There has been a significant upsurge in attacks in Nigeria attributed to Boko Haram. At least 200 were killed over the July 4 weekend, which is in the midst of Ramadan.
While there were attacks in Maiduguri, the carnage also took place outside of Borno state in the far northeast of the country, Boko Haram’s usual area of operations. This time, there were attacks in Jos, in the middle belt, an area where there is conflict between Christians and Muslims, farmers and herders, and Fulani and Barome ethnic groups. Boko Haram has fished in those troubled waters before, but not recently. There is speculation that Boko Haram’s target in Jos was the mosque’s imam, who has rhetorically attacked the group. There was also an attack on a church in Potiskum in Yobe state. There have been Boko Haram attacks on Christian churches before, but these have been associated with a splinter group, Ansaru. The past few weeks have also seen an upsurge in suicide bombings carried out by girls and young women. Meanwhile, the face of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, remains absent from the media.
Some media has linked the upsurge in violence in Nigeria to the call by the self-proclaimed Islamic State to “make Ramadan a month of disasters for the infidels.” Maybe, maybe not. Boko Haram swore allegiance to the Islamic State in March, but there is no clear evidence of tactical or strategic coordination between the two groups. Boko Haram has, however, adopted some of the Islamic State’s tactics with respect to social media.
Boko Haram has evolved rapidly since its re-emergence in 2011. We must anticipate that it will continue to evolve in response to the security initiatives Muhammadu Buhari has directed against it. The president is the type of Muslim that Boko Haram particularly loathes: a participant in the secular state who does not subscribe to Boko Haram’s theological construct.
President Buhari won the March national elections on a platform of security restoration and promising an end to corruption. Last weekend is a reminder that defeating Boko Haram is a tall order and will require Nigerians to show the patience that the Buhari administration requires.