Recently elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with President Obama in Washington, D.C., Monday, where the President endorsed Buhari’s plan to relocate the nation’s military leadership to the homeland of Boko Haram and crack down on the terrorist group’s violent activities.
Monday was Buhari’s first trip to the White House since being elected in March; he had previously led Nigeria following a military coup for a brief tenure in the 1980s. President Obama told reporters following the meeting that Buhari has “a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram extremists of all sorts inside his country.” Reuters notes that few know the details of this agenda, outside of relocating the heads of the military and providing soldiers themselves with more weapons and resources. The United States has contributed significantly to the latter, committing $5 million to the fight against Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram since Buhari’s election over then-incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.
“I want to emphasize how much I appreciate President Buhari’s work so far,” President Obama said in a statement. “I have seen him put together a team so that we can do everything that we can to help him succeed and help the people of Nigeria succeed.”
In addition to meeting with President Obama, Buhari made a plea directly to the American people in a column published by The Washington Post. “While we work to defeat the terrorists, I ask the people of Nigeria and the world for resolve and fortitude,” he writes. “The campaign we will wage will not be easy; it may not be swift … [b]ut no one should have any doubt as to the strength of our collective will or my commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace and normalcy to all affected areas.”
Buhari addresses, in particular, the recent surge in Boko Haram attacks. In the past two weeks, suicide bombers believed to be connected to Boko Haram targeted mosques, markets, and other civilian areas in Nigeria, Niger, and Chad. In late June, two teen female suicide bombers attacked a mosque in northern Nigeria; a week later, Boko Haram jihadists slit the throats of dozens in a town on the Chadian border. Twin suicide bombings on the eve of Eid left more than 60 dead in Borno state.
Most recently, on Monday, more than 20 people were found dead in a village in Cameroon, the victims of a Boko Haram attack in which, reportedly, more than 80 jihadists attacked the village, confronted only by seven soldiers.
Buhari spun this as a sign that Nigeria is winning, not losing, the war on Boko Haram. “In recent weeks, it appears to have shifted away from confronting the military directly to an increase in attacks on civilian areas, as we saw only last week when an elderly woman and 10-year-old girl blew themselves up at a Muslim prayer gathering in northeastern Nigeria,” he writes, calling this a “degrading” of Boko Haram’s ability to hit military targets. “We should not be confused by this change, hateful as it is: It does not mean that Boko Haram is succeeding in its aims — it shows that it is losing.”
In addition to fighting Boko Haram, Buhari wrote that he would address with President Obama rampant political corruption that has left the military significantly defunded. Buhari will ask President Obama for assistance in finding the politicians responsible for the disappearance of $150 billion from government coffers.