Why does Nigeria need a powerful army? Well because all the countries close to Nigeria have problems, and are autocratic regimes and do not share and have the norms, values and institutuons of democratic States.
To the north is Chad. A desperately poor country whose leader- Idris Derby has held unto power for 33 years. Like North Korea, Chad is one of the poorest country in the world, yet an estimated one third of government spending goes towards Chad’s vaunted army.
Leadership transitions have happened largely through rebellions: President Idriss Déby took power through a military coup in 1990 and quashed multiple revolts.
Lacking the democratic institutional framework of democratic States the Chads foreign policy entails manipulating and subversion and sometimes outright theft or armed conflict to achieve their goals. This is reflected in the fact that Chad is the only country in Africa to have gone to war with nearly all of its neighbors.
Since its independence from France in 1960, Chad has confronted and has gone to war with Libya, has intervened militarily in South Sudan, has gone to war with Nigeria, has fought civil wars as well as numerous rebel movements in the C.A.R, most notably its complicity with rebel factions that led to the ambush and death of 13 South African soldiers in 2014, just to get the South African army out of the CAR.
These nefarious activities are often supported by hostile powers such as France, which sees Chad as an unsinkable aircraft carrier in a region dominated by the English speaking behemoth – Nigeria, a nation with a population bigger than that of France and Britannia combined.
Indeed in the past seven years, France has made Chad has become somewhat of an unofficial regional policeman to shift the military and balance from democratic Anglophone West Africa to Autocratic Francophone West Africa.
In a twist of paradox, a democratic Chad makes it less permeable to the whims and caprices of Paris. Why?
Paying colonial taxes to Paris will STOP. Being used as a proxy by Paris will end. So in a twist of paradox, the oldest constitutional democracy in the world- France needs undemocratic autocratic regimes to survive.
To keep French West Africa autocratic France pours hