Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to “spare no effort” to defeat Boko Haram. To do so, he must get the military in order and ready to lead the fight against the Islamist threat. Reuters reports:
[…I]t has been Chad’s battle-hardened troops, and not Nigeria’s, that have led in the offensive, expelling Boko Haram from the major towns in the north in just a matter of weeks.[…] Buhari has called Nigeria’s reliance on neighboring armies a disgrace and has vowed to restore the territorial integrity of Africa’s most populous nation. There is still work to be done.
Nigerian troops, lacking necessary training and discipline, have proven unable to take a commanding role in the fight against religious extremists in the north. Not only are soldiers from Niger and Chad doing much of the fighting, but large numbers of foreign mercenaries from South Africa, Ukraine, and Georgia are also reportedly involved. Council on Foreign Relations fellow John Campbell theorizes that the recent and surprisingly swift victories against Boko Haram are due almost entirely to the work of these forces. And the poor showing of the Nigerian military may render those victories ineffective; Campbell notes that the Chadian forces are concerned that Boko Haram will recapture the territory they’ve liberated, since Nigerian forces aren’t capable of securing it.
Nigeria’s military structure is bogged down by entrenched institutional incompetence and corruption, which will hinder Buhari’s efforts to put Nigerian troops at the forefront of the fight against Boko Haram. As both a Muslim from the north and former military leader, however, he has strong political backing in parts of Nigeria where the insurgency is most potent and where Boko Haram recruits most vigorously. With Boko Haram still perpetrating heinous attacks, Nigeria will be looking to its new President to act decisively upon his inauguration on May 29—and put Nigeria’s security back in the (cleaner) hands of its own military.