Police headquarters and churches came first, but now Boko Haram has added schools to the list of main terror attack targets. And faced with that new reality, as well as the staggering death toll (over 1,000 in three years, 300 of those in just two short months in 2012), it seems Nigeria’s government is growing desperate and calling for “talks” with the radical Islamist group who has ravaged much of the northern two-thirds of the country. As the Christian Science Monitor rightly wonders,
It may seem churlish to ask, but what will dialog achieve at this point? […]It’s possible that there is a middle ground where these two determined enemies can toss down a picnic blanket and discuss matters, but from an outsiders point of view, it’s difficult to know how they could create the trust necessary for negotiations.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s government could certainly accommodate certain demands—and would be doing themselves favors to—but others appear absolutely out of the question.For instance, cracking down on rampant corruption in regional governments (especially in the north) would show to Boko Haram that the national government is invested in the Muslim north and in solving the country’s poverty problem, which festers more grotesquely in the north. Yet given Nigeria’s history and the deep roots of its corruption in the north as well as in the south, the federal government is, realistically, not going to stop corruption anytime soon. Heavy handed attempts to do so would aggravate a problem that may be even more dangerous for Nigeria than Boko Haram: the festering unhappiness of the north’s power structure with the growing national power of the richer, Christian south. Boko Haram can blow up some countries; the northern establishment can blow up the country.And as for Boko’s goal of imposing sharia nationally, fugeddaboutit as people say here in Queens. The Christian half of the country (and many Muslims) would have nothing of it.Boko Haram is at war with the nature of Nigerian society and with the power structure of the north. It’s unlikely to win either of those battles, but it will do a lot of damage in the meantime. Just today a suicide bomb attack on St. Finbar’s Catholic Church killed at least 11 people in the religiously divided city of Jos; the BBC also reports that Muslims near the church have been killed in reprisal attacks.More pain lies in store, and it is not easy to see how talking with Boko can help.