* Media ups coverage, counts days since mass kidnapping
* Insurgency tied into tangled web of politics
* Violence, relentless stories dent Nigerian optimism
By Tim Cocks and Andrew Heavens
LAGOS/ABUJA, June 12 A year ago, the daily
editorial conference at Nigeria's Guardian newspaper might have
paused to consider where on the inside pages to place a story
about the latest Boko Haram attack.
These days there is no need to think. Major raids by the
Islamist insurgents go front and centre in the paper - and then
further, generating comment pieces looking at every angle
through the prism of Nigerian politics.
As with the global press, coverage has increased as attacks
have increased in recent months. "It is breaking news all the
time," said Martins Oloja, the tabloid's editor. "We know that
before we go to bed there will almost definitely be a strike."
But Nigerian newspapers differ from the almost exclusively
human interest reporting of their global counterparts in the
lengths they will go to make links between attacks in the remote
northeast and national politics - all against the background of
"We thought it (the Boko Haram insurgency) was a flash in
the pan ... But it has become a very bad ulcer," said Oloja.
"This insurgency is political. It is tied to the 2015
presidential election. People are imputing motives. This wasn't
like that a year ago," he added.
Once the revolt was largely a matter for the authorities of
the northeast. But the fighters have stepped up the violence in
recent months, launching attacks in the central city of Jos and
in Abuja, the capital.
The government's decision to declare states of emergency and
launch a military offensive in May last year has meant national
agencies face harsh scrutiny - particularly after their failure
to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls abducted in April.
The police's decision to ban public protests over the girls
in the capital last week, and then apparently reverse that
decision, generated a three-column editorial asking if the
police chief should "be allowed to function in a democracy".
Ahead of the election, the revolt has become tangled in
Nigeria's geographic and political fault line, between the
mainly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south - and between
the ruling People's Democratic Party and the opposition
coalition the All Progressive Congress.
The PDP, which runs the country, and the APC, which runs the
regional bodies in the northeast, have traded blame in print and
on TV over the mishandling of the revolt.
President Goodluck Jonathan has delayed announcing his
candidacy for the next election until after the girls are found,
unnamed sources say in one report. Northern army officers have
been court-martialed on charges of secretly backing the rebels,
say others, despite military denials.
Wednesday's Guardian - a paper seen as largely non-partisan
- ran a front page editorial demanding the president visit the
site of the kidnapping and make bolder statements. "Why is it
that whenever history furnishes our President with an
opportunity to roar, he whimpers," it asked.
The relentless insurgency, covered with CNN-like intensity
on stations such as Channels TV, has had an inevitable impact on
viewers, even on the coastal commercial capital of Lagos, where
many had felt insulated from the northeast.
Gallop polls repeatedly put Nigerians at or near the top of
the world's countries ordered according to optimism. But even in
Lagos' glitzy Intercontinental Hotel, the impact of Boko Haram
can be found.
"It's really damaged our pride to find ourselves in this
situation," oil company official O.B. Nyong said.
"We believed our military could do a lot but it seems not.
Ten years ago nobody would believe you could have suicide
bombers in Nigeria," he added. "Now look at us."
The government has been prickly about the surge in negative
coverage, keen to focus on positives such as Nigeria's recent
crowning as Africa's largest economy and its hosting of the
World Economic Forum in May.
That event barely got a mention amid a wave of stories on
Even when there hasn't been an attack, a panel on the front
page of The Daily Trust newspaper counts up the days since the
mass adduction. Every front page on The Nation is marked with a
bold question mark over the words 'Where Are the Chibok Girls'.
"We are optimistic people but the events of the past three
years have been bleak. I'm depressed," said Abdallah Bello, a
civil servant in Maiduguri, the city where Boko Haram
"The feeling that things must get better is no longer there.
There's no pride in being a happy people anymore. The killing
has gone on for too long."
(Additional reporting by Lanre Ola in Maiduguri; Writing by
Andrew Heavens; Editing by Giles Elgood)