“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” – Albert Einstein.
President Buhari’s trip to Chad for consultations with Idris Derby to review the security situation and intensify the efforts to end the insurgency in the region is proof Nigeria never learns from the past and keeps repeating the same mistake.
Nigeria has long been frustrated with its francophone neighbours persistent acquiescence to safe havens for Boko Haram. Worse yet, Chad has provided direct military and intelligence aid to the group, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Nigerian civilians and security personnel.
Efforts to persuade Chad to crack down on illegal border crossings, even with threats of punitive measures have failed. Why should Nigeria expect Chad not to seize every target of opportynity that comes its way and do what is in its best intetest?
In 2014 a political associate of Chadian President Idris Derby, Mr Gnoti was caught by Nigerian border guards with 19 SAM2 surface to air missiles he purchased from the Sudanese army meant for the Boko Haram terrorist network in northeastern Nigeria.
Mr. Gnoti who claimed that President Idriss Déby gave him the funds to purchase the weapons, had waved a presidential pass issued to him by Mr. Deby’s office in order to get past border guards but was stopped and searched by the guards who found the deadly weapons on him.
This alone is solid evidence that the Chadian president is an enabler in the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s northesat. Just when you think the Nigerian government couldn’t be more gullible, you are proved wrong. A year later Chad once again fooled Nigeria with a phantom Boko Haram ceasefire deal brokered by Idris Derby.
The absurdity of the deal was such that President Goodluck Jonathan was uncertain if the dummy was deliberately sold to Nigeria by Derby or if the Chadian president himself was hoodwinked into believing it was genuine. I will wager on the former. But how did this come about?
Attack helicopters are a terrorists worst nightmare, especially those with night capabilities. By early 2014, newly delivered Mi-24/35 helicopters and Chinese CH-3A Rainbow attack drones were begining to mercilessly decimate the ranks of Boko Haram fighters. For the first time Boko Haram was on the defensive. It’s leader Abubakar Shekau was wounded and struck down with malaria. The combination of South African mercenaries and Russian helicopters was too much for the Jihadi group to handle.
With Boko Haram weakened a final ground offensive was planned involving troops from the 7th infantry division. Four tactical assault groups will attack Boko haram positions in the Sambisa on three axis in a pincer formation, with field artillery units condoning off the area. Victory was in sight at last..
Then Chadian strongman Idris Derby came with good news. Boko Haram was ready to negotiate !! A man claiming to be the general secretary of Boko Haram, named Danladi Ahmadu said that the Chadian government was negotiating with representatives of the group. Then President Goodluck Jonathan did the dumbest thing that probably cost him his re-election. The Nigerian government announced a ceasefire on October 17 for the supposed negotiations to continue.
Alex Badeh, an air chief marshal and chief of defence staff, later addressed the media, asking Nigerians soldiers to ceasefire because of the “agreement”, which he said included releasing the 219 Chibok schoolgirls in Boko Haram captivity.
Idris Derby claimed Boko Haram got in touch with him, he authenticated the message and got the Nigerian government involved in the negotiations.
But a journalist with links to the group had described the claim as “shadows and bubbles” and warned Nigerians not to believe it.
The Nigerian government released to Chad the sum of N2.5 Billion within a three weeks time period, unofficially a sort of thank you gesture for facilitating the talks.
The period of this phantom negotiations gave Boko Haram time to regroup, reinforce and re-arm, which was clearly the objective of Déby for asking the Nigerian government to negotiate a ceasefire with Boko Haram.
It should be noted that the government was trying to verify the authenticity of Boko Haram’s representatives in the supposed negotiations through the State Secrete Service, but Déby asked the Nigerian government to take a chance that he had done the verification already. He affirmed that Boko Haram’s representatives were truly standing in for the group in the negotiations.
Trouble stated when a Nigerian delegation left for Chad on October 21 for talks with Boko Haram, but the Chadian president became evasive. The Nigerian delegation was told that Déby was sick and that the meeting be rescheduled for October 23.
However, on that date, the delegation was told that the Chadian president was still sick after waiting for six hours. The delegation made visits to Chad a number of times, but met a brickwall.
THE COMEBACK KID !!
Then Boko Haram’s resumed its attacks with unprecedented violence, taking the Nigerian army by surprise. The Nigerian government became worried. Many attempts were made to inquire from the Chadian president who was supposed to be mediating between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram, but the attempts were all futile.
FRANCE was privy to the botched negotiations, but said nothing just like the Chadian government.
It became clear to the Nigerian government that Déby was working for Boko Haram. The government of Chad went underground since Boko Haram’s resumed onslaughts. It simply refused to make any comment or communicate with the Nigerian government. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the sect, released a video denouncing the ceasefire deal, laughing at the stupidity of the Nigerian government and saying he had already married off the kidnapped schoolgirls.
The Chadian deception in itself constituted an act of war against the Nigerian state. This should have made Chad the official enemy of the state.
If there is one lesson Nigeria can learn from the past, It is that dealing with Chad is both vital and difficult. Chad has long been a difficult and disruptive neighbor to Nigeria, hoping to limit Nigeria’s influence. It’s the only country Nigeria has ever gone to war with, not Cameroon, but Chad. when Chadian rebels invaded and occupied five Nigerian islands in the Lake Chad basin and trained their guns on Borno state, an action to led to a viseral response by the Nigerian army and the eventual defeat of Chadian rebels at the hands of the 21 armoured division.
Now they just covertly cultivat radical groups within the impoverished north as proxies. Together with the French, they have augmented Nigeria’s instability by covertly providing intelligence, weapons, and protection to Boko Haram fighters.
The Nigerian government knows this. Efforts to forge a strategic partnership through appeasement and economic and financial aid have failed to induce the Derby regime to change. Yes Chad has been an active participant in the MTNJF (Multinational Joint Task Force), but only because Chad’s lost full control over the militant group it had helped, even though it is loath to admit it. The fact that Abubakar Shekau has gone rogue does not acquit Chad of complicity and acts of saboteuring against the Nigerian state.
In 2015 Channels TV ( one of the few investigative media outfit in Nigeria) accused Chads powerful military intelligence service of maintaining influence with Boko Haram and the group’s most ascendant factions.
Bizarrely enough not long later a Channels television news crew was killed by Boko Haram insurgents. Thus signalled the end of the Nigerian media’s footprint in the northeast. The narrative from then onward would be set by the American and French media.
Through this links, Chad (at least before Shekau went rogue) had the ability to control at least some of the tempo of the fighting in northeast Nigeria, and it has done little to constrain it over the past two years. After injecting $100 million in the MNJTF Coalition Support Fund, designed to enable the participating countries to go after counterterrorism targets and militant groups, nothing has been achieved because of Chad’s continued clandestine support for Boko Haram.
The question on the table is, if a decade of inviting and relying upon our one time military foe Chad to quell the Boko Haram insurgency has failed, why continue? Why not go it alone if Nigeria cannot rein in the Chadians to stop their proxy games.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE : TOTAL LOCK DOWN
What Nigeria should do is to go scorched earth. Mobilize the nation for full-scale war. The greatest urban battle in Nigeria’s history. Shut down the border with Niger and Chad and set up border patrolS on land and air, reinforce its military forces at the border area, isolate Boko Haram from the outside world and fight to the death. If this means potential military confrontations with our neighbours so be it.
In 2008 Pakistan was doing exactly what the Chadians have perfected, playing both sides, resulting in U.S troops walking into ambushes and casualty rates soaring. By 2011 the Americans has had enough. American drones caught a convoy of Taliban vehicles coming along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
An hellfire missile destroyed the convoy, that happened to have Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan forces retaliated, targeting U.S troops. Military confrontation between Western military command of the Pakistan Armed Forces and the United States ensued along the Afghan Pakistani border, resulting in the deaths of 42 Pakistani personnel with no U.S. casualties.
The two sides ultimately made peace and continued collaboration operations against insurgent groups in Pakistan following an official, however brief, apology from the-U.S. Needless to say the Pakistan ceased its covert support for the Taliban.
To shut down a large border you need three things : Manpower, Surveillance Assets and Resources. Nigeria has all three in abundance. In 1980 President Buhari closed the nation’s land border as military leader and ordered the nation’s central bank to print new currency notes, in order to stop looters from returning home with their loot. If that can be done to stop looters, how much more when the survival of the Nigerian state is hanging in the balance.
Isolating Boko Haram from its external helpers, not cooperation with Chad is the key to a decisive defeat of Boko Haram. If Nigeria’s neighbours won’t play straight then by all means Nigeria should secure its perimeter by shutting down its land border with those countries and going scorched earth.
Boko Haram fighters fight like the Chadian army. Utilizing speed and mobility, they close in on the enemy at close range before the enemy can bring its weapons to bear. The Chadians perfected this in its Toyota war with Libya, rapidly closing in on Libyan tank positions and overuning them. In this environment Toyota Pickup trucks becomes deadlier than tanks.
The best way to defend against sneak fast attacks designed to disorient and confuse the defender is to strike first. Perhaps Nigeria could borrow a thing or two from Hitlers Wehrmacht. They perfected the use of counterattacking the attacking force. Disrupting the enemy’s offensive before it got any traction. When ever waves of Boko Haram fighters are spotted and attack is imminent, it is at this point Nigerian forces should press on with an attack on its own using air and ground forces.
It will catch Boko Haram offguard and unprepared. A secured or partially secured northern border will put to an end to Boko Harams sneak attacks. Slipping through cracks and escaping across the border to regroup and reinforce will constitute a daunting challenge for Boko Haram.