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In Nigeria, Voters Question President's Advance On Boko Haram


Nigeria is holding elections next week. That country has faced an ongoing threat from the terrorist group Boko Haram. As the election nears, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan says his forces have been able to retake much of the territory seized by Boko Haram. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is on the line from the capital Abuja. Ofeibea, can you tell us more about what President Jonathan is saying?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Well, President Goodluck Jonathan sounds supremely confident in an interview with our colleagues at the BBC. He says that he reckons that within a month, Boko Haram should be a thing of the past or at least that its territory that it has held for so long and the violence that it has caused in the northeast should be at the end. Have a listen to President Jonathan.


PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN: They are getting weaker and weaker by the day. And I'm very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover all territories that have been in their hands.

MARTIN: So he's setting a timeline saying it won't be more than a month, all that territory will be regained. What has been the response from the opposition in Nigeria?

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, they're not quite so confident. And they're saying, like many Nigerians, well, how come? The elections were postponed for six weeks because of this insecurity issue, because the authorities said that the security forces wouldn't be able to insure the security of the elections. But Boko Haram has been causing mayhem and panic for the past six years. So how come the authorities are suddenly able to get rid of Boko Haram? And they warn, also, that is this getting rid of Boko Haram. They may be pushed into their hiding places. And they may be not in control of territory. But how sure is the government that they won't bounce back? And of course, there are still sporadic but deadly suicide bombings by Boko Haram.

MARTIN: The world's attention was fixed on Nigeria nearly a year ago when Boko Haram abducted hundreds of school girls in the northeast of that country. Eleven months later, those girls are still missing. Is this playing into the election?

QUIST-ARCTON: Absolutely. Listen, for example, to Charles Ugochukwu, who is a businessman. When I asked him what are your priorities? What needs to be done ahead of these elections, and what, for you, is the priority of the elections? Here's what he had to say.

CHARLES UGOCHUKWU: The missing Chibok girls, I pray they are found. And the Boko Haram issue with the recent developments, the way government is going against them now. And I know in no time Boko Haram will be a thing of the past.

MARTIN: Nigeria's military is not working alone. Troops from neighboring countries have joined the fight against Boko Haram. Is that collaboration effective?

QUIST-ARCTON: Yes and no. Chad, Niger and Cameroon are all fighting because they - of course, the insurgency was spilling over their borders. But there seems to be some lack of coordination. The Chadian troops, for example, taking territory and securing territory, they say but where are the Nigerian military? We need them to come and occupy this territory to make sure Boko Haram doesn't come back. So those are the issues that are yet to be settled.

MARTIN: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Abuja, Nigeria. Thanks so much, Ofeibea.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.