In January 3 2015 Nigerians were astonished when in response to reports of Chad carrying out air and ground operations on Nigerian territory and taking two villages from Boko Haram, the Army Spokesman Olukolade said the Nigerian military confirmed that they were in the dark and don’t know of an order by President Idris Derby of Chad, deploying ground forces into Nigerian territory without prior notification to the Nigerian government.
Chris Olukolade, in a bid to save face however claimed that the actions of the Chadian military wasn’t illegal because Chad, Cameroon,Nigeria and Niger all belonged to a multinational force set up to tackle the insurgency. Drama ensued when Chadian strongman Idris Derby countered the Nigerian governments statement. Idris Derby said he unilaterally ordered his air and ground forces to recapture Baga from the terrorists because Boko Haram activities were having a profound effect on Chad and Cameroon.
President Idris Derby said :
We answered the call of Cameroons President (Paul Biya). We cannot remain indfferent to what happens to our neighbors. Cameroon must not be left alone to face threat that has so hurt innocent people in Nigeria and Cameroon.
Then the military spokesman Chris Olukolade revealed that the Nigerian government was unaware of the deployments but said he would need to ”verify”.
I will need to verify what you are saying but it is not as if everything is out of order/ There is a Multinational Joint Task Force which alllows us to interact with forces of neighboring countries among which they are.
”But even with that being the case, there cannot be solo operations in that area that will ignore the existing Nigerian arrangement.’‘ he added.
Now, the Nigerian government seemed to have no semblance of a response to a flagrant violation of Nigeria’s territorial sovereignty.
We’re living in interesting times, folks. Some may say they’re tense times or scary times, while others would classify them as exciting and hopeful. No matter your disposition, the one thing you can’t dispute the fact Nigeria’s inability to respond decisively is baffling and troubling.
At lot of people never thought Sub Sahara Africa’s largest land army would lose a series of battles, that eventually metastasize into Nigeria ceding territory the size of a mid-sized European country to a terrorist group for two years, or Morocco becoming a member of ECOWAS, and Tunisia’s astonishing request for ECOWAS membership.
It feels like nothing is even concrete anymore. Not even the things we hold as modern-day gospel, such as the supposed airtight economic, cultural, and military relationship between Nigeria and her Francophone neighbors.
But while we all take this strong relationship for granted, it wasn’t always as good as gold. When Libya decided to meddle into the affairs of Chad in 1979 Nigeria was the most powerful nation in the world and considered France to be its primary rival in its attempt to chart the course of West Africa’s political development.
To bring about complete economic emancipation of all West African countries, Nigeria sought to bring Chad into the economic fold. However economic progress cannot be achieved in a country at war. To this end Nigeria sponsored talks among Chad’s rival factions in 1979 and promoted a little-known civil servant, Mahmat Shawa Lol, as a compromise head of a coalition government.
This Nigerian military also supplied Chad with artillery guns and howitzers. The two nations forged stronger ties in 1980s. Hoping to benefit commercially and diplomatically by expanding regional trade relations, Nigeria replaced France as Chad’s major source of export revenues.
Paris was not happy with this development. Mahmat Shawa Lol’s perceived status as a Nigerian puppet contributed to mounting opposition during his short-term as president Nigeria’s economic aid to Chad was a welcome relief. First time the Chadians will be receiving economic aid with no strings attached. By 1981 relations between Nigeria and Chad had blossomed.
Then on 18 April 1983 the unexpected happened. Chadian forces invaded and seized 19 islands on Lake Chad, inside Nigerian territory.
Taken aback, it took a while for Nigeria to come to grips with this shocking development and act of betrayal. Nigeria’s retaliation was spearheaded by the Nigerian Army 21st Armoured Brigade in Maiduguri, under the overall command of the then Brig.
Muhammadu Buhari, General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division, allowed the Chadians advance deep into Nigerian territory before counter attacking in a pincer attack. General Buhari pushed the invaders some 50 kilometres deep into Chadian territory.
