boko Haram. Using the article as a background piece, the kidnapping of women at this particular school seems to be the frequent response to the Nigerian government’s detention of BH’s family members in 2012.

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