A Surge from the Forest: Towards Rescuing the Africa's Giant from the Boko Haram's Clench

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2014

30 Pages, Grade: Post-Graduate



That Boko Haram, a Nigerian based terrorist group, has been terrorizing every part of Northern Nigeria is no longer a new phenomenon as lives and properties are being lost on a daily basis to the insurgent’s sinister activity. What is new however, is the recent onslaught of the terrorist group. In the time past, it had the habit of hiding in the forest known as ‘Sambisa’ from where it perpetrated its malevolence acts. However, it appears as if the carnages and horror the country has seen in recent times are not enough as the insurgent group, once believed to be hiding its face in the forest of Sambisa, is now tending towards separatist expansionism as it is laying claim to the control of some parts of the country, engaging the military in what is rapidly becoming a conventional warfare. Indeed, Boko Haram has fully changed tactics as its attack is becoming more brutal with its well-equipped sophisticated weapons. Suicide-bombers are being dispatched ahead of high-speed convoys; the dissidents showed an eagerness to die in battle rather than duck bullets. Without the airstrikes, the results would have been otherwise. Given the approach of the Nigerian politicians to this issue, this crisis may remain a recurring problem. In the middle of these crises, the Nigerian government seemed to be short of ideas on how to curtail the excesses of this deadly group and nip its activities in the bud. After a critical field-work in the crisis-prone area, this research analysis the problems and offers a far-reaching recommendations on how the crisis can be permanently dealt with.

Keywords: Boko Haram, Nigeria, Terrorism, Sambisa Forest, Nigerian Army


The history of man is essentially a story of his attempt to secure himself. For those who accept the Bible literally, man has been stalked by insecurity since leaving the Garden of Eden. For those who prefer to follow man and his struggles by other routes, it is obvious that he has been faced with the spectre of insecurity since his very beginning. Virtually all the great and small wars have been fought to assure or maintain territorial integrity so that man could eat and live peaceably, within the geographical boundary which providence has placed him, with some degree of assurance of security. Michener’s fascinating novel, ‘ The Source ’, traces a single family through thousands of years and shows its civilization beginning with a quest to guarantee its domestic security[1]. Sabloff, in “The Patient Earth”, attributes the fall of the classic Maya civilization to its inability to recognize and deal with the root and the source of its domestic insecurity which was the pressures of over-population on the available food supplies[2]. While the great potato famine in Ireland in the 1800s resulted in millions of the Irish emigrating to the United States while those that stayed behind continued to foment trouble that almost brought the entire country to its knees[3]

Ironically, in man’s efforts to assure himself security, he does not only fail to identify the specific root of its insecurity but also formulates and pursues policies which mitigate against the very solution he seeks. In this case, Nigeria is certainly not an exception. This is indeed a very tough time in Nigeria. Various newspaper headlines offer credence into this. “Boko Haram seizes more towns[4] ”, screamed one while another newspaper cried out “Beaten in Bama, Boko Haram Launches Attack on Mubi, Michika”[5]. The Nigerian citizens have long been aware that the Boko Haram sect is the brain-child of Nigeria’s political circumstances as Nigerian politicians are in the habit of producing arms for some unemployed youths in order to threaten or eliminate their perceived political enemies, politicians always use these various groups as scary portent, as demonstration to their opponents, of what may come if they fall[6]. The dissident’s activities have since been hijacked by external forces such as Al Qaeda and ISIL. Though a London-based policy group, Chatham House, played down the much speculated close affinity between Boko Haram and the external terrorist groups[7], it is quite obvious from the manner of its operation, especially its latest push to carve out a sphere of influence for itself, that the Nigerian-based terrorist group is certainly trying to follow the patterns of what ISIS is doing in Syria and Iraq.