It appears a long, winding road from 1983, when Buhari crushed the Chad invasion of Nigeria!. The Lake Chad region is shrinking fast, revealing potentially huge oil deposits on the Nigerian administered part of the Islands. Cameroon was able to wrestle the oil rick Bakassi Peninsular from Nigeria. In a few short years Cameroon might become a net exporter of crude. Idris Derby’s regime today is bedevilled by economic hardship.Unlike Nigeria, Chad lacks the necessary institituions to absorb the shock of a drop in oil prices, and there only only so much foreign aid can do.
Chad has a more capable military today than it did 35 years ago. When you throw in the fact that Chad has strategic military pacts with France and the United States you realize there is every incentive for Chad to make another go at Nigeria oil rich Islands in the Lake Chad basin.
Chad has allowed its territory to be used by the United States and France as a Forward Operations Base to carry out their agenda. In return worlds two oldest constitutional democracies have turned a blind eye to the brutal oppression carried out by these dictators against their own people.
The people of these countries have been under the tyranical steel claws of these dictators for decades, with thousands of civilians killed in military action over perceived uprisings. These leaders managed to cling to power throughout by increased repression of human rights and rigging elections.
In Cameroon its much worse. The despot Paul Biya is also able to rule with more practical tools, such as fear and control of information. In April 2017 Cameroonian Strongman Paul Biya cut off internet services to the English-speaking region of his country for 93 days after protests against political and economic discrimination by the country’s French-dominated government.
The government achieved the shutdown by pressuring mobile operators and did not give any prior notice before cutting off the internet services. Paul Biya’s 34 year rule has been characterised by jails packed full of political prisoners to defuse real or imagined plots and ordered bloody purges.
Yet the worlds 4th largest democracy is constantly to source of criticisms and allegations of human rights violations by Amnesty International.
So what if Chad, facing economic collapse and desertification suddenly develops territorial ambition, in an era in which Nigeria is manifesting disturbing symptoms of a country unable to defend its integrity?
Nigeria has successfully defended its territory from Chadian and Cameroonian invasion on several occasions—albeit back in the 80s when the Chadian army, though powerful was no match for the Nigerian. In the 80s under the Shagari leadership the Nigerian army was structured to fight two wars on its northern and eastern flank simultaneously.
Unfortunately Nigeria’s political leadership lack strategic dept. Nigeria’s leaders see the regional environment through a realist lens. Nigeria envisioned a mortal threat from its northern neighbor Chad, which at the time was not strategically allied to France or the United States. Overtime, the existential threat to Nigeria has been expanded to include two of the worlds most powerful militaries, France and the United States.
With the rush for West Africa one can’t help but wonder about the worst-case scenario. There’s never been a better time to think about what exactly would happen if a surprise attack sees a hostile power seizing 19 of the Nigerian controlled islands rich in untapped mineral deposits.
Before we proceed let us look at some facts about the difference in military might between these two or three nations involved nations.
The Chadian armed forces are woefully small and ill-equipped compared to Nigeria.
The 30,000 or so regular Chadian force is a pittance compared to the 180,000 or so in the Nigerian Army, and that’s not even bringing in the reserve (5,000 for Chad, 32,000 for Nigeria) or technology and weapons into it.
Chad has 60 T-55 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) to Nigeria’s77 T-72M MBT, 150 Vickers Mk3 MBT, 120 T-55 MBT and a dozen or more AMX-30 MBT.
Chad has three Mig-29 Fulcrums and eight SU-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft and fewer that 40 military aircrafts compared to the over 12 F-7Ni interceptors, 16 Alpha light attack jet. By a couple of month that number could swell to three JF-17 multiole fighters and 12 Embrae Super Tucan warplane. seven reconnaisance aircrafts. five C-130 Hercules, two G-222 tranport plane, 16 STOL (Short takeoff and landing) transport aircraft. Overall fixed winged aircraf of 250. (I wont even bother comparing the number and quality of helicopter gunships)
Chad’s military budget sits somewhere at somewhere near the $550 million mark, whereas Nigeria’s defense spending is in excess of between $3 billion to 5 billion, which is, well, a little different.
