Nigeria: Slow and Steady Won’t Defeat Boko Haram

Photo Credits: Trent online
Photo Credits: Trent online

“The school is offering psychological counseling for people who need it,” I told my dad after the Paris terrorist attacks in November. The city was on lockdown and it was said that France’s boarders were closed. French President François Hollande visited the Bataclan concert hall where nearly a hundred people were killed.

“Do you need it?” he asked.

I shook my head no.

Three months after the attacks, buildings in Paris (museums, schools, shops, etc.) are still under tight security and the French are living under a state of emergency.

Being born and raised in Nigeria, I have become all-too-familiar with terrorist attacks. A couple years ago, terrorists released a video threatening my father, but the next day, he went to work unafraid. Boko Haram attacks have been so common in my country that people even feel calm enough to hold an event a day after the attack. When I moved to the Southwest state of Lagos in 2005, no one cared whether I was Muslim, or Christian, or if I had no religion. My friends were all Christians from every other part of Nigeria but the north. In the boarding school I attended, I ate, laughed and lived with Christians.

When the Boko Haram outbreaks started four years later, teachers started to ask me to “speak to my brothers” and “ask them to stop.” I apparently shared blood with terrorists because I am from the North and because I am Muslim. Whenever an attack happened, instead of people coming together fight it, they labeled it as “Islamic insurgency” or “Northerners” attempting to divide the country. When Boko Haram members kidnapped Chibok girls, hundreds of women marched in the streets to protest, and millions in and outsie of Africa joined the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign. But the Nigerian government did little.

After the last presidential election in Nigeria, the new president, Muhammad Buhari, started to make changes towards fighting terrorism. He started “Operation Lafiya Dole”, which loosely translates as Peace by Force. Its mission to fight Boko Haram comes under a new Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusuf Burutai. Operation Lafiya Dole has rescued a large number of people and is taking over Boko Haram territory. However, these (although notable) changes are not eliminating terrorism in Nigeria. On Friday, while the world was buying chocolate and flowers and getting ready for Valentine’s Day, CNN reported that Boko Haram members had attacked two villages in northeast Nigeria. According to one report, “Boko Haram gunmen killed 22 people in Yakshari by slitting their throats. They then stole all the food supplies and all the cattle in the village.”

President Hollade’s approach to addressing terrorist attacks in Paris were immediate, including shutting down France’s boarders. In Nigeria, President Buhari is aiming for long-term results. The Nigerian President has been nicknamed, “Baba Go Slow” – Baba is a Hausa word for Father and Go Slow is a Pidgin term to describe traffic jams. Looking back now at the popular fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, the tortoise won the race while being “slow and steady”. Facing terrorism, however, France’s quick reaction has worked. Paris has not had another ISIS attack since November while Nigeria is still fighting Boko Haram.

We are confident that Nigeria will overthrow Boko Haram under the Buhari government, but we are concerned about the slow rate at which he is working. How many people have to die before we stop the terrorists? How many more girls are we willing to sacrifice? How many innocent victims must we bury before Boko Haram is defeated?

We are hoping that one day, and sooner or later, Buhari’s traffic light will turn green and that he wins the race before his time is up.


This piece was first published by on February 17th 2016.


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