President-elect Muhammadu Buhari's standing in Nigeria's restive north, the birthplace of the Boko Haram insurgency, along with his experience as a retired army general, will help him in the fight against the insurgents and in other security-related crises, experts believe. "I think he will help curb their activities," Otive Igbuzor, executive director of the African Center for Leadership, Strategy and Development, told The Anadolu Agency. "I expect the next government to be tougher in terms of dealing with the militants," he said. In his acceptance speech on Wednesday, Buhari vowed to battle the Boko Haram militant group and government corruption. "I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to ridding this nation of terror and bringing back peace and normalcy to all affected areas," he said. "We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism," added the president-elect. Igbuzor believes Buhari's assumption of the presidency will take a toll on the six-year-old insurgency. "That is the expectation of every Nigerian; I think that he should be able to fix it," he told AA. "You recall that recently when Boko Haram wanted to negotiate, they named him as negotiator on their behalf," Igbuzor noted.
In 2013, the notorious militant group named Buhari its preferred negotiator, an offer he flatly rejected. Known for his fierce criticism of Boko Haram, the former military ruler was targeted in 2014 in what was described by the group as an assassination attempt. During the presidential campaign, Buhari promised that, as commander-in-chief, he would lead from the front and not from behind from the comfort of Aso Rock, the seat of the presidency in capital Abuja. Nigeria is fighting a six-year Boko Haram insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced over one million people from the country's northeast, where the militants have been the most ruthless. The military recently announced that all territory earlier captured by the insurgents in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states had all since been "liberated" by the army. Boko Haram's activities have ebbed in recent days.
Experts believe Buhari's history as a retired army general will help him in the fight against the insurgents. "There is no basis to compare Buhari with the outgoing president in terms of handling operations involving the military," retired Colonel Tahiru Alayande, a military expert, told AA. "I expect that he will raise troops' morale by paying all their dues at the right time and by truly equipping the military," he said. "And I expect that, as a former commander himself, he won't tolerate his commanders waiting for Boko Haram to attack before defending, which has been the case [until now]," Alayande asserted. "We should wipe these guys off the map. Hard stances must be taken against any community that harbors militants under any guise," he insisted. Born in 1942, Buhari was commissioned by the army as a second lieutenant in 1963. He has since served in different capacities as an army officer, including a stint as military governor of Nigeria's restive northeastern region. The major-general served as military head-of-state between 1983 and 1985, following the ouster of the country's civilian regime. "Buhari was a tough army commander who led the battle against Maitatsine, which was similar to Boko Haram," Alayande told AA. "By all standards, he has all the edges, and he must use them against Boko Haram," he said. Maitatsine, a religious group whose name literally means the ‘one who damns', waged a similar insurgency against the Nigerian state in the 1970s.
Igbuzor, the analyst, noted that Buhai had promised to pay special attention to the welfare of the armed forces and their families, as well as fallen soldiers and their families. "He promised to boost the morale of the men and women of the armed forces," he told AA. "One hopes that… the government will act swiftly and decisively on actionable intelligence to help bring back our girls," added Igbuzor. "The expectations of Nigerians from the Buhari administration are very high; it is hoped he won't let the people down," Igbuzor said.
Yinusa Yau, a prominent Nigerian rights activist, expects a change in the approach to the fight against Boko Haram under Buhari, himself a Sunni Muslim. "In terms of security, we should expect the president-elect to quickly get down to business," he told AA. Yau expects Buhari to involve all relevant stakeholders, governors, interest groups and elders in the northeast – in the fight against Boko Haram. "[The aim will be] to develop a collective agenda and responsive strategy to deal with the insurgency," said Yau, who at one time served on government committees on the Boko Haram crisis.