Newspaper article International New York Times

Nigerians Acknowledge Need for Help

Newspaper article International New York Times

Nigerians Acknowledge Need for Help

Article excerpt

After years of failing to do much of anything to battle the Islamist militia Boko Haram, the terrorist group has now shown how weak the government really is.

Throughout the nearly five years of the Boko Haram uprising, Western military officials assigned to Nigeria have had the same complaint: The Nigerian Army was eager to get gadgets from the West - - surveillance equipment, specialized weaponry, protective gear -- but was otherwise not in the least bit interested in its advice.

It didn't want to hear about best practices in counterinsurgency, these officials said. It didn't want moralizing lectures on winning hearts and minds or gathering intelligence. This was Nigeria's business, and Nigeria could handle it, the officials were told for years. The offers of help were rebuffed. Behind that attitude was Nigerian pride in its huge military establishment and a belief -- not unfounded, even if misdirected -- that Boko Haram was a domestic problem that must have a domestic solution.

Now, with world attention suddenly focused on the failed war against the Islamist terror group, Nigerian officials, civilian and military, have radically changed their tune. Boko Haram, it turns out, is not just a Nigerian problem, but actually a phase in what President George W. Bush liked to call the Global War on Terror. So of course Nigeria is eager to accept help from Britain, Canada, France and the United States, and others -- and in fact, shame on those countries for taking so long to wake up.

The abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls from the remote village of Chibok has had the effect of sharply concentrating the collective mind of Nigerian officialdom in the capital, Abuja, around a problem that had been treated for years as a regional distraction.

When President Goodluck Jonathan finally visited the epicenter of the insurgency, Maiduguri, some months back, for instance, it was played as major news in the Nigerian media. Mr. Jonathan and his aides have been baffled by the criticism that he was slow in responding to the abduction of the schoolgirls. Their bafflement is well founded. In fact, he responded to the kidnappings in the same way that he has responded to countless other Boko Haram atrocities (or indeed to the anti-civilian depredations of his own military): minimally, or not at all. …

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