After electoral triumph, time to tackle Boko Haram

Following the election of former military dictator General Muhammadu Buhari to Nigeria’s presidency, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva has called on the international community to assist Nigeria and its neighbours in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency.

Expressing concern about the group’s alignment with the Islamic State (ISIS) organisation in Iraq and Syria, saying “such extremist groups are growing like cancer, spreading to other parts of the world”, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said “the time is ripe for the international community to assist in bringing an end to the violence”.

There had been concerns that violence would prevent the delayed elections from taking place, but according to Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri in Borno state, one of the parts of Nigeria most affected by the violence, the failure of Boko Haram to stop the elections “is already a good result”.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of Nigeria’s bishops’ conference, said by their “unprecedented and impressive turnout” Nigerians had defied the militants “who reject democracy as un-Islamic and who had threatened to kill any Nigerian who cast a ballot”.

“Nigeria may have a terrible reputation but offers the rest of the world a lesson: resilience,” the archbishop said, adding, “We manage to smile through our tears and have remained strong, resilient and hopeful. That is not what most outsiders associate with Nigeria — smiling faces, positive minds and hopeful hearts.”

General Buhari, 72, ruled Nigeria between 1983 and 1985, gaining and losing power through military coups. His victory over President Goodluck Johnson, who has ruled since 1999, marks the first victory by an opposition party candidate in Nigerian electoral history. 

In his first post-election speech, General Buhari said “Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will”. He is well positioned to lead the struggle against the militants, knowing their heartland well from his days leading the Nigerian army in the northeastern part of the country in the 1970s and early 1980s. He stressed too that his government would also dedicate itself to fighting corruption, calling it a “form of evil that is even worse than terrorism”.