A new leader in Nigeria sparks new hope for efforts against Boko Haram

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Marco Werman: A year ago, it was a different story out of Nigeria making headlines. On April 14th it will be a year since the extremist group Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from Chibok in northeastern Nigeria. More than 200 are still missing and hundreds more have been kidnapped from other towns since then. But the girls' plight was not a big issue during the presidential campaign there. Nigerian writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani says voters were looking at the bigger issue.

 

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani: I think the [??] of Boko Haram for Nigerians and the insecurity thing as a whole was bigger than the Chibok girls, never mind how much the media feasted on that particular component of it. But there are bigger issues, the fact that people are being bombed out of their homes almost on a daily basis and then of course the horror stories coming out of the internally displaced people's camp, children being trafficked, and all that sort of thing.

 

Werman: Yeah, I can see why those issues would start to eclipse #bringbackourgirls, but there was this poster that the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and his vice president Namadi Sambo created. It read "Bring back Goodluck and Sambo" and that's just such a strange echo and pretty tone deaf to that hashtag campaign "Bring back our girls". Do people look at that and say, "These guys, they've just lost the plot."?

 

Nwaubani: I choose to believe that the president wasn't quite aware, President Jonathan, of that campaign because we have loads of groups that campaign on behalf of a candidate. They do things and then they expect you to fund them depending on how much attention they grab on your behalf.

 

Werman: You think he might not have signed off on the "Bring back Goodluck and Sambo"?

 

Nwaubani: That's what I told my friends, especially my friends in the US who were unbelievably horrified by that.

 

Werman: So if we can generalize for a moment. Nigeria, essentially divided between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north, and the victor, General Muhammadu Buhari, is from the north. Do most Nigerians expect him to do more and will do more to combat Boko Haram?

 

Nwaubani: General Buhari made a very smart move. His vice is a prominent Christian, a pastor, Yemi Osibajo. So that kind of balanced out the Sharia Islamic person that the opposition tried to paint him as. I think he's in a better position to deal with the Boko Haram crisis because they are in essence his people, the north. President Jonathan was accused several times of being insensitive to the plight of the north because he was not from there and the history of the north and the south and all the resentment. General Buhari will not have those issues. He's from the north, they are "his people", even though every Nigerian is his person, but that is his region. He's a Muslim, so he can say what he wants to say about Boko Haram, do what he wants to do to them, without being accused of being anti-Muslim. So I think it should be easier for him.

 

Werman: Well, apparently as Buhari was watching the election results coming in on TV he was photographed sitting next to a Muslim elder and a bishop. Is that a political photo op? Or do you think he really is an unifying figure?

 

Nwaubani: Even if it was a photo op, he's already done the whole bridge-building thing between the Christians and the Muslims by choosing Professor Osinbajo as his vice. He can't run a Muslim government or a Sharia government with his vice as Professor Osinbajo.

 

Werman: We've been reporting on The World about the fight against Boko Haram and it seems that in some places in Nigeria and even into Chad they are on the run, but partly because of armies from neighboring countries and even mercenaries from South Africa waging this war. How do Nigerians feel about that fact, that it's other countries who are waging this battle for them and seeming to do a better job than the Nigerian army?

 

Nwaubani: I think at this point everybody is just relieved that at least Boko Haram is on the run. Of course it's embarrassing that it's Niger and Chad that appear to be doing the work, but then at the same time it's raising questions about exactly what's going on in the Nigerian military because we've heard that even where Chad and Niger have chased Boko Haram away the Nigerian soldiers are not there to take over the cities that have been liberated. So there's just definitely something fishy going on with the Nigerian army and that's why I'm glad that somebody like General Buhari is coming aboard so we can get to the bottom of the matter, taking over and unraveling the mystery.

 

Werman: Then there is of course President Goodluck Jonathan's concession speech yesterday. Were you surprised by that?

 

Nwaubani: I was pleasantly surprised. I mean he's fumbled and bungled all sorts of things. He could have responded differently to the election results and plunged Nigeria into chaos. A way of looking at this is that President Jonathan wasn't just incompetent in terms of the economy and in terms of security, but he was also incompetent when it came to rigging elections. That's one way of looking at it because he just could not even get himself to stay there the way every other incumbent has managed to do it.

 

Werman: Nigerian author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. She's the author of the novel "I Do Not Come to You by Chance". Great to speak with you again, Adaobi. Thank you.

 

Nwaubani: Thank you, Marco.