As if to compound the country’s problem; not only has there been close rapport between the operational styles of the two groups, there also exist clear resemblance in the attitudinal behaviours dispositions of both Iraq and Nigerian leaders towards the two terrorist groups. In June 2014, when extremists from the Islamic State (IS) took over the Iraqi city of Monsul and hurtled south towards Baghdad, the government of Nuri al-Maliki, the Shia Prime Minister denied that Monsul was under the control of IS while the Kurds, an opposing Sunni group in the North saw it as a deserved kick in the teeth for al-Maliki[8]. That sentiment faded away in August when IS turned around to take on the Peshmerga, the Kurdish armed forces. In Nigeria, long after it had become a public knowledge that the city of Gwoza had fell into the dissident’s hands and had been declared as the Capital of Islamic Caliphate by the Boko Haram Sect, government spokesmen kept denying the existence of such[9]. When 480 Nigerian troops could not withstand the superior firepower of the extremist and embarrassingly fled to Cameroon, the Defence Headquarter described the troop’s action as a “Tactical Manoeuvre[10] ”. Rather than conceding to the obvious, government kept maintaining that the sovereignty of Nigeria remained sacrosanct and perhaps belief that the problem will just melt away by its living in perpetual denial (Olorunfemi, 2014). Like it happens in Iraq, the major opposition party, while flaunting its willingness to help, keeps displaying a body language that seems to be saying the attack serves the president right (Anayo, 2014). While the opposition party has no love for the Boko Haram whose activities have brought governance to a standstill in the states under its jurisdiction, it usually acts as if a political gain should be achieved in every situation.

In the meantime, President Goodluck Jonathan is seemingly not doing enough to help the country in this trying hour. At the time when politics ought to be cast aside and focus fully on how to protect the sovereignty of Nigeria; regain the lost ground, recover its lost integrity, and, ultimately ensure that the over 276 girls, who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in their school at Chibok Village on 15th April, 2014, were rescued and brought home safely, he is rather pre-occupied with the preparation on how he would win the 2015 Presidential election. Sadly, the president’s campaign team has even turned the #BringBackOurGirls hash tag, which is being used to channel sympathy for the missing girls, to #BringBackGoodluck2015[11]. The President only ordered the deletion of the hash tag after it had generated domestic fury and intense condemnation from abroad[12]

The purpose of this research paper is to raise concerns about the level of crisis in the Northern part of Nigeria. And, to argue that, unlike the conclusion of some policy organisations such as Chatham House, Nigerian army still has the capacity to win this war. An attempt is made in the study to find solution to the existing security impasse by analyzing the security challenges from a perspective that is absent from much of the existing literature and reports.

Nigeria: Home of Contradictions

Apparently due to its large population and economy, Nigeria is often referred to as the "Giant of Africa"[13]. With an estimated 162.5 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world[14]. With its population, one in every five Africans is a Nigerian. The country has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world. By United Nations’ estimates, Nigeria will be one of the countries responsible for most of the world's total population increase by 2050[15]. The total population in Nigeria was last reported at 162.5 million people in 2011 from 45.2 million in 1960, changing 260 percent during the last 50 years. Nigeria has 2.35 percent of the world’s total population which means that one person in every 42 people on the planet is a resident of Nigeria. The following is a chart with historical data of Nigeria’s population.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The country is inhabited by over 250 fissiparous ethnic groups[16], of which the three largest are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Regarding religion, Nigeria is roughly divided in half between Christians, who live mostly in the southern and central parts of the country, and Muslims, concentrated mostly in the northern and southwestern regions. A minority of the population practice religions indigenous to Nigeria, such as those native to Igbo, Yoruba among other tribes.

Nigeria has gone through a twist and turns in the over five decades of its independence but in 2014, Nigeria's economy (GDP) became the largest in Africa, worth more than $500 billion, and overtook South Africa to become the world's 26th largest economy[17]. Furthermore, the debt-to-GDP ratio is only 11 percent (8 percent below the 2012 ratio). By 2050, Nigeria is expected to become one of the world's top 20 economies[18]. The country's oil reserves have played a major role in its growing wealth and influence. Nigeria is considered to be an Emerging market by the World Bank[19] and has been identified as a regional power in Africa[20]. It is also a member of the MINT group of countries, which are widely seen as the globe's next "BRIC-like" economies and listed among the "Next Eleven" economies set to become among the biggest in the world. Nigeria is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the African Union, OPEC, and the United Nations among other international organizations.

In the middle of this hope of a better future however, is the threat of terrorism which threatens to erode the gains of yesteryears if timely and lasted solutions are not found to it. Crisis is not strange to the country as it has gone from a crisis to another since it regained her independence in 1960. Contributing to this is the expansion of the democratic space beginning from 1999 which has let loose pent-up frustration and agitation contained by years of military misrule as the democracy established its footage. There is nothing new about communal conflicts in Nigeria. The country's diverse ethnic groups have always lived somewhat uneasily together, and there has been terrible outbreaks of violence in the past, although the current tension does not remotely compare, for instance with the situation in 1966, when ethnic pogrom helped spark off the Nigerian civil war[21]. The ongoing upsurge in violence really constitutes a major threat to the Nigeria’s togetherness.

