150 of the deaths were people killed in mosques, stormed by Boko Haram militants targeting Muslims praying during the holy month of Ramadan. And on Sunday Christians were targeted during their own prayers, in a suicide bombing that killed a woman and her two children, among others. President Muhammadu Buhari has called the attacks “inhuman and barbaric,” but insists that Nigeria is winning the war against the Islamic extremists.
Buhari has shown determination to put an end to Boko Haram ever since his inauguration as president in May. Along with neighbours Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, Nigeria has been closing in on the organization both militarily and economically. They have driven militants out of several towns in Nigeria’s northeast and aiming to do the same in their remaining strongholds along the border with Cameroon.
But even with all this progress, it will mean nothing if the other problems in northern Nigeria are not dealt with. The country’s north-south divide is not only about religion, but about quality of life. There is widespread poverty and unemployment in the north, while access to education is still inadequate. Furthermore, many families have been broken up due to violence, with too many stories of wives losing husbands and parents losing children. And while these things are abhorrent to the people at large, they are ideal for Boko Haram, eager to take advantage of people, coercing them-or even forcing them as in the case of the 276 school girls kidnapped from Chibok in 2014-to adhere to their extremist views.
The war is still raging, but the biggest fights may no longer be on the battlefield.