The Nigerian people have spoken, and they have elected a former military dictator from the nation’s Muslim north to defeat Boko Haram.
President-elect Muhammadu Buhari vowed on Wednesday, in a more extensive second statement on his election victory, to “spare no effort” against the terrorist threat.
Initially following his victory, Buhari issued a short statement thanking his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan, for peacefully accepting his electoral defeat, and vowed a longer address to come. He issued that longer address in the form of a “contract” with the Nigerian people on Wednesday, and in it he vowed to use the full force of the state to destroy the jihadist terrorist group.
“No doubt, this nation has suffered greatly in the recent past, and its staying power has been tested to its limits by crises, chief among which is insurgency of the Boko Haram,” Buhari stated. “I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas. We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.”
Vanguard notes that Buhari, whose tenure as dictator is most remembered for a “war against indiscipline” that resulted in dozens jailed for corruption or perceived laziness, also vowed in his new statement to fight “corruption, terrorism and degradation of values.”
Buhari is from Katsina state, in the north of the country and west of the states Yobe, Adamawa, and Borno– those most ravaged by Boko Haram violence. Buhari himself was the target of a Boko Haram bombing in July 2014, when a convoy in which he was traveling was hit by a suicide bomber. While Buhari survived, 15 others were killed.
With direct experience being involved in Boko Haram violence, much of Buhari’s campaign centered around attacking Jonathan for not reacting strongly enough to Boko Haram attacks. Claiming the president had failed to fully engage the threat, he also claimed that rampant corruption in the Jonathan administration had weakened the military.
“If you consider the foreign revenue Nigeria has generated since 1999, you will be shocked at how inefficient and corrupt PDP has been,” he said of the ruling party. “Soldiers have been saying they are ill equipped, yet trillions have been voted for defence in the last three years.” Buhari also accused Jonathan of turning Nigeria into a “failed state” after the presidential election was postponed in February due to Boko Haram attacks.
Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) retorted by accusing Buhari of “playing politics” with terrorism, though the accusation appears to have failed to stick. In January, polls showed a significant increase in the number of Nigerians that cited “security,” particularly in the country’s northeast, as the biggest issue facing Nigeria today.
Jonathan’s administration did little to quell concerns that he, a southern Christian, was as concerned about the threat of Boko Haram in the north as much of the rest of the world, particularly following Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State, headquartered in Raqqa, Syria. On March 21, reports surfaced of the discovery of a mass Boko Haram grave in the town of Damasak, following its liberation by Chadian forces (Chad, Niger, Benin, and Cameroon have agreed to send troops into Nigeria to help contain the Boko Haram threat). Chadian troops complained for days that the Nigerian military had yet to show up and secure the town, as the liberation could only be temporary should Boko Haram return.
Boko Haram did return, three days later, abducting between 350-500 of Damasak’s residents, hundreds more than the famed Chibok school attack from which hundreds of girls are still missing.
The Nigerian people seem to have noticed the problem only getting worse under Jonathan’s tenure. Buhari, a familiar face from the three previous elections he lost, made destroying Boko Haram the core of his campaign, and was handed the victory. The challenge facing him today is prodigious, and it will take months to fully judge his approach to the terrorist threat once he assumes power, but the mandate from the people who elected him is clear.