There is no doubt that ISIS is on a global march and that it thrives and goes into full-blown manufacturing of evil where instability or ungoverned spaces exist. Battles are occurring daily … and one that demands our attention is about to be fought politically in Nigeria. It is not only about Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based terrorist group that recently swore allegiance to ISIS. It is about who wins the Nigerian presidency, as well.
Nigeria (and its neighbors, which include Chad, Niger and Cameroon) has seen its share of evil perpetrated by the Al Qaeda (now ISIS) affiliated Boko Haram – from the kidnapping of 300 female students last April to the four suicide bombings that killed 54 people last week. It is clear that Boko Haram is a force of evil to be reckoned with.
ISIS is spreading much like a retrovirus. Where Al Qaeda or loosely connected Al Qaeda affiliates existed, ISIS is now replacing them. And by doing so it is increasing, by synergy, the power and reach of both itself and the groups it has consumed. So we in the West must work to defeat Boko Haram.
On March 28, Nigeria will hold its presidential election, and much will be at stake because the nation has the largest economy in Africa. The people of Nigeria are being asked to choose between their incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, their former dictator. Neither man is pristine – but there are clear reasons for re-electing Jonathan.
Stability and prosperity are key to the future of Nigeria and the region, and they won’t be achieved under the guidance of a president who is the enabler-in-chief for radical Islam. Electing Buhari not only will encourage Boko Haram to become more active in Nigeria, it will increase the likelihood of it becoming another Somalia or Yemen – a failed state that is fertile soil for the growth of terrorism.
There are clear indications that Buhari would not be an agent of “change,” but an agent of enabling radical Islam to expand and consolidate its gains in Nigeria. Buhari has stated his desire to implement Shariah law as Nigeria’s primary rule of governance. . The northern half of the country is already under Shariah law, and that has only encouraged the growth of radical Islam.
It is clear that Buhari, as a matter of political convenience, has tried to rein in his pro-Shariah views. It is imperative that the people of Nigeria see through this smokescreen.
Electing Buhari will not only be a step in the wrong direction that threatens Nigeria’s prosperity, it will be a step toward helping Boko Haram become an even more effective component of ISIS.
A Buhari victory not only will strengthen radical Islam, it might also enable the targeting of other religions. Christians have become a major target of radical Islam in Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Nigeria will likely follow suit if it implements Shariah law.
President Jonathan appears to recognize that the Nigerian military needs better equipment and training, and that the government has to expand its counterterrorism efforts. In order to fight ISIS, he must work to establish a stronger military alliance with Chad, Cameroon and Niger, where Boko Haram also operates. Jonathan also must reconsider his strategy for conducting anti-terror operations against Boko Haram. Nigeria has been reluctant to allow foreign counterterrorism advisers and forces in to assist, but the government must consider it now that its problem is aligned with our global problem.
Goodluck Jonathan has not been perfect, and he undeniably needs to reconsider his counterterrorism policy, but allowing Buhari, the country’s former dictator, to return to power will clearly result in a catastrophic failure in Nigeria as severe as what we’ve seen in Yemen over the past three months.
The people of Nigeria must choose wisely – and that wise choice is to retain Goodluck Jonathan as their president.
Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer is Vice President for Operations of the London Center for Policy Research, a New York City-based national security think tank, and is the author of the controversial New York Times bestselling "Operation DARK HEART: Spycraft and Special Operations on the Frontlines of Afghanistan".