Four Nigerian policemen are in court for the 2009 murder of rebel militant Mohammed Yusuf.
Yusuf, who many credit as the founder of Islamic insurgency group Boko Haram, was captured by police during a violent uprising in northern Nigeria that led to the deaths of nearly 1,000 people. Yusuf was taken into custody alive, but later found shot to death and floating in a river.
A trial is underway in an Abuja court house. The trial has been going on since Monday, and is a continuation of a case involving seven officers, which went to court last month.
The timing of the trial is telling.
Boko Haram has initiated an unprecedented wave of violence in the past month, mostly in the Borno state of Nigeria, and bombings and attacks occur nearly every day. The militant group generally targets police officers and security personnel, but they have also opened fire on restaurants and markets.
So far, President Goodluck Jonathan has been unable to stop the rebels, who have the unfortunate characteristics of being decentralized and angry. The Abuja government has sent troops into Maiduguri and imposed curfews, the result of which so far has only been more death.
John Campbell, the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council of Foreign Relations, told IBTimes that military force will do little to stop Boko Haram. Campbell thinks that political gamesmanship is the best way to appease the unsettled north.
It is essential for the government to reach out to North. The North has to be reconciled politically. Jonathan will have to use security force, but that's the not answer, Campbell said.
The Muslim north in Nigeria feels under-represented in national politics, and felt slighted by the recent presidential elections.
While Campbell is referring to appointing northern politicians to high government positions, the start of the police trial should serve the same point. Jonathan needs to show some support for the North and make them feel represented in Abuja.
Right now, the media -- which is based in the Christian south -- and the government have labeled Boko Haram an enemy of the state. However, many in the north are sympathetic to the rebel group, and the campaign against Boko Haram has further alienated northerners from their government.
Much will depend on the result of the trial against the four police officers. Boko Haram is known to over react when it doesn't get its way. When Jonathan was elected to a second term this April, a wave of violence in the north left 800 people dead. The trial must be fair, but Jonathan must also be prepared for further bombings.
An awful lot is riding on Jonathan's political skill, Campbell noted. He was shown patience thus far, but others ask what has he done? The political challenges he faces are enormous. He's got to work very carefully.