The Nigeria Security Tracker shows a significant fall in Boko Haram activity over the past year. Following peaks in 2014 and 2015, the levels of violence associated with Boko Haram have returned to the level of 2011. The self-proclaimed Islamic State apparently demoted Abubakar Shekau from his leadership position of the organization’s West African province. Shekau ostensibly accepted the demotion—he did not revoke his allegiance—and returned to the imam title he formerly used. The Nigerian military has repeatedly claimed that it has killed or seriously wounded Shekau, most recently after an August 23 airstrike.
However, on September 24, Shekau posted a twenty-seven minute video on YouTube in which he repeated familiar themes in Arabic, Hausa, and English. (In the video he looks robust.) For example, he denounced the Nigerian national anthem and pledge of allegiance as putting the state before Allah. He denounced Western education as luring Africans away from the study of the Koran. He repeated that he would release the kidnapped Chibok school girls only in exchange for Boko Haram ‘brothers’ in captivity. New were particularly crude denunciations of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari who he portrays as in cahoots with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Secretary-General Ban Kai Moon.
Despite the Nigerian military’s dismissal of the video, it seems clear that Shekau is back as a media presence after a long hiatus. It remains to be seen whether it presages a new round of Boko Haram violence. Shekau so threatened, with specific reference to Maiduguri, Kaduna, and Kano.