By INNOCENT ODOH, Abuja
Following the death on Tuesday, April 20, of Chadian President, Idriss Deby, while fighting rebels, anxiety has heightened as to what would become the fate of Nigeria and other countries fighting armed groups along the Lake Chad basin and in the Sahel region.
Deby died in the battle field fighting a rebel group called Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) in the north of the country. This rebel group was founded five years ago by some disaffected officers forced out of the army who accused Déby of political subjugation before the election, which Deby was presumed to have won by 80 per cent before his death.
Nigeria’s Defence minister, Bashir Magashi said the country will increase border security to prevent influx of refugees into the country. He told reporters that Nigeria had also closed its borders with Chad.
“The moment we heard about the death of the president of Chad, we immediately took action. We increased security at our borders with Chad in order not to allow Chadian refugees to enter Nigeria,” he said.
As assuring as the pronouncement of the defence minister might sound, the incidents in Chad have the potential to lead to a national collapse in the beleaguered country as Deby’s 37-year-old son and successor, Mahamat, is said not to possess the strength of character and charisma to hold the country especially its battle -tested military together.
Doubts have increased over the stability of a country at the heart of the fight against armed groups in the region.
Chad has built a formidable military prowess in the G5 Sahel, an alliance also made up of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger that was created to tackle armed groups operating in the region. The military exploits of Chad under Deby had boosted the confidence of France, United States and other Western countries who see Deby’s rule mainly on his ability to maintain stability in the Sahel region.
“France and the United States depended on Deby’s leadership and his military might to advance their regional security objectives,” said Judd Devermont, the director of the Africa programme for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a US think-tank.
“The domestic and security tumult in Chad may draw some troops away from the missions in Mali and the Liptako-Gourma tri-border region, depriving France of its most effective partner,” he added.
“It will have less impact on the Lake Chad Basin where Chadian troops already have pulled troops from far-flung forward operating bases in Nigeria to reconcentrate its defences on the border,” he said.
Chad under Deby has a distinguished record of beating rebellions and terrorism and has become a bulwark against the insurgents in the Lake Chad Basin, but the country does not have a democratic culture.
This manifested when the military suspended the constitution and the legislature to appoint Deby’s son as president pending elections in about 18 months. The constitutional crisis this has generated was yet to simmer down as opposition parties, the FACT rebel group and even the trade unions in the country had kicked against the dynastic rule.
Nigeria’s major concerns now should be to ensure the restoration of constitutional order in Chad to forestall the forceful continuation of the dynastic rule of Deby through his son, irrespective of his military exploits.This might help in averting future crisis of great magnitude, which can spill into Nigeria.
According to Nigerian expert in International relations, Livingston Wechie, “No matter the gallantry, gallery and glamour of Déby’s military profile of being an acclaimed war strategist, be it against Libyan incursions at some points, or the insurgency in the Sahel region, the Lake Chad Basin etc, it cannot rule out the fact that Chad was turned into a cash cow for the advancement of the selfish interest of the Debys above the interest of Chadians.
“ This is nonetheless an psychological onslaught against crawling effort for African renaissance and remains a bad precedence as his son will continue from where his father stopped until Africa wakes up to say no to anti-democratic forces.”
Unconfirmed reports has it that a large number of refugees fearing crisis in Chad have started to find their way into Nigeria, using the many porous borders or what immigration officials refer to as “ungoverned spaces” to penetrate Nigeria.
Some reports have it that security operatives at the official borders have compromised by taking bribes to allow illegal aliens, most of who have questionable background into the country, especially terrorists.
According writer Kayode Komolafe, “the resonance of a national collapse of Chad would be felt among the neighbours who have their own respective security problems. What with the activities of Boko Haram, the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and other terrorist groups in the region.”
The vacuum created by his death may embolden the insurgents to relaunch a campaign, as a very important anti-terror War Lord has been cut to death. The terrorists would now use the Chadian flanks to unleash more killing and abduction in Nigeria, which have heightened in recent months in Nigeria.
Nigeria has been battling the Boko Haram insurgents for the past eleven years and appears to be struggling to defeat the terrorists. Now the terrorist groups have multiplied in numbers and in sophistication, a serious threat to the well-being of the most populous black nation in the world.