Given the massive disparity in personnel, equipment and funding one would expect the Nigerian military to be so fearsome that no country in the region would dare do provoke the Nigerian military or even carry out incursions into Nigerian territory with gusto and run to the press to brag about it. Sadly the reverse is the case. It is Nigeria, afraid to chase Boko Haram fighters deep into Cameroonian and Chadian territory because permission was not granted, while at the same time unable to respond or do anything against numerous unauthorized armed incursion into Nigerian territory by both countries, and as is the case with the former, razing whole villages, killing civilians and threatening further actions.
Why is this? Because the Nigerian military finds itself in a disadvantageous position in which, in the case of an invasion, Nigeria will not be able to repel the invasion until months or years later.
The major thing working against Nigeria is the fact France and (recently) is considered a very close partner to the Chadians, so if they started amassing on the border and explained it away as a military exercise, Nigeria would, most likely, accept it as true. Africa’s wealthiest most powerful black nation wouldn’t see this coming and be without a well-known and practiced contingency plan.
Frankly, Chad’s biggest military advantage for the last decade has been its close friendship and proximity to the Nigeria.
The culture of lack of maintenance and strategic is so entrenched in the Nigerian psyche that In terms of planning, well, a significant amount of time would go into the particulars of the attack on the Nigerian side, it would be planned for months, if not years. The attack would be quick, surgical, and attempt to have as little bloodshed/casualties as possible. By the time Nigeria gets off the shock and mobilize the nation for war the enemy would by then have pierced hundreds of miles into Nigerian territory, putting them in an advantageous position to call for peace talks.
To put into perspective, at the heights of its power Boko Haram for almost two years captured and administered control of huge swathes of land the size of a small European country, encompassing over 26 local government and calling mor than 2 million Nigerians its own. If Boko Haram, lacking in State resources can do this, how much more a near peer adversary with the resource of the state and the backing of the Wests most powerful nation.
Nigeria has been outplayed in its very own backyard on a strategic level. To out things into perspective, with over 6,000 troops in the region ( which is the number they gave, which means that number could be well over 10,000). The consequence of this is that Nigeria finds itself in a lose lose situation. In the past the fear of Nigerian artillery was a deterrence factor the enemy was not willing to gamble on. Nigeria has traditionally maintained more artillery firepower than all countries in West Africa combined.
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting,” wrote the legendary Chinese strategist Sun Tzu 2,500 years ago.
But the threat environment has evolved with time and despite a decade of a bitter war of attrition Nigeria has refused to formulate strategies that should account for changes that will reshape the security environment in her sphere of influence.
Due to the size of the Nigerian army and the resources available to the country, an enemies strategy will be about paralyzing an entire country. It can best be described as seeking victory by incapacitating, rather than annihilating, an opponent, but about bringing a rich and powerful country and their capability to their knees.
In the last decades, the Franco alliance has increasingly recognized that war is no longer a contest of annihilation between opposing military forces, but rather a clash between opposing operational systems. Rather than emphasizing firepower and decisive battles between mass armies, Chad, Cameroon and France are attempting to paralyze Nigeria’s ability to respond to an assault on Nigeria by a foe.
In this new reality, an enemy can be defeated if its operational system can be rendered ineffective or outright unable to function, and by all indication they have achieved this purpose. By turning a blind eye to French and American activities in the region, Nigeria has unwittingly puts itself into a position in which retaliatory strikes into enemy territory by Nigeria’s fearsome artillery arsenal might equally lead to the death of French and American personnel in the countries military bases.
The reprisal attacks, given Nigeria’s weak air defense structure will be catastrophic for Nigeria. Or put another way, Nigeria’s very large artillery forces won’t do much good if they can’t afford to risk war with France and the U.S by killing lots of their personnel. If that happens it will be Libya 2.0. Alternatively, rather than risk political capital they could carry out selected drone strikes on Nigerian targets.
