These problems are especially acute in northern Nigeria, which has historically been ignored at the expense of the country's south. Ninety-five percent of Nigeria's foreign revenue is generated in the country's oil-rich Niger Delta, located in the country's south. The government has concentrated development efforts there in an effort to appease Niger Delta militants and to keep oil flowing out of the country.
The northern half of Nigeria is desert, making farming nearly impossible. Polio has yet to be eradicated there. Most citizens in the north don't have clean drinking water. Electricity is unreliable. Power fails multiple times each day. Economic growth there is non-existent. According to the World Bank, half of all Nigerians are unemployed. Seventy-one percent of young people don't have jobs. Boko Haram generally doesn't speak specifically about these issues, but these conditions make northern Nigeria ripe for extremism.
So far, Jonathan's government has appeared flat-footed in its response to Boko Haram. A federal panel suggested an amnesty after talks between former president Obasanjo and Yusuf's family collapsed. Jonathan rejected the suggestion, electing instead to send the Nigerian military to confront the group. He continues to insist that the Boko Haram threat is overstated and will be quickly eradicated.
Evidence of the government's military campaign effectiveness is difficult to find. Few Western reporters operate in northern Nigeria. Nigerian news services have also scaled back reporting after the group claimed responsibility for the October murders of a Nigeria Television Authority cameraman and reporter.
"The government's response has been reactive," Ero said. "There has to be a review within the government on how to deal with the wider issues that compel Boko Haram."
As fighting continues, human rights groups are raising concerns about the possibility of abuses by the Nigerian military. In the past, Nigerian security forces have been heavy-handed in their pursuit of the group, indiscriminately shelling Boko Haram strongholds and killing innocent bystanders. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Nigerian police and security services have also carried out extrajudicial executions in its pursuit of the group -- including Yusuf's 2009 murder.
In addition, according to Sani, Muslim elements within the Nigerian government and military tacitly support Boko Haram and want the violence to continue. Politicians from Nigeria's Muslim north remain upset with the reelection of Jonathan, a Christian from the Niger Delta, last spring. Traditionally, the presidency rotates between the north and Christian south. Jonathan's reelection disrupted that cycle.
Nigerian security services have already linked people within the government to the group. In November, Nigerian Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, who hails from Borno, was arrested for acting as a spokesman. And Boko Haram has also claimed it has the support of other within the Nigerian government.
Boko Haram has repeatedly threatened to attack southern Nigeria. And in addition to anti-government attacks, Nigeria may soon be facing violence between militant groups. In recent interviews, the leaders of Niger Delta Christian militant groups said that although they were sympathetic with Boko Haram's grievances and supported its struggle against government injustice, any incursion into the Delta would lead to war.
"They should not do something against the southern part of Nigeria," a man who calls himself Eybele, a general in the Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta, told me recently. "In our struggle we don't target individuals. We don't have anything against them unless they touch any of our citizens."