Human suffering rarely fits into a neatly graduated scale; using which one can weigh the magnitude of one calamity against another. Rather, proximity and personal identification are tools through which the world relates to disasters. Regardless, universal extenuating factors like unnatural barbarity, cruelty, extent, and the nature and number of victims do strike a chord with spectators; or at least it is supposed to. Boko Haram’s massacare at Baga came at the heels of the Charlie Hebdo Shooting, yet there is a gulf between how the two events were received. France mourned for weeks, world leaders flew to Paris to march in the streets, global media and internet was taken over by the event and it sparked a fierce counter narrative against the terrorists. Baga, was aired, noted and forgotten. The world, even the Nigerian president himself, who had condemned Charlie Hebdo, failed to mention Baga to the media. The disparity shows perhaps how the world considers African deaths less newsworthy, and by implication, less valuable than western lives. 12 dead in an attack on a “bastion of freedom of speech” by the forces of radical Islam in the heart of Europe makes a better story than 2000 massacred by a local insurgency in strife-ridden Nigeria. The disproportionate coverage is not only discriminatory, but damaging. By only providing a cursory look at complex African problems, the media reduces them into misleading binaries such as “Islamic terrorism” to fit the allotted airtime, jettisoning a nuanced view and all subtlety.

Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, colloquially known as Boko Haram, must not be categorized in the same broad strokes as we do Al-Qaeda, Taliban or ISIS. Doing so presents us with the same option that we are exercising against these bodies: force. Boko Haram is born out of an abject failure of the Nigerian government; there is massive economic disparity between the Muslim north and the Christian south. In the north, 72 percent of people live in poverty, compared to 27 percent in the south and 35 percent in the Niger Delta. Formal Nigerian politics gravitate around the division of oil money into the various elites, who have benefitted at the expense of regional development. Furthermore, rampant corruption, sectarian conflict, heavy-handed law enforcement with virtual impunity from prosecution and the widespread use of extra-judicial killings have left behind an impoverished, uneducated and an agitated youth. Even now, Boko Haram is a diffuse group, with different groups fighting under different leaders towards different objectives. Nigeria’s failure to bridge the gap and over the top methods have turned Boko Haram into a regional threat, and misplaced media attention is contributing to their rise. Boko Haram’s activities have gone under the global radar, and now need to be brought up in the light.