Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Nigeria: A Political War Behind the War On Boko Haram

Politicians worldwide often vilify their opponents, and those in Nigeria are no different. As the 2015 elections approach, Nigeria's two main political parties are blaming each other for the violent Boko Haram insurgency in the north.

In the past five years Boko Haram militants have killed thousands of people, and the insurgency appears only to be growing as 2015 elections draw near.

More than 2,000 people have been killed this year alone in attacks on markets, military bases, bus stations and even football viewing centers. In April, the Islamist radical group kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls.

At his home in the Niger Delta, Ovie Joseph, a local leader within the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) says the opposition funds the violence, trying to make the country "ungovernable."

"When problems of kidnapping ... occur, it's a style of destabilizing the ruling party," he said. "It's the opposition [doing this]."

The opposition he speaks of is the All Progressive Congress, or APC, a mega-party formed last year when several opposition parties merged.

Joseph says Boko Haram's increasing strength is evidence that wealthy politicians must be supporting the group.

Analysts say if the party can stand behind a single candidate next year, it could prove to be a formidable opponent to the PDP, which has governed Nigeria since 1999.

Christian Onodjacha, assistant secretary of APC in Delta State, blames the ruling party for failing to stop the insurgency.

"What they are now trying to do is to trade the blame on us, that we are involved," he said. "But we are not involved. We are not in charge of the federal security apparatus. They are in charge."

The ruling party, Onodjacha says, is wasting time "pointing fingers" when it should be fighting the insurgency. He concedes that individual politicians may be involved, but he thinks they are from the ruling party.

"Our members are clean," he said. "They are people that we know can salvage this nation from the quagmire that it is in currently."

But some analysts say that, on this issue, both parties are correct and both are wrong.

Yan St-Pierre, the CEO of Berlin-based security consulting firm MOSECON, says Nigerian politicians often hire thugs to intimidate their opposition.

"Both sides use them," he said. "Depending on how greedy or ambitious the local politician was, they would sometimes use more of their services, sometimes less, but both sides. All parties are involved."

St-Pierre says the politicians may not be interested in Boko Haram's goals, but in northeastern Nigeria the Boko Haram members happen to be the guys with the guns.

The group is believed to be controlling villages along the Chad and Cameroon borders, he says, and in those areas even conducting an election will require support from Boko Haram.

"They intimidate, they terrorize and, when possible, they actually provide goods and services which gives them the legitimacy, that sometimes despite everything they're doing, that the government doesn't seem to have," St-Pierre said.

Boko Haram's name means "Western education is sinful" and the group has threatened President Goodluck Jonathan by name. However, St-Pierre says while Boko Haram may be partially supported by a corrupt political system, the insurgents probably do not care who wins.

Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta.

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