Like a Bulgarian bear at bay, tormented and cut to pieces by a thousand bloodhounds, the Nigerian state has borne the brunt of a dramatic upsurge of ethnic militias (Dokubo, 1994), particularly since the restoration of civil governance. The names are often as bloodcurdling as their stated missions. The Maitatsine; Egbesu Boys of Africa; Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the Niger Delta Militants, and lately, the Boko Haram which has proved to be the most devastated of them all as it has led to the outbreak of humanitarian crisis in Nigeria with many people displaced from their homes[22].

Root Cause of the Crisis

Officially called the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the country has a federal system of administration with a Federal Capital Territory (FCT), 36 States and 774 Local Government Areas. The capital city is Abuja. The country is also the 6th largest producer of crude oil in the world; it is the 8th largest exporter and has the 10th largest proven reserves[23]. Ironically, Nigeria is a paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty. Despite its riches in human and natural resources, Nigeria is classified among the poorest countries of the world (Adesoji, 2010); its enormous resources notwithstanding, it is one of the countries with the lowest ratings in the Global Competitiveness Index[24]. The 2011 United Nations Human Development Index ranks Nigeria 156 out of 187 countries. Accordingly, the 2014 World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ report ranks Nigeria 133rd out of 183 economies, implying that the country lags behind 132 others in terms of how easy the regulatory and physical environment permits the start and conduct of a business. Water is good for health but Nigeria is ranked 3rd on the world list of countries with inadequate water supply and sanitation coverage globally[25] And, according to the World Health Organisation in his May 2014 reports, the country has the second highest maternal mortality/morbidity rate in Africa and the second highest infant mortality rate in the world[26].


[1] J.A. Michener (1965); “The Source” Random House, New York

[2] J.A. Sabloff, (1971); “The Collapse of Classic Maya Civilization” in “The Patient Earth ” Holt, Rinehart and Winston Publisher: New York.

[3] Duncan E.R., (1974); “A Role for the University Of Ife In Increasing Agricultural Production” An Inaugural Lecture delivered at the University of Ife. 30th April.

[4] See The Punch headline, September 8th, 2014 that states how “B’Haram seizes more towns: Michika, Uba in Adamawa fall”

[5] See This Day headline, Monday, September 8, 2014 on http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/beaten-in-bama-boko-haram-launches-attack-on-mubi-michika/188490/

[6] This assertion has also been affirmed by an external authority who acted as a negotiator between the Nigerian Federal Government and members of the Boko Haram Sect. in the interview he granted to a Nigerian New York-based online news, Sahara Reporters on August 31st, 2014, the Australian, Davis Steve, insisted that top Nigerian politicians are funding the Boko Haram’s activities.

[7] Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos, an Associate Fellow of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, in his research report with the caption “Nigeria’s Interminable Insurgency? Addressing the Boko Haram Crisis” affirmed that while there may be some semblance of similarity in the ways Boko Haram and other external terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIL operates, he denied the existence of any strong relationship among them. To read the full details of Chattam House report, see http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/field/field_document/20140901BokoHaramPerousedeMontclos_0.pdf

[8] See The Economist, “Engaging the Enemies”. August 16th, 2014 p. 15-16.

[9] See The Punch Newspaper, August 25th, 2014: “Boko Haram Declares Gwoza Islamic Caliphate”

[10] See The Leadership Newspaper, 26th August, 2014. “Cameroon Disarms 480 Fleeing Nigerian Troops: Troops Action in Tactical Manoeuvre – DHQ.”

[11] See Ishaan Tharror’s article “This may be the most inappropriate Political Hashtag of the Year” on http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/09/08/this-may-be-the-most-inappropriate-political-hashtag-of-the-year/

[12] See Punch report, “Jonathan Orders Removal of Offensive Campaign Banners” http://www.punchng.com/news/jonathan-orders-removal-of-offensive-campaign-banners/

[13] Peter Holmes (1985). Nigeria: Giant of Africa, National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company of Nigeria. P.16

[14] Library of Congress – Federal Research Division (July 2008) “Country Profile: Nigeria” p.9

[15] This estimation was made by the United Nations Organisation in its 2007 World Survey

