Early this week, Chadian President Idriss Deby, who was reportedly shot by rebel soldiers on the battlefront, died shortly after from injuries he sustained in that dastardly act. That unfortunate incident has put his country in momentary uncertainty especially as he was presumed to have won the election for a sixth term in office.
We recall that the late president had gone to the frontline, several hundred kilometres north of the capital N’Djamena, to visit troops battling a rebel group that calls itself Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT).
Nigeria will, no doubt, miss this Chadian leader whom President Muhammadu Buhari described “as a friend of Nigeria who had enthusiastically lent his hand in our efforts to defeat the murderous Boko Haram terrorists that have posed grave security challenges not only for Nigeria, but also our African neighbours, particularly Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.” He added that “the death of Deby will surely create a big vacuum in the efforts to jointly confront the Boko Haram terrorists and the Islamic State of West Africa Province.”
There is no denying the fact that the late Chadian leader had played a constructive role that had led to successes made in the fight against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region. His efforts had also led to the tracking down of the insurgent group and degrading it substantially.
This newspaper recalls that since Boko Haram started their orgy of violence and killings in 2009, the North East in particular and Nigeria in general, have not known peace. According to reports, in the last 10 years since the group chose the path of violence and bloodletting, over 100,000 Nigerians have been killed while over 2.5 million others have been displaced. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also disclosed that the number of displaced children in the Boko Haram ravaged North East region is 1.4 million.
Regrettably, the nefarious group in 2015 pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State and to its leader, Abu Baker al-Baghdadi. The consequence is that Boko Haram had continued to draw inspiration and other forms of encouragement from the globally acclaimed vicious terrorist organisation.
As a consequence, it is also pertinent to observe that the federal government, the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the World Bank are in agreement that an estimated $9 billion would be required for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure in the six North-East states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe.
A report by SBM Intel, an Africa focused geopolitical research and strategic communications, posited that for Nigeria, Déby’s death is not good news as the battle-hardened Chadian Army has been the only effective check on Boko Haram. While his son, Mahamat Déby Itno is at the moment the de-facto head of the military council, there is no clear successor to Mr Déby yet or so it seems. The 37-year old Mahamat Déby has been a military brat all his life and has limited administrative or political experience. A succession battle, which was envisaged, may not happen, at least for now, as a charter released by the Presidency repealed the constitution and will itself serve as the basic law of the republic. While this constitutional reconfiguration is ongoing, experts are concerned that it may create a vacuum which the terrorist group may exploit to attack the Nigerian Army at will from that country’s flank.
This will likely mean the consolidation of the Lake Chad Basin as a staging area for the insurgents from where to launch attacks on towns and military bases.
In our considered opinion, Deby’s death would require the federal government sending more troops to the Lake Chad region to forestall the takeover of that space by the insurgents. Sadly, the military is already overstretched as they are performing operations in practically every zone in the country.
Deby’s demise is even more painful from the Nigerian perspective because the country is yet to recover from the death of former Libya leader, Muammar Gaddafi which saw the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region. The influx of gunmen into the country coincided with the rise of insurgency and banditry in the country. We cannot afford to make the same mistake in the Lake Chad region with the death of Deby.
Therefore, we urge President Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, deploy massive troops to the Lake Chad region to take over the area before the insurgents take the initiative. The war against insurgency must be sustained till victory is achieved. In our opinion, the death of Deby ought to be considered as a temporary setback as well as an opportunity to reassess the strategies adopted so far in the war against insurgency generally.