Thursday, May 8, 2014

Questions for Professor Jean Herskovits--on Boko Haram

In early 2012, Professor Jean Herskovits, a well-known historian who has written much about Nigeria for nearly half a century, wrote a most interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times. Titled, "In Nigeria, Boko Haram is not the Problem," the good professor--to whom many governments and NGOs go for advise on Nigerian matters--not only announced authoritatively that "there is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today," she went on to claim that the world was being misled by the media into thinking that the BH is anything more than a bunch of unformed, criminal gangs produced by incessant poverty in the Muslim north, and insensitivity of a Christian-led government. According to her, "Someone who claims to be a spokesman for Boko Haram — with a name no one recognizes [I guess "no one" refers to specialists like her] and whom no one has been able to identify or meet with — has issued threats and statements claiming responsibility for attacks. Remarkably, the Nigerian government and the international news media have simply accepted what he says." 

Her final advise--which was later adopted in a letter to the then Secretary Clinton by a bunch of US-based specialists, including Herskovits--was that the Obama Administration must not declare the BH a terrorist organization, and that the US must not wade into a "Nigerian war on Terror." Fine.

BUT,  Professor Herskovits, in the wake of the large-scale murders of school children (in secondary and tertiary schools) in Born0 State before and since you wrote your Op-Ed, and considering the present abduction of nearly 300 school girls, all claimed by Boko Haram through their leader who you doubted his existence in 2012, what advise do you and your fellow Nigerian specialists have? Is the Boko Haram now a problem, in Nigeria? Do you now recognize or know the name Abubakar Shekau who has been leading BH since 2009?

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