Although Boko Haram started as a Nigerian-based terror group, the group soon became powerful enough to extend its nefarious activities outside Nigeria. Having developed into a Jihadist group in 2009, it became to carry out largely local attacks, confining its attacks to Northern Nigeria.
The extra-judicial killing of its founding leader, Mohammed Yusuf led to the emergence of Abubakar Shekau as the leader of the sect. For many, the death of Yusuf was seen as a death knell to the organization but curiously the organization grew stronger.
Abubakar Shekau quickly established himself as ruthless but organized and from 2010, he created a mammoth organization which nearly brought the Nigerian government to its knees.
In 2015, the sect controlled a large swathe of territory mostly in North Eastern Nigeria and even formed a ‘Caliphate’. In 2011 alone, there were 115 attacks for which the group claimed responsibility but the height of the sect’s prominence was between 2013-2015.
In 2014, 276 students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School, Chibok and remain missing till this day. The more low profile kidnapping of over 300 people in Damasak largely went unnoticed by the government and most citizens.
There appeared to be no way to bring the activities of the organization to a halt. To be sure, the inadequacies of the Nigerian government exacerbated the problem.
It was Nigeria’s porous borders which enabled Boko Haram to quickly becoming a regional menace as they became more daring in attacks on Chad and even Cameroon. However, in 2016, the sect has been largely pushed back, with the Nigerian Army reclaiming most of the territory the group once controlled.
The attacks on soft targets in Northern states have also been brought to a halt as the group seemed to be in its dying embers. Rumors as to the death of Shekau remained rife, as he hadn’t released any audio or video messages in the past year.
Losing relevance in its homefront of Northern Nigeria and being soundly repelled elsewhere by a Multiregional joint task force, Boko Haram chose to become an affiliate of the Islamic State. The Islamic State (IS), is without doubt the deadliest terror group in the world and the alliance had security experts worried.
If there were any fears of Boko Haram’s resurgence, it has been overshadowed by a messy and public leadership tussle within the sect. The Islamic State announced Musab Al-Barnawi as the new governor of the Western region as reports claimed that Shekau had fallen out of favor with the higher-ups.
Musab reinforced these reports by criticizing Shekau in a video message where he outlined what his priorities as Governor would be. Shekau has now hit back at Al-Barnawi, insisting he remains the head of the sect and going on to call al-Barnawi ‘unqualified to lead’.
There is a lot of hope that the confusion in their ranks might mark the much-awaited end to the sect in Nigeria.