By Julius Orya
When the Nigeria police in February announced that it undertook a combat operation that led to the killing of 250 alleged terrorists in Birin Gwari, Kaduna State, many Nigerian activists questioned the announcement saying there were many gaps in the story.
They demanded picture and video evidence and challenged the police to take newsmen to the scene of the fight to convince them.
When gallant Nigerian troops repelled a planned invasion on the town of Biu, Borno State, last December and took out quite a number of the insurgents as they tried to escape, cynicism greeted the cheery news from the camp of activists who wanted to reduce the feat as insignificant.
But last week, when the Chadian President, Idriss Deby Itno, came out and announced that his troops have killed over 1000 of the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists, Nigerian activists did not demand a picture or video evidence from him. He, rather got a standing ovation.
The same people that tried to fact check the announcement by the Nigeria police and downplay the liquidation of insurgents by Nigerian troops never deemed it fit to subject the claim by the Chadian President to scrutiny.
Deby Itno had said that while Chadian troops liquidated over 1000 of the insurgents, that only 52 of his men fell in the ‘daring’ operation on the fringes of the Lake Chad, which has been code named ‘Operation Colero de Borno.’
Those who have bothered to fact check the claim of the Chadian President have however uncovered lots of misinformation, half truths, exaggeration and outright lies in the Deby story.
The first is the claim by Deby Itno that he is fighting Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists. The second is the claim on the identity of those liquidated and the third is the motive for moving against the militia.
Of the four countries directly affected by the activities of the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists, that is, Nigeria, Cameroun, Niger and Chad none of them has been so receptive and welcoming of the groups like Chad.
While the three other countries had committed to a joint multinational task force and were doing all they could to suppress the insurgents, Chad under Deby on the other hand had preferred to play the ostrich.
Over the years, Chad would pretend to be with the multinational task force in the day, but in the night, when the other countries send troops to go after the insurgents, it will allow them safe abode deep within its borders and beyond the 25 kilometers allowed for penetration by the multinational force. This is why while the other countries have been able to keep the population of insurgents low, Chad has seen to a boom in their population.
Fact check revealed that since the insurgents began to seize territories in 2013 and hoist their flags, they do not at any one time station more than 300 of their men at a particular location preferring to be itinerant for fear of being subdued.
When the insurgents seized Gwoza in Borno State and made it the capital of its caliphate, facts on ground showed that it kept only about 400 of its militia to secure and administer the place until they were flushed out by Nigerian troops.
In other smaller communities that the insurgents manage to capture, residents say after the initial invasion when they come with so many of their men, they quickly retreat leaving about 100 of them to hold on and maintain the siege.
For any country to have 1000 of the fighting men of the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists, as claimed by the Chadian President therefore, means that either the country is accommodating the two terrorists groups or the claim in number and identity is not entirely true.
One has a cause to believe that while Chad harboured the terrorists and was using them to extort money from other bigger countries, it also had its own share of rebel militias that are almost indistinguishable from the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists. This is because their activities are known to overlap.
Militancy in Chad evolved from a series of mutiny that has become part and parcel of the politics of that country over the years since the days of Goukouni Oueddei who was shoved off the throne by Hissen Habre.
Habre also got a worse treatment from Deby who was his associate and the culture of schemes, betrayal and power tussle has become the order in Chad.
Deby Itno himself has survived many putsch and in the bid to make himself the life president, removed term limit for the presidency and has been winning elections since then.
This, needless to say, has set him against a section of the country who are yearning for regime change and for the enthronement of true democracy in the tiny country. A mutiny even arose from within the armed forces which was however quelled and the leader arrested and detained.
Deby Itno, to sustain his grip on the nation, had to keep political opponents behind bars for several years and under inhuman conditions.
Despite all that, he has not been able to shake off the fear that he might lose the throne the same way he got it hence never cease to look over his shoulders.
Matters got to a head last year, when there was an agitation from the civil populace against bad governance. As the agitation grew, Deby Itno decided to move against the largest concentration of armed militia in his country which he by default allowed and which could be used against him.
The militia, realising they were about to be sacrificed in the political chess game, decided to preempt the Chadian President by moving against his killer squad and succeeded in killing 98 of them.
This angered the Chadian President who saw the political implication of the liquidation of his strike force and decided to retaliate by giving the militia a bloody nose.
It was so personal to him and relevant to his survival on the throne that he had to lead the operation himself as he trusted no one else to do that for him given the level of disenchantment and mistrust even in the armed forces . So the Chadian President in leading the troops was basically fighting for his own political survival . Hence on the first fact check, Chad is not fighting Boko Haram in the Lake Chad.
One the second fact check, it is equally important to probe the identity of the militia the Chadian troops engaged. It is a well known fact that 80 percent of Boko Haram/ISWAP are Chadian Rebels as virtually all of them are found in Lake Chad Islands within the Chadian Territory. Deby Itno in dislodging his country’s rebels who have grown in number and have mingled with the terrorists across the border for his political survival, has turned his political fight into a propaganda to portray him as a warlord fighting terrorism and insurgency.
Unfortunately, this is the version our Nigerian ‘activists’ want to believe. Whatever they chose to believe, no one can sell the dummy to us that there was any 1,000 terrorists killed anywhere by the Chadian President who is fighting for his own survival.
Orya wrote this piece from Karu, Nasarawa State.