It is a shame that successive governments in Nigeria have not done more with that sad country’s many assets. It has substantial oil reserves, a great agricultural and manufacturing base, and a large and intelligent population, but Nigeria also has a sclerotic government, which is deeply mired in endemic corruption. The nation’s undoubted wealth has been frittered away to the benefit of far too many corrupt businessmen and government officials.
This is the disastrous environment in which the Islamist extremists Boko Haram have been allowed to flourish. Their nihilist doctrine runs counter to the tolerant and welcoming traditions of Nigeria’s people, where the Muslim Hausa and Fulani peoples in the north have been part of the wider sub-Saharan culture for centuries. The Yoruba and Ibo peoples in the south may have different traditions, looking to the coast and the trading world of the Atlantic Ocean, but all four of Nigeria’s major peoples fitted into the country’s federal vision.
That exciting prospect is what the government must restore. Last week’s appalling massacre of 44 Muslims in a mosque by supposed Islamist extremists proves that Boko Haram has nothing to offer, and it is a terrible comment on the Nigerian government’s vacuity that it cannot win the political argument more effectively.
It has to defeat Boko Haram on the security front, but it should also make it obvious that they have nothing to offer Nigeria.