The year 2014 was bad for Nigerians, and 2015 might prove even worse. According to the Council for Foreign Relations, around 10,000 people faced death in Nigeria last year at the hands of Boko Haram. During the first ten days of 2015, militants have carried out another deadly carnage in Baga killing as many as 2000 people and razed 16 neighbouring villages in the Borno state. A humanitarian disaster is in the making, as thousands flee the Kafkaesque nightmare in insurgency hit parts.
Why has Nigeria failed to defeat Boko Haram? The roots of the present Islamist movement in Nigeria can be traced back to the 1990s but it has become a hydra-headed menace since 2009, imperilling the existence of the country. Today, Boko Haram has ensconced itself in northeastern reaches of the country capturing territory after every attack on the pattern of ISIS expansion in the Middle East. The group has also established cross-border links with radical organizations in Chad and Cameroon.
In the face of such a precarious situation, the Nigerian government’s approach towards Boko Haram at best remains a haphazard and half-hearted attempt without a well thought out, coherent plan of action. President Goodluck Jonathan displayed an extremely callous and indifferent attitude in the aftermath of the recent assault on Baga. Instead of pondering over ways to take decisive action against the terror group, he chose to launch his re-election campaign in Lagos amid jubilations by his supporters. The decision to go ahead with polls next month without ending the bloody conflict is impregnated with the real possibility of plunging the country deep into a civil war. This amply demonstrates lack of will on the part of the Nigerian ruling clique to crush militancy.
The worrisome fact is that the lack of will is not merely inadvertent; rather Boko Haram enjoys support by officials occupying high-level positions in government. The revelations by Stephen Davis, the Australian negotiator hired to secure the release of abductees, also lend credence to this notion. Davis disclosed that a former governor and a retired army chief were among the chief sponsors of militants while a senior official in the Central Bank of Nigeria was instrumental in facilitating the transfer of funds, giving the transactions a legal pretense.
The People’s Democratic Party – the ruling party of Nigeria- has used the crisis as a pretext to impose emergency rule in various states, thus undermining the local autonomy. Another reason why President Jonathan’s government is not serious in taking action against the insurgents is that most insurgency-ridden areas constitute the support base of the All Progressive Congress (APC), the main opposition party. And the PDP has chalked out a fatal strategy to declare emergency and delay polls in the northeast to ensure Jonathan’s return to power. Such a move will only serve to deepen the North-South divisions, ultimately leading the country towards a break-up after bloodshed on a mass scale.
On the other hand, some members of the APC are also believed to support the insurgents in their criminal activities carried out to sponsor its operations. The British Parliament has decided to probe links of APC to Boko Haram after one of the party’s defecting members labelled the insurgents as the ‘armed wing’ of the APC. The opposition in Nigeria seems merely interested in demonizing the Christian President from the south for his inability to resolve the crisis. A national vision is missing in these testing times and various political factions have got their short-term interests affiliated with the continuity of trouble. Nero fiddled while Rome burned!
The insurgency has grown to a scale that it is well beyond the capacity of Nigeria alone to fight Boko Haram. And the support of the West is lacking despite repeated promises on different occasions. At the time when two hundred school girls were abducted in May 2014, the international community pledged assistance to bring back those girls and help Nigeria quell the militant uprising. But the determination was lost soon thereafter and the fate of a majority of the defenseless girls remains uncertain to this day.
The role of regional countries is most crucial at a juncture when the most populous country of the continent is imploding. The African Union must rise to the occasion and help broker a deal amongst all political parties of Nigeria to form a national unity government. The general elections should be postponed meanwhile, and the task to reclaim territory run over by insurgents, through regional and international military assistance, must be given top priority. The transitional government should also lay foundations of institutions pivotal for curing the deep malaise of chronic misgovernance. A mechanism should be devised for fair distribution of resources between the two disparate parts of the country. Equally important will be to put in place a robust accountability set-up.

The writer is a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Law from the University of Oxford. He currently works in the Civil Service of Pakistan