THE BLOG
10/02/2015 13:29 GMT | Updated 10/04/2015 10:59 BST

They're Not Beheading or Burning Hostages, but Boko Haram is Striking Just as Much Terror as ISIS

I'm not just talking about "terror" caused by violent and despicable acts such as burning Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh to death or throwing gay men off roofs (and stoning them to death if they happen to survive the fall). Boko Haram, for whatever reason, have carried out less brutal attacks, eschewing gory, cruel and bloodthirsty means of killing and gaining notoriety. Boko Haram also lacks (or, for now, has no interest in) the media savvy use of film - be it the high production values of the 22-minute video of al-Kassabeh's murder or the repetitive image of Jihadi John or others of his ilk standing over innocent men dressed in orange jumpsuits before they are slaughtered.

But Boko Haram doesn't need that "drama" to threaten Nigeria - or, more importantly right now, strike fear into the heart of the political process. February 14th presidential election has been postponed until March 28th. The country's electoral commission says it's so that order can be restored to the north-east of Nigeria, where Boko Haram are more or less in control and an international force of troops from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin have joined the Nigerian army to fight the insurgency. The delay is so Nigerian soldiers can focus on fighting Boko Haram.

I was planning on writing about how the more than 17 million Nigerians in the diaspora can't take part in the ballot because postal voting still hasn't materialised despite President Jonathan Goodluck promising to work towards it back in 2011 (he also said he wouldn't be running in 2015 but I'll just add that to the list of broken promises). But now I'm outraged and saddened that even those in Nigeria can't exercise their democratic right thanks to Boko Haram.

Terror isn't just the fear of being kidnapped like the poor Chibok girls. Terror isn't just being scared to go to a church or market place in case it's the target of an attack. Terror isn't just having to keep your young daughters, sisters, nieces or cousins close by in case they're snatched and used as a human bombing device. Terror can be despondency, the complete absence of hope for positive change. For more than 170 million people living in Nigeria, this election represents an opportunity to seek change. Many are fed up that their country, now the economic powerhouse of Africa, can't put down a localised insurgency. Many are wondering how Africa's most-populous country doesn't have enough military might to fight Boko Haram and assure the safety of voters simultaneously.

This presidential election has now boiled down to a battle between "more of the same" incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan and a "chance for something different" from his main opponent Muhammadu Buhari. Then there's the almost 50/50 split of the religious makeup of Nigeria between Christianity and Islam. Jonathan is Christian and Buhari is a Muslim. And Jonathan has broken the unwritten agreement for a Muslim and a Christian to alternate holding the presidency (Jonathan took over after the death of Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in 2010 - cutting short the presidency of a Muslim - before successfully running in 2011).

I'm not saying that religion is good basis on which to choose someone for the highest office of the country. I'm certainly not saying that Boko Haram (nor ISIS) is any legitimate representation of Islam. In fact, many Muslims in Nigeria, Jordan and all over the world denounce these fanatics. But the religious backgrounds of the two main candidates may hold significance for Nigerian voters and can't be ignored. However, I'm betting most Nigerians don't care which faith the next president follows, as long as he can eradicate this militant group of murderers, wrongly using Islam to justify their horrific campaign. Boko Haram may not have produced imagery that has travelled across the media landscape, burning iconic pictures into the minds of those of us in the West. But by interrupting the political process and denying ordinary Nigerians the chance for peace with a delay of even one day, Boko Haram has proven itself just as terrifying.