In the eight years since Zawahiri made his claim, his vision of a grand west African front hasn't panned out. Islamists haven't attacked any foreign targets in Nigeria. There are no Nigerians in Guantánamo. Allegations about small cells surface now and again, but nothing has been proven yet. There's no strong anti-American sentiment in Nigeria, and there aren't any U.S. troops nearby to attack. "West Africa just has not been a fertile ground for jihadism," says Peter Lewis, director of the Africa program at the School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. "This doesn't translate into a regional Islamist network." The death-to-the-Westerners mantra just has no constituency there.
What Nigeria does have—and what the Boko Haram attacks actually reflect—is an immensely complicated (and often very nasty) local politics. Nigeria's mean poverty rate, the number of people living below $1.25 a day, soars above 70 percent, even as a tiny minority of wealthy, and often very corrupt, officials live decadently. Nowhere is the discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots more pronounced than in Nigeria's fertile northern regions, where the Boko Haram attacks are occurring. Unemployment is rife, even among college-educated youth. That's partly why northerners opted for alternate political systems, and Sharia law in particular—hoping that bypassing the existing system would guarantee them a bigger piece of the pie.
Some of the previous warnings that Nigeria could be a troublespot that are a bit more recent are still online, one example from 2007. There have also been recent articles about how some of the acts of terrorism there directed at oil production has a larger global economy impact far beyond Nigeria.