April 21, 2014
Pham: Nigeria Kidnapping Highlights Government Failure
The attack on the school highlighted the government's inability to protect its citizens, says J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.
"The failure of the government to even to get a clear count further reinforces a perception of systemic governmental failure that plays into the narrative not only of Boko Haram, but also other dissident groups opposing Nigeria's constitutional order," Pham said.
The group seeks to replace Nigeria's government with an Islamic state, but its vision is so radical that even most Nigerians who have embraced sharia, or Koranic law, reject Boko Haram, Pham said. Still, the group has continued the pace and lethality of its operations in part because of how the Nigerian government has executed its campaign against it, he said.
Rather than launch a counterinsurgency operation including local intelligence, economic development and the resolution of political grievances on Boko Haram's home turf, Nigeria has relied entirely on its military, which has been poorly equipped and poorly trained since the end of military rule in 1999, Pham said.
The successful French military operation in Mali against al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in that country pushed Boko Haram and their al-Qaeda associates back into Nigeria. And Nigeria has also failed to enlist the cooperation of its neighbors, allowing Boko Haram units under attack to "jump the border to Cameroon, Niger, Chad and even across Niger to Mali, and then come back," Pham said.
"The Nigerian press is saying if they can spend such resources to protect foreigners for a glorified shindig, why can't they protect their own people," Pham said.