At a campaign rally in Abuja last week ’ s Thursday , Information Minister Lai Mohammed very much stated that Boko Haram is as great a threat today as it has ever been .
“ As our gallant men and women in uniform clear the remnants of the home – grown insurgency called Boko Haram , they are confronting a fresh crisis, global insurgency , ” Mohammed said .
“ A faction of the Boko Haram sect has aligned with the global terror group , ISIS , to form ISWAP , the Islamic State ’ s West African Province . …
In other words , ISIS now has a strong foothold in West Africa – with Nigeria in the forefront of the battle against them . ”
With elections just days away , this is the closest that President Muhammadu Buhari ’ s administration has come to admitting that the war against Boko Haram is exactly where it was in 2015 .
In fact , as Lai suggests, the situation is much direr .
“ Unlike what we had then , these terrorists are not the rag-tag army of 2009, ” Mohammed said . “They are tested fighters . They are highly sophisticated terrorists . ”
And so Lai has launched a campaign to rally public support for the military, a campaign that can hardly be distinguished from that for his boss ’ s re – election .
His comments are an acknowledgment of what has been widely reported by the domestic and international press: that Boko Haram is now taking the battle to Nigerian forces and winning again .
“ Last year the Islamic State-linked extremists roared back , attacking military bases , resupplying and causing a rare government admission of dozens of soldier deaths , ” the Associated Press reported recently .
“Shaken , officials said the extremists had begun using drones , indicating links with ISIS fighters fleeing collapsing strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
” The AP cites the leader of the US Africa Command as saying that the new insurgents are triple the size of Boko Haram as they have been known .
For the first time since the Buhari administration took office it has turned away from the braggadocio that Boko Haram has been defeated , except for remnants that needed to be flushed out . It has finally conceded failure and worry .
And that adds to the list of unfulfilled major campaign promises .
Given that the economy and insecurity have both worsened since Buhari took office , that corruption remains entrenched and, above all, that the fabric of Nigerian unity has taken the severest jolt since the civil war , it would seem that the administration has flatly failed . In effect , Buhari ’ s record can ’ t seriously be said to be any better than that of then President Goodluck Jonathan at this time in 2015 , a record that caused an all- out blitz for his defeat.
Not surprisingly , the western governments who flocked to Buhari ’ s candidacy in 2015 have now abandoned him .
And irony of ironies , Buhari ’ s people now complain about foreign interference .
First , it was Kaduna State Governor Nasir el – Rufai threatening that foreigners who “interfere ” with the elections will leave the country in body bags .
It was an incredibly intemperate statement from which the administration would have dissociated itself from . Instead , they defended it .
To buttress el – Rufai’ s warning , the All Progressives Congress campaign spokesman Festus Keyamo went on the offensive against international calls for a fair election .
Such calls, he complained , constitute tacit support for Peoples Democratic Party candidate Atiku Abubakar .
Yet , in 2014 /15, western governments repeatedly expressed concern for fair elections.
And no less a figure than then US Secretary of State John Kerry personally brought that message to Nigeria in a visit that included a meeting with then candidate Buhari .
Had el – Rufai ’ s threat been implemented then, Kerry would have been killed and Nigeria would have been in much deeper trouble than it is today .
Keyamo also complained that Atiku was granted visit to the United States .
But during the campaign for the 2015 election , candidate Buhari visited the United States and UK multiple times and was treated like a crown prince.
In the UK in particular , he was given the closest thing to royal treatment next to lodging in Buckingham Palace .
It is remarkable that the heat of a presidential campaign can cause such a deficit in the sense of history — in this case , very recent history.
In any case , while the objective realities would point to an electoral loss by Buhari — just as the case with Jonathan — the polls seem to suggest differently .
Though they generally don’ t provide percentage breakdowns for the major candidates , they have consistently pointed to a Buhari victory . (I couldn ’ t verify a figure published in a partisan outlet. )
The most credible estimates point to a close contest and the projections are based on the number of registered voters in states that are mostly pro -Buhari or pro – Atiku.
There are at least three factors that make any projections unreliable.
The first is the high number of undecideds: just one- third of voters nationwide say they are certain whom they would vote for.
And the percentage of undecideds is much higher in pro – Atiku states , especially the southern states .
Undecideds usually make up their minds in the last minutes .
Some actually already knew whom they would vote for but play coy to opinion polltakers.
This would suggest a last – minute surge for Atiku.
In the South – East in particular , there is an understandable reluctance to seem enthusiastic for any candidate given the Biafra advocacy .
Voters there are more likely to play coy with polltakers even when they have decided whom to vote for.
And then there is a new dimension in Nigerian elections: the increased number of young voters resulting from the decrease in the voting age .
This would probably break favorably in favour of Atiku.
Though he and Buhari are close in age , he exudes much more vigour and has played up his youthfulness during the campaign .
Regardless of who wins the election , there is the heartening development that Nigerians’ faith in the electoral process has increased considerably.
In 2014 , only 13 per cent of Nigerians believed in the country ’ s electoral system , according to the Gallop polls .
That surged to 34 per cent in 2018, thanks to the reasonably clean election of 2015 .
Whether that trajectory is sustained will depend on whether the elections are seen to meet or exceed the standards set in 2015 . That would mean a lot more to Nigeria than who wins or loses.