On November 28, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari visited soldiers and a military hospital in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency. His visit was in conjunction with the 2018 chief of army staff’s annual conference. Speaking to the conference, Buhari commended the army’s efforts so far against Boko Haram, acknowledged their recent setbacks, such as at Metele earlier this month where many soldiers and their commander were killed, and encouraged them to do more as he promised that the army would get the resources it required. The conference was originally scheduled to take place in Benin, the capital of Edo state in the south, but it was moved north in light of the series of military defeats at the hands of Boko Haram.
Following the conference on November 29, Buhari is scheduled to meet with the leaders of Chad and Niger in N’Djamena to discuss Boko Haram’s apparent resurgence and proposals to strengthen the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), made up of military assets from Cameroon, Chad, Benin, Niger, and Nigeria. Initially founded in 1994 to combat lawlessness near Nigeria’s porous and unregulated northeastern borders, it is now principally focused on defeating Boko Haram.
The move of the chief of army staff’s annual conference to Maiduguri was almost certainly at President Buhari’s initiative. The move, Buhari’s presence, and his associated visit to wounded troops in a hospital indicates that Buhari is taking seriously the increased tempo of Boko Haram activity. The president’s failure to destroy Boko Haram, as he promised to do in the 2015 presidential election campaign, is a major liability for his chances at reelection in 2019.