[16] At the time of the latest census, there were an estimated 250 different ethnic groups in Nigeria, with many different languages, customs, and religions. Due to this rich ethnic diversity, the national identity is very heterogeneous. The three largest ethnicities are Hausa and Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo. See Living in Nigeria | InterNations.org www.internations.org/ nigeria -expats/guide/living-in- nigeria -15538

[17] Daniel Magnowski (7 April, 2014). “Nigerian Economy Overtakes South Africa’s on Rebased GDP” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-06/nigerian-economy-overtakes-south-africa-s-on-rebased-gdp.html

[18] Gopaldas (November, 2013) “Nigeria is Poised to Become Africa’s Most Powerful Nation” http://www.trademarksa.org/news/nigeria-poised-become-africa-s-most-powerful-nation

[19] "Nigeria". World Bank. Retrieved 28 November 2013. http://data.worldbank.org/country/nigeria

[20] "Nigeria". West Africa Gateway. http://www.westafricagateway.org/west-africa/country-profiles/nigeria

[21] See Charles Dokubo’s “The Nigerian Air Force in a Changing Security Environment”. A publication of the NIIA; it can be assessed on http://www.niianet.org/documents/articles%20pdf/publications/nigerian%20air%20force%20in%20a%20changing%20security%20environment.pdf

[22] According to the Human Rights Watch in its Report on the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, the attacks since the beginning of 2014 by Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group, in over 40 villages in northeastern Nigeria, have displaced thousands of people. People forced to flee their homes are dispersed throughout Nigeria and in neighboring countries, where they face serious problems in accessing food, water, shelter, and other basic rights. See the following link for more http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/14/nigeria-boko-haram-attacks-cause-humanitarian-crisis

[23] Nigeria is a member of OPEC and is one of the major exporters of crude oil in the world. Nigeria is the 6th largest producer of crude oil and the 5th largest supplier of crude oil to America and Western Europe. Most recently, Asia and India both have an average of 120,000 barrels and 150,000 barrels respectively per day crude oil allocation from Nigeria. Nigeria’s economy is heavily dependent on the oil sector, which accounts for nearly 80% of government revenues. Nigeria’s estimated proven oil reserves is currently about 36 billion barrels per day with a further 4 billion barrels per day forecast to be added by 2010 when most recently discovered oil wells in the continental oil shelve will have started production. With these findings and proven reserves, Nigeria can conveniently produce more than 3 million barrels per day, but this is grossly limited by OPEC quota, which creates room for surplus stock for refining within Nigeria. See “Facts About Nigeria” on http://quarefinery.com/facts-about-nigeria.html

[24] Nigeria, now Africa’s largest economy, continued its downward trend and fell by seven places to 127th this year on the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness report 2014-2015 released ON September 2nd, 2014, largely on the back of weakened public finances as a result of lower oil exports. According to the report, Nigerian institutions remain weak (129th) with insufficiently protected property rights, high corruption, and undue influence. In addition, the security situation remains dire, with Nigeria ranking 139th out of 144 countries ranked this year. See http://businessdayonline.com/2014/09/weak-public-finance-lower-oil-exports-dim-nigerias-global-competitiveness/#.VA83r2NBfQM

[25] Godknows Igali, erstwhile Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, who is now occupying the same position in the Ministry of Power, made this Statement in May 2012 while speaking at the 11th Session of Development Partners Coordination Meeting. The statement was in a clear reference to the global progress report of World Health Organisation and UNICEF on Water and Sanitation.

[26] According to the report, India and Nigeria are accountable for one third of global maternal deaths in 2013. 50,000 maternal deaths occurred in India in 2013. The rate of MMR here is of 190 deaths per 100,000 live births. The rate has notably diminished from 1990, when it was of 560. In Northern Nigeria, this rate is even higher. Maternal deaths occur particularly in areas where women have many babies in short time spans under malnutrition, poor hygiene conditions and lacking access to medical treatment. For details on the report, see Ludovica Laccino’s “Top Five Countries with Highest Rates of Maternal Maternity” on International Business Times, May 6th, 2014 edition or http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/top-five-countries-highest-rates-maternal-mortality-1447398

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A Surge from the Forest: Towards Rescuing the Africa's Giant from the Boko Haram's Clench
Obafemi Awolowo University
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Adewale Stephen (Author), 2014, A Surge from the Forest: Towards Rescuing the Africa's Giant from the Boko Haram's Clench, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/280813


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