Can Nigeria’s new president wipe out Boko Haram?

The week after the inauguration Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria's new president, was marred by a series of attacks, all blamed on the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. But President Buhari has vowed to eradicate the group. The Wall Street Journal's Drew Hinshaw joins Alison Stewart via Skype from Accra, Ghana.

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    It has been just over a week since the new president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated.

    And so far, the week has been marred by a series of attacks — all blamed on the Islamic militant group Boko Haram.

    Most recently, as many as 45 people have died in a suicide bombing in northeastern Nigeria.

    In his inaugural address, Buhari called Boko haram "mindless" and "godless" and vowed to eradicate the group and rescue hundreds of women and children it's taken hostage.

    So how will he make good on that pledge?

    For more insight, we're joined now via Skype from Accra, Ghana, by Drew Hinshaw of The Wall Street Journal.

    And, Drew, in the short term, how is the new president going to make good on that promise?


    Well, the first thing he's done is express a certain seriousness about the issue that Nigerians, I think, are celebrating.

    He's talked about moving his generals to the northeast that they can be in closer contact with the soldiers who have to fight this war.

    I think what you're seeing, though, is that Boko Haram is a group of maybe several thousands individuals who are fighting a different kind of war.

    I mean, they're happy to kill civilians at their leisure.

    And it's going to be incredibly hard for any president to protect every village, school, and market in a country of 177 million people, and I think many Nigerians are understanding a new president doesn't mean the end of the kind of carnage that we've seen.


    Yes. Without trying to sound too cynical, what can he do in the long term to fight this kind of unorthodox war?


    It's true. It's an incredibly hard question.

    They're talking about doing more sociological research to understand why young people find themselves willing to fight for Boko Haram, a group that has lost almost all of its popular support and yet through a mixture of kidnapping, recruitment and a mixture of the two is able to bring in new people.

    There are a large number of Boko Haram members and the question is, what do we do with them?

    Do we have to release them out? Do we have a kind of rehabilitation program for them? And that's going to be a really a hard question.


    Another one of the very difficult issues are all the displaced people. Some reports put it at 1.5 million people have been displaced in Nigeria. What efforts are going towards helping that — those people in that crisis?


    Yet, again, it's a new administration, so I don't think we know what President Buhari wants to do with that large number of people.

    The economic reality is I imagine many of them are just going to move south, to cities like Lagos, and Calabar, and Port Harcourt, where the opportunities for employment are slightly better.

    Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa. It has several billionaires. But the part where Boko Haram is operating is up against Lake Chad, I mean, it's one of the poorest parts on earth.

    So, I imagine a lot of people through a mixture of being uprooted by war and just the economic reality of that part of Nigeria are going to move south.


    Let's talk a little bit about the awkward I think is a fair description of the position the United States is in.

    Given that Nigeria's military has its own cases of human right abuses, what can the United States do, given this tension?


    Right. Lately, U.S. officials that we've spoken to seem to be a little bit more optimistic than before.

    They feel the army is opening up to the idea that they need to be a little more careful about not killing and alienating the very civilians they need to win over.

    In the long run, having a new president is — offers an opportunity for the U.S. military to try new partnerships, but in the long run, this is a really tough situation that the Nigerians themselves are going to have to figure out.


    Drew Hinshaw of The Wall Street Journal — thanks for sharing your reporting.


    Thank you, too.