Over the years as part of its modernization program, Nigeria’s has improved upon and expanded its ISR capabilities. Recent acquisition programs reveals Nigeria’s priority of ISR capable platforms and improved packages of tightly integrated systems, including command, communications, targeting and intelligence for quicker response time. Disrupt that integration, and the enemy is reduced a gaggle of flailing limbs.
If all this sounds a bit familiar, it is. Defeating an opponent by rendering him confused and helpless dates back to Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and even Nazi blitzkrieg tactics. The Cold War image of China was of a huge country with a huge army that would simply wear down an enemy as the Japanese army had been worn down in China during World War II.
Or the old joke that on the first day of a Sino-Soviet war, China loses five million men, on the second day ten million and the third day twenty million—and on the fourth day Russia surrenders. What’s more, Chads’s military is shifting toward a more flexible doctrine of mix-and-match packages of capabilities configured for a specific situation. Their understanding of mid-20th century warfare, shaped by their own experience against Nigeria and their observations of ECOMOG operations meant that the dominant mode of warfare could be characterized as attrition-based warfare of large, mostly mechanized, military units.
As a result, seeking the greatest economy of force with the ability to project power through an increase in expensive assets, while never completely written off, was probably not thought by Chad to be achievable.
The information revolution has now changed this thinking as Chad, like every other military, fully recognizes massed forces without effective air cover, are highly vulnerable to PGMs. Nigeria’s superiority in size could be easily negated by achieving air superiority
To be clear, while Sun Tzu favored defeating an opponent with cleverness rather than violence, there is nothing pacifistic about the Franco-Americans new strategy of ringing West Africa with sophisticated drone bases (and they keep building more).
Wherever the United States is, there will be terrorism, war, poverty and death. By now, everybody knows that groups like Boko Haram are armed and supported via proxy by France.
By spending $600 million on 12 Super Tucano, or allotting $200 million to build grazing ranches for cattle herders, while neglecting the nations near extinct defensive systems such as fighter interceptors in huge numbers and air defense system Nigeria is focusing on the wrong threat.
Even with the presence of the United and France in the region Nigeria still has a chip over its soldiers. Nigeria’s deadly weapon is in numbers, its huge resources and its propensity to do the right thing when all other options have been expended.
The most deadly new weapon in Chads and Cameroon’s arsenal may be an appreciation of just how vulnerable Nigeria’s political and military nervous system truly is. The Franco-Americans are not naive. They know that despite the corruption, hat Chad and Cameroon together would be signing their own suicide notes if they ever attacked the Nigeria. An attack on Nigeria by external forces will unite the country against one common enemy.
Perhaps the biggest threat to the region as a whole is a lack of understanding of the Nigerian people. With the level of internal strife and disunity amongst ethnic lines, a potential aggressor can easily seek to exploit it by launching an outright attack, expecting various ethnicities to line up the road waving American flags in jubilation as liberators. Such a flawed premise increases the risk of war.
Unauthorized incursions into Nigerian territory by Cameroonian and Chadian forces with Nigerian unable or unwilling to respond effectively is erroneously interpreted as a sign of weakness rather than incompetence, which are two different things in its entirety.
A perfect example is the Russian Chechen war. Russia lost a lot of its industrial capacity when the Soviet Union collapsed. At this time is it accurate to say Russia was Nigeria with snow. Chechen fighters for months entered Russian territory for months, often unmolested. The Chechens knew the state of the Russian military. Internal wrangling and political upheaval prevented Russia to respond forcefully in the manner a country under attack should., which unfortunately Chechnya mistook for a sign of weakness.
A turning point toward the second war came March 5, 1999, at the Grozny airport. Gen. Gennady Shpigun, the Russian Interior Ministry representative in Chechnya, boarded a Tu-134 passenger plane for Moscow. Masked gunmen grabbed Shpigun and bundled him off the plane and into a waiting car.
The kidnappings showed that “Russia was not capable of exercising any control or influence over Chechnya. The constant cross border attacks on Russsian territory and hostage-taking “demonstrated the impotence of Russia’s power. In a wat it was Russian inactivity, and impotence, that was a cause of the war.
Tired of the embarrassment meted upon Russia the Kremlin started planning to cordon off the region after the latest attack. A plan that envisioned Russian troops taking northern Chechnya all the way to the Terek River. The plan, as it was often discussed, would allow Russia to launch strikes from the north deeper into Chechnya to destroy the rebels’ “bases.
In an audacious move Chechen fighters again crossed the border Aug. 7 into a district of Dagestan and opened fire. The KGP chief Stepashin was fired and replaced by Putin. The parliamentary elections were looming and Yeltsin’s critics were growing stronger.
Putin, in responding to the Dagestan incursion, turned for support to Russian military generals who were eager to avenge their defeat in the 1994-96 war. Putin invoked the domino theory to assert the Dagestan attack threatened Russia disintegration.
“I was struck dumb” by the consequences, Putin said in a recent interview with Russian journalists. There was a plot to break up the Russian Federation by external players. “It would have spread to Dagestan, the whole Caucasus would have been taken away, it’s clear . . . Russia as a state . . . [would] cease to exist.”
According to several officials, Western nations tried to help Chechya, and for several years quietly supplied them with weapons and money.
As both sides edged toward a wider conflict, the bombing of several apartment buildings in Moscow and other cities in September, killing nearly 300 people, drove Russian leaders over the edge. Moscow has blamed the Chechens for the bombings, but there is no proof to substantiate the allegations and no one has claimed responsibility. The precise intentions and identity of the bombers are unknown, but the result was unequivocal–the bombings created a mood of war hysteria in Russia.
Russia took a step that Western Intelligence analysts did not believe it would take. All out war. Helicopter gunships fired 10 missiles on a rebel base along the border.
The next day Russia mobilized for war. Russia prosecute the war with unprecedented violence. Russia’s ferocity was evidently intent on reversing the humiliating defeat it suffered in Chechnya 3 years prior. The Russian authorities presented the war in Chechnya as a crusade against terrorism and an ultimate attempt to avoid the breakup of the Russian Federation. The fighting was the worst in the region since Russia’s 1994-1996 civil war with Chechnya.
Russia’s unexpected response prompted Western governments to issue statements of concern over Russian tactics against rebels. However, with Russia;s ferocious response there appeared to be little appetite among outside powers to intervene in the conflict with anything more than public complaints.
The Russian government benefited from the criticism, because it allowed Russian leaders to portray themselves as standing up for Russia against the West at no cost.
It was widely believed in Russia that the war has something to do with the presidential election coming up in mid-2000. With Yeltsin’s approval rating standing at something near 2 percent in the polls, Putin won public support that he could not have gotten any other way.
Human rights groups had repeatedly charged Russian troops with employing brutal tactics, amid signs the conflict had attracted foreign fighters. Russian President Putin ruled out negotiating with Chechen separatist leaders, whom he called terrorists. Any attempt to talk with moderate Chechen separatists would probably bring little result, as hard-liners would continue their fight against Russia.
Russia’s policy in Chechnya was a part of a broader Russian policy across the entire Caucasus designed to freeze out other people and allow Russian influence to come back. By its re-conquest of Chechnya, Russia served notice to the US that Russia had stopped retreating from the Caucasus and intended to scuttle US plans to gain control over the region.
The second Chechen War was the best argument in favor of the agreement on an oil pipeline from Baku to Turkey as an alternative to a Russian pipeline, paradoxically confirming the Russian assumption that the United States benefited from Chechnya because it wanted to bring the Caucasus under its influence.
An existential threat to Nigeria regardless of how powerful the aggressor is will finally unite million people against a common enemy. With the country back against the wall Nigeria might respond with unprecedented violence and ferocity to Western intelligence analysts would have predicted.
It will be the end of autocratic regimes in the region and might for all intent and purposes bring democracy to these countries for the very first time in their history, something the United States and France have been trying to avoid for years now. It will be virtually impossible to use democratic states as a base to launch a proxy war against a fellow African state.