Five Things Boko Haram Has Taught Us

1) Boko Haram is here to stay. Those who keep asking why the army is not able to "finish off" Boko Haram overnight do not understand that terrorism is a decades long problem. This is real life, not a Rambo or Chuck Norris film. Look at the history of other violent militia around the world and you will discover that it takes a very long time to pacify them. From the IRA, ETA, PKK, LRA, to the Tamil Tigers. Even the might of the United States and Israeli armies have not been able to eliminate Al-Qaeda, Hamas,or Islamic Jihad. We are goingto have to deal with exploding markets and exploding cars for quite some time.

2) Southerners - stop kidding yourselves that Boko Haram is an anti-southern movement. Boko Haram has killed far more northerners and Muslims than southerners. So far Boko Haram has not attacked Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Enugu, or Port Harcourt. Not because it cannot; but because it does not want to. If anyone should be terrified by Boko Haram it is northerners, not southerners. Specifically - the northern ELITE. When gunmen are trying drive by shootings on an esteemed symbol of northern traditional authority like the Emir of Kano, you know there is something seriously wrong in the north.

3) The government should be worried. For the first time in a long time Nigerians are speaking with one voice and holding their government accountable. Nigerians have taken out their bitterness at the impunity of Boko Haram attacks on the government. The sympathy engendered by the specter of young schoolgirls being kidnapped and taken to a forest hideout by armed religious extremists, and the government's failure to bring the girls back, has created an emotional wave of soul searching and finger pointing at the government. Nigerians have emotionally "adopted" the faceless and nameless schoolgirls and their plight as their own. This led to spontaneous mass action campaigns such as the march in Abuja, marches by Nigerians in Diaspora to Nigeria's foreign embassies, and the #BringBackOurGirls campaigns on social media.

4) Nigeria's security sector requires reform. Boko Haram are fighters, not an "army" with uniforms, an identifiable battle doctrine or modus operandi of combat. The Nigerian army is trained to fight other armies. The army has to make a doctrinal shift and prepare to do battle with irregular armed militia. Army cadets at the Nigerian Defence Academy receive counter terrorism and counter-insurgency training in their final year. The training takes place at the Center for Counter Insurgency at the Nigeria Army School of Infantry in Jaji. Over 900 soldiers completed the course at the center earlier this year. This is a good start. However the army's combat doctrine needs to be re-oriented even further in the direction of counter-insurgency. This can be done by creating autonomous special forces or paramilitary units for internal security. At some stage Nigeria may need an entire counter-insurgency trained army division.

5) For those of you southerners who keep dreaming of getting the "parasitic north" out of Nigeria, Boko Haram may be carrying out your fantasies for you. Boko Haram has done a fantastic job of alienating the north from the south, and of making southerners even more convinced that they do not want anything to do with the north. Strangely southerners have been more outspoken about a northern based insurgency than northerners who live in the affected areas. Perhaps many northerners have been silent for reasons of self preservation.

Max Siollun