Conventional wisdom in Nigeria suggests that Boko Haram is sponsored by some elites in northern Nigeria to destabilise the government of Goodluck Jonathan.
However, who stands to benefit the most from Boko Haram violence?
The insecurity in most of the northeast of the country has been used as an excuse to reschedule the (s)elections from 14 February to 28 March. Some have argued that postponing the voting day was a tool by the current regime to check the momentum of the opposition led by Muhammadu Buhari.
Northern Nigeria is Buhari’s stronghold. The current wave of violent attacks by Boko Haram is expected to deter many voters from the polls. Many residents in the affected areas are already internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps in neighbouring states and countries. This is likely to suppress the pro-Buhari vote.
Last year an Australian Stephen Davis, who claimed to be involved in negotiations between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram for the release of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok, said that the then army chief Azubuike Ihejirika and former governor of Borno State Ali Modu Sheriff were sponsors of Boko Haram.
The Australian was discredited in government circles, and naming Ihejirika made him hard to believe. Ihejirika is an Igbo Christian from the south, and would not fit the profile of a collaborator with Muslim fanatics.
Sheriff was easier to believe. He has long been accused of arming and funding the then fledgling group of militants to intimidate opponents during (s)elections.
Sheriff allegedly held a meeting with Jonathan late last year and was said to have accompanied him on a trip to Chad. It is widely believed that both men are working together.
A woman who fled Damboa, which is 90km northeast of Maiduguri the Borno State capital, following a Boko Haram attack, claimed she heard the insurgents say the president “must win the election”. Read more here.
The report also claims that Damboa was attacked after people had celebrated there following a rumour that Jonathan had been killed in a plane crash. An exiled resident of Gworza, another town that fell to Boko Haram, hoped that things would improve after the election – a reference to a suspicion in the area that the insurgency was about destabilising the opposition’s northern stronghold.
The evidence is quite clear that the current regime stands to gain from insecurity in the northeast. If it is to their advantage, and they are doing precious little to defeat the insurgency, are we looking in the wrong direction in searching for who is behind it?