Editorial: Is Nigeria on the verge of splitting up?

As the battle between the Nigerian Army and Islamists believed to be members of the Boko Haram rages on in the town of Bama, the thought of Nigeria being on the verge of disintegration cannot be far fetched.

Boko Haram was established in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, but developed into a Salafist-jihadi group in 2009, influenced by the Wahhabi movement (an Islamic “reform movement” to restore “pure monotheistic worship”). Between 2009 to 2012, the group was responsible for the death of over 900 people. During this period, attacks by the sect were characterised by short-lived hit-and-run raids mainly targeting undefended communities and mosques or churches. However, they also made attempts at a few high profile targets, and became known for carrying out an attack on the United Nations office in Abuja in 2011.

This year, 2014, has however seen Boko Haram carry out successive attacks on villages with the seeming aim of capturing the communities they attack. This is a new phase of the group’s operation that should be a thing of concern to the government and all well-meaning Nigerians.

Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states have consistently been under attack by the terrorists, with the aim of capturing and imposing their interpretation of Shar’ia law on the local population. Towns such as Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza and Marte in Borno state, Madagali in Adamawa; Buni Yadi in Yobe have been captured by the Islamist group. Other settlements under the siege of Boko Haram in North-Eastern Nigeria include Ashigashiya, Banki,  Goniri, Kerawa, Ngoshe and Pulka.

Borno State, the birth place of the group, has constantly been under the threat of being taken over by the sect, as major bridges linking people into/out of the state have been destroyed. Bridges destroyed include a bridge on the road from Biu to Maiduguri; a bridge near Gamboru Ngala that links Nigeria and Cameroon; a bridge in Potiskum that links Maiduguri and Damaturu to Abuja, and a bridge in Yobe that links to southern Borno and Adamawa. There is a school of thought that says that it might be the Nigerian military blowing up the bridges, in an effort to contain the insurgents in Borno.

Whatever the truth may be, the on-going Battle of Bama, is a pivotal point in this war. If Borno falls, then parts of Yobe and Adamawa can be expected to follow, alongside parts of Cameroon. Losing control of the north-east by Nigeria will most definitely confirm Boko Haram’s seizure of territory and a new era for Nigeria.

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