Now that Obama has jetted off island for a three-county Africa tour, a question dwells: Why won’t he visit Nigeria? For reasons unknown, the president is neglecting Africa’s most populous nation. And this is a bad call. That is, if he’s as concerned with West African terrorism as he says.
After Nigeria’s Christmas Day church bombings in 2011 the White House released this condoling statement: “We condemn this senseless violence…We have been in contact with Nigerian officials about what initially appear to be terrorist acts and pledge to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice.”
The well-known culprits were Boko Haram, Nigeria’s most infamous terrorist organization. Their name is a Hausa word which translates to, “Western education is evil.” But those affiliated prefer the longer, more comprehensive version of their name, “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad.”
Abubaker Shekua, the current leader, is perhaps the most dangerous jihadist leader in West Africa today, both in terms of his actions and his rhetoric. The organization is known for its ruthlessness. The Thursday morning headline for many Nigerian newspapers was:
Apart from the devastating Christmas Day bombings, Boko Haram is responsible both for smaller massacres like the one mentioned above, and much larger ones in prisons, villages, and even universities.
In 2010, Nigerian officials believed they had killed Shekua, until he rose from the grave and released this video in January 2012.
Shekua begins in Arabic, then transitions into his native language, Hausa, wherein he expresses no remorse for Boko Haram’s indiscriminate killings.
“All these things you've been seeing happening, it's Allah who has been doing it because you refuse to believe in him and you misuse his religion and because of that, the thing is more than you, Jonathan,” said Shekau. (Goodluck Jonathan is Nigeria’s current president.)
Boko Haram’s ultimate goal is to enforce Sharia law upon the majority-Muslim north of Nigeria. And they plan to do so at any cost.
The U.S State Department has a $7 million bounty on his head. But after the president killed Osama bin Laden, he of all people should know that terrorism doesn’t just end with a dead leader.
Boko Haram’s presence not only threatens Nigeria (In May, President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three Northern states where Boko Haram is active), but the entire region. Nigeria, though a fragile state, is Africa’s top oil producer. And some speculate that by 2014, the country might beat out South Africa as the continent’s largest economy.
Boko Haram also complicates the security of Senegal, the country that's the first stop of Obama's trip. Senegal has long been praised for its post-colonial democratic success. Yet Boko Haram and other jihadist affiliates in North Africa, seek to dominate the Sahel-Sahara region where Senegal is located.
So this week, the president will move on to Tanzania, and then finish in South Africa. The tour will be over. Where does that leave Nigeria? Boko Haram will decide.
Want to know anything else about my homeland, or just anything at all? Follow me: @chechkalu