By Philip Agbese
Finally, I can see through the clouds clearly that doomsday prophets and cynics have predicted the endless deaths of Nigerians and President Muhammadu Buhari in the frontlines of the Northeast in the battle against Boko Haram insurgents and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists. These publicized predictions are today predicated on the sudden death of Chadian President, Idriss Deby.
Firstly, I like to condole with the people of the Republic of Chad over the death of their 68-year-old civilian dictator, President Idriss Deby who died in fisticuffs with the “Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), rebels in his country
Unfortunately, the passage of Deby to eternity has activated the weird wisdom and disfigured judgements of some persons on Nigeria’s counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast, which is heavily concentrated in the Lake Chad Basin axis now. Amongst us, those who perpetually and unrepentantly pray fervently every minute that the Buhari Presidency is outshined by insecurities are already spewing irritating inanities or have become carriers of the uncooked news.
A report published by an online news portal and syndicated in other media houses was released to ridicule President Buhari over his anti-insurgency campaigns. The report purportedly sourced from SB Morgen Intelligence, an African-focused research firm, generously predicted Boko Haram’s eventual defeat of Nigeria with the death of Deby. After a peek into the contents, the inconsistency, illogicality and contradictions enfeebled what was best crafted to dwarf President Buhari and the battles of the Nigerian Military against terror sects in the country.
I realized quite laughably that originators of the SB Morgan Intel report, grudgingly admitted the positive impact of the counter-insurgency operations under the Buhari Presidency. But in order to dwarf or diminish anything Buhari or wittingly deny his administration even palpable milestones, the conspirators gave the glory and coronets to the now dead President Deby.
I pondered within and asked rhetorically, that when Boko Haram insurgents completely and tragically crumbled Nigeria before the Buhari Presidency, controlling swathes of Nigerian territories and held over 20,000 Nigerian hostages in secret gulags in the Northeast, was President Deby not the leader of Chad? A man who governed his country for over 30 years before bowing to the power of death? That’s how hollow, senseless and thoughtless most of us sound.
And I never strayed far to understand why a fresh propaganda has sprouted against Nigerians, President Buhari and the Nigerian Military’s efforts in combating terrorism. Those with good retentive memory can still remember that exactly a year ago, Boko Haram terrorists sacked and killed Chadian forces when they launched a seven-hour deadly assault on a Chadian Army Base at Bohoma on March 23,2020. The attack by Boko Haram variously described as the deadliest ever in Chad, killed at least 97 soldiers.
Angered by the massive deaths of his troops in the hands of terrorists, President Deby spotted his military fatigue and led Chadian troops on retaliatory operation codenamed the “Operation Bohoma Anger;” or “Operation Wrath of Bomo,” on March 31st, 2020. The exact spot where the Deby-led Chadian troops’ military offensive on Boko Haram terrorists was at their permanent camp in at Kelkoua bank in Chad’s territory. Reports claimed the operation killed nearly 1,000 Boko Haram members.
Also, multiple Boko Haram bunkers were destroyed, cache of arms seized and a top commander of the sect was equally arrested. But the Chadian soldiers victory against Boko Haram insurgents also came at the great cost of losing another set of 52 Chadian troops while the operations lasted.
All Nigerians knew, the operation took place in Kelkoua bank, a Chadian territory; we also knew that the several Boko Haram bunkers destroyed in the operations were not erected in a day or jiffy. Kelkoua was a Boko Haram Base known to President Deby, the Chadian Government and Military forces for the months and years it was sustained based on an alleged understanding or gentleman agreement between Boko Haram and the now former Chadian leader Deby.
When Nigerian forces chased out Boko Haram factional leader, Abubakar Shekau, routed out the sect’s top commanders and hundreds of militant fighters from the Sambisa forest and eventually, most parts of Borno (except the Lake Chad area) the sect’s camp at Kelkoua bank was their next fortified abode of lodgment. Kelkoua served Boko Haram as ground for the receipt of smuggled weapons, which allegedly transited through Chadian borders and approved by the Chadian Government.
Kelkoua also served as Boko Haram training field for new recruits and an abode for recuperation and replenishment from where they staged out to launch occasional attacks on Nigerian territories. Geographically, Kelkoua bordered only Magumeri on the Nigerian side of the Lake Chad Basin.
And in March 2020 when Boko Haram struck Chadian soldiers at Bohoma, no part of Nigeria was under Boko Haram control because all territories had been reclaimed by the Nigerian Military. The Nigerian Army was only conducting the last phases of clearance operations in the Lake Chad region.
More so, no Chadian troop strayed into Nigerian territory to battle terrorists during the “Operation Wrath of Bomo.” As known to us, it is against international warfare conventions to stray into the territory of another sovereign nation without permission in the guise of fighting a war or chasing a fleeing enemy in the battlefield.
Most of us are aware of these developments, but decided to consciously twist and falsify the narrative with the propagandic claims that it was President Deby’s one-day battle that blighted Boko Haram from Nigeria. And the mischievous propaganda was only designed to belittle the efforts of the Buhari Presidency and the Nigerian Military in fighting Boko Haram and other insurgencies in the country.
But several security analysts have opinionated that the pact President Deby reached with Boko Haram for the years it was sustained before things went sour was to allow smuggled arms and ammunitions pass through Chadian territory unchecked and unmolested into the hands of Boko Haram fighters. And the Kelkoua bank camp was a major repository of these weapons.
In return, Boko Haram also promised President Deby not to attack Chadian communities. It was the spirit and letter of the gentleman agreement. However, hence you cannot trust an armed criminal completely, Boko Haram had occasionally launched assaults on Chadian territories.
The tempo of such attacks exacerbated when Nigerian troops sustained the pressure of attacks on insurgents camps on the Nigerian territory, a development which chased out Boko Haram from Nigerian enclaves and confined them to their safer abodes within Chadian territories, notably Kelkoua. It was in one of insurgents crazy stunts that they invaded the Chadian Military Base at Bohoma and massively killed Chadian soldiers, instigating the anger of former President Deby and the retaliatory operation.
I still recollect vividly, several instances where the former COAS and leader of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria, Lt.Gen. TY Buratai (rtd) lamented the devilish activities of transborder criminals as aiding and abetting terrorism in Nigeria. Perhaps, for diplomatic reasons, he shirked from bluntly stating the complicity of Chad in festering Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria, despite its membership of the five-nation military outfit, the Multi-National Joint Task Force, (MNJTF), comprising Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroun and later, Benin republics, setup to battle terrorism.
Even the malicious and spiteful April 2021, SB Morgan Intel’s report still confessed that “Chadian forces were largely restricted within the country’s borders, with the bulk of the fighting in Lake Chad done by the Nigerian military.”
Therefore, the claims by SB Morgan Intel, insinuating that the death of President Deby has created a “big gap” or that “This opens a brand new challenge” in Nigeria’s anti-insurgency campaigns are apparently, imaginative and infinitely or evidently falsified. Its doom prophetism or instability in Nigeria will also fail like the predictions of other predictors before the authors of the SB Morgan Intel report.
The new Service Chiefs, are walking a familiar terrain and there is no fresh angle of Boko Haram atrocious outing that should be strange to them or take us a country by storm.
Consequently, let me put it bluntly to these foreign purveyors of bloodshed in the country and the destabilization of Nigeria that Idris Deby’s death is rather a blessing in disguise in Nigeria’s war against insurgency. Methinks, with the death of President Deby, the insurgency in the Lake Chad region will substantially reduce because all the support to Boko Haram, including training and weapons restocking have been coming from Chad.
We only hope that President Deby’s successor, son and interim leader of Chad would play the script more honestly and translucently than his late father.
Agbese is a human rights activist and publisher based in London.