By Baba Aye in Abuja, Nigeria
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Bloodbath in Nigeria shows up state’s hypocrisy and lies

This article is over 9 years, 5 months old
Issue 2437
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, greets Nigerias President Goodluck Jonathan
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan (right) with US Secretary of State John Kerry (Pic: US Department of State)

Charity Amnesty International described the recent bloodbath in Baga, Nigeria, as Islamist group Boko Haram’s “deadliest massacre”. Some 2,000 people were killed. 

Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan, who condemned the “dastardly terrorist attack” in Paris within hours, did not say a word about Baga.

The attacks on Baga and 16 other towns and villages started on 3 January. Insurgents overran the headquarters of the joint Chadian, Nigerien and Nigerian army task force.

Fleeing soldiers, men, women and children from Baga were pursued into the villages and bushes, and buildings set ablaze.

The response of the government and its cronies has been offensively insensitive. The chief of defence staff initially denied the base had been seized and residents killed. Senior presidential aide Doyin Okupe described the reported death toll as exaggerated.

Baga in many ways sums up the war in north east Nigeria. It exposes the Nigerian state and Western governments’ lies and hypocrisy, and the army and Boko Haram’s equal culpability.

This isn’t the first massacre in Baga. On 16 April 2013 Boko Haram fighters killed a soldier during a shootout in the town. The army returned with armoured troop carriers. 

For several days, they shot indiscriminately and torched all houses in sight. The army claimed that six civilians were killed. But verifiable evidence confirmed there were 200. 

The 2013 massacre led to the declaration of a state of emergency in three north eastern states.


More people have been killed since than in the four previous years. The kidnapping of the “Chibok girls” drew international attention.

Partly inspired by Isis in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram declared a caliphate in August 2014. It seized swathes of territory in Nigeria’s northern states, which are under a state of emergency. 

In October the government told the world it had reached a ceasefire after secret negotiations with a faction of Boko Haram. The insurgents attacked major areas less than 24 hours later.

This raised fears that the war cannot end through negotiations. But a military solution equally appears utopian, not least because sections of the ruling class are collaborating with Boko Haram. 

The state is part of the problem, not the solution. The security services have killed about as many people as Boko Haram since the war started.

The missing link is leadership by the organised working class. Union leaders have legitimate fears that if they take a lead against Boko Haram, it will target working class activists. 

But hundreds of union members have already been killed. Unions need to take decisive action in combating the twin terrorisms of Boko Haram and the state.

We must stand up against the pillage and plunder, murders and massacres, for #WeAreAllBaga!

Baba Aye is chair of the editorial board of the Socialist Workers League in Nigeria. Read his blog at


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