National Geographic : 2013 Nov
106 national geographic • November 2013 the intelligence networks to lead them to the bombers. Often police don’t even bother tak- ing statements from witnesses after attacks, I was told. Still, the government and the press are equally quick to pin any violence in the north on Boko Haram. For the former, it distracts from men- dacity and ineptitude. For the latter, it provides copy. Privately many people agree that criminals have found in Boko Haram a perfect cover. The result of all this no longer stops at confusion. “You begin to think it’s as though someone’s hell- bent on seeing these problems continue,” Lawan Adamu, another Kano reporter, said. “The con- flict, the crisis, is taking a very big dimension that is really making many of us start thinking or believing that there is a conspiracy. Many people have said this before, and I didn’t want to believe, but now I’m starting to.” Ken Saro-Wiwa the younger, who now is (in a perfect Nigerian irony) an adviser to President Jonathan, told me that Boko Haram is “typical- ly Nigerian, in that it started as an ideological movement. Then it was co-opted by political op- portunists. Then it was mixed with economic issues. And now it’s muddied, so that you can’t tell what it’s about.” When I asked a local community leader in Atakar why no state officials had come to the at- tacked villages there, he said, “Why would they come? They are the sponsors of these things.” And was Boko Haram involved? “Why not?” he said. “What is the difference?” It was a sentiment I heard again and again. Almost no Nigerian I spoke with believes Boko Haram is just Boko Haram. Some claim it’s the creation of Wahhabis from the Gulf states; others, of “the West.” Still others believe Boko Haram is backed by northern politicians vying for power; or by southern politicians who want to destabilize the north; or by people in Presi- dent Jonathan’s party who want to unseat him; or by Jonathan himself, in an effort to cancel elections in the north; or, if not by him, by the people around him. In fact, Jonathan apparently believes the last. In a moment of unbuttoned paranoia at a church service last year he said, bombing was meant to protest the economic dominance of the south over the north. Per- haps what Boko Haram really wants, one theory holds, is regional equity or a new northern na- tion. Among northern politicians, secession is an oft talked about, if impracticable, idea. One thing everyone seems to agree on is that when the authorities got involved, the confu- sion increased. Take what ought to be the most basic fact: how many died. I spoke to one re- porter who put the total around 30; another said around 40. Chief Tobias said 75. The real number will never be known, because no offi- cial account of the incident has been given. The government’s tally—22 dead—is a fiction. The government won’t say who it suspects the bombers were, aside from Boko Haram; how the car bomb was made; or even whether there was only one bomb. Some witnesses claim there were two. Most people agree the car was a Volkswagen, but some—including the ticket taker—say it was an Opel. Some witnesses claim there were two people in the car, others three. According to local journalists, security forces removed corpses from the station as quickly as possible and moved sur- vivors from one hospital to another in an effort to keep reporters away from them. The authorities “don’t want the public to know what is actually happening,” Nasir Zango, a Kano reporter, said. Why? There are varying theories about that too. To head off reprisal attacks. To protect their jobs. Because they deceive a lot. The most com- mon explanation offered to me, and the most troubling, is that security forces didn’t prop- erly investigate the bombing because they can’t. They don’t have the training or the experience, not to mention the interest. They don’t have the equipment to analyze bomb fragments or Men drove alongside the Emir of Kano’s Rolls- Royce and opened fire. Two of his sons were shot, several of his entourage killed. While I was in Kano, there were near- daily reports of shootings.