Idriss Deby’s predictable end ~ by Olusegun Adeniyi
In one of his numerous macho moves in April last year, the late Chadian President Idris Deby led his troops on an offensive against Boko Haram. Thereafter, he granted self-promoting interviews where he attempted to put down Nigeria and the efforts of our military.
“Our troops have died for Lake Chad and the Sahel. From today, no Chadian soldiers will take part in a military mission outside Chad,” said Deby who further claimed that “Chad is alone in shouldering all the burden of the war against Boko Haram.”
By that declaration, he discountenanced not only Nigeria that actually bears most of the financial burden but also Niger Republic and Cameroon that also have troops in the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
But that was not the first time Deby would play to the gallery on the matter of fighting terrorism. At a lavish press briefing in N’djamena in March 2015, Deby publicly declared that he knew the whereabouts of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, whom he ordered to surrender or face death.
“Abubakar Shekau must surrender. We know where he is. If he doesn’t give himself up he will suffer the same fate as his compatriots”, declared Deby who has always enjoyed dabbling into Nigeria’s internal affairs.
Although many may have forgotten or perhaps did not pay much attention at the time, Deby in a way contributed to the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
Excerpted below are three paragraphs from my book, ‘Against The Run of Play: How an incumbent president was defeated in Nigeria’ to illustrate that point:
“On 27th March 2015, a day to the election in Nigeria, President Idriss Deby of Chad spoke about the 2014 botched ceasefire between the federal government and Boko Haram.
“He claimed to have warned Jonathan against holding talks with the group, suggesting that the episode was orchestrated by Boko Haram to buy time and regroup.
“I told President Goodluck not to open negotiations with terrorists… but it was a political choice,” Deby told French magazine, Le Point, in an interview republished by AFP news agency.
“The Chadian leader opined that Jonathan and the Nigerian military had underestimated Boko Haram for too long.
““The whole world is asking why the Nigerian army, which is a big army, is not in a position to stand up to untrained kids armed with Kalashnikovs,” he said, seeming to state the obvious.
“Two months after the start of this war, we have not had any direct contact with the Nigerian army units on the ground. We would have hoped to have at least one Nigerian unit with us.
“It was even a direct request to the Nigerian government, but for reasons that escape us, up to now we have been unable to work together.”
Painting a picture of a lack of seriousness on the part of the Jonathan administration, Deby said Chad had to capture the same territories twice within Nigeria, as our military would not secure the liberated communities, thus allowing Boko Haram to return.
“The Chadian army is fighting alone in its part of the Nigerian interior and that is a problem. We have had to retake certain towns twice…
“We are forced to abandon them and Boko Haram returns, and we have to go back. That has a human and material cost,” Deby disclosed.
As my colleague, Kayode Komolafe (KK) pointed out yesterday, Chad is very strategic to our national security in several respects. Now that Deby is gone, in circumstances that could eventually lead to a power struggle, we should worry.
There is a piece going round on WhatsApp lifted from an article on ‘SB Morgen Intelligence’, a respected publication for policymakers, which speaks to the nature of the challenge.
It should command the attention of Nigerian authorities: “From a strategic point of view, there is a ring forming around Nigeria. Rebels have killed the President of Chad, there has been a coup attempt in the Niger Republic.
“Benin, following PatriceTalon’s re-election, has become more unstable as democratic norms and institutions are being dismantled.
“We believe that another coup in Niger is a strong possibility, and it may succeed, throwing that country which borders Mali into confusion.
“The ring of instability is closed by Cameroon, which has its own issues, similar to Chad in which Paul Biya has a son who is also inexperienced, and will like Mahamat Déby, be challenged for leadership.
“Cameroon also has the problem of an ongoing rebellion on its western flank, which borders Nigeria. The final part of that circle is the Gulf of Guinea.
“As Niger gets more unstable, the influx of sahelian jihadis from this axis into the ungoverned spaces in North West and North Central Nigeria is bound to increase.
“This arc of instability can be extended to include the Central African Republic, Libya, Southern Algeria and Burkina Faso which have significant instability issues and/or include the volatile Sahel region.
“Nigeria sits squarely at the centre of this arc which has already eaten into its northern half.”
The Yoruba adage, ‘Iku Ogun ni n pa akikanju; Iku odo ni n pa omuwe’, (The valiant warrior often dies in battle; the perfect swimmer often swims to their death) says more about hubris than bravery and it applies to Deby.
He enjoyed the battlefield, having shot his way to power. At the end, it took bullets for that power to be wrested from him after 31 years and six sham presidential elections.
But the main concern for Nigeria now is what happens after Deby. Should Chad unravel like Libya after Muammar Ghadafi, it will further compound our national security challenge.
President Muhammadu Buhari and his men must do whatever they can to help Chad out of this transitional crisis. It is in our national interest to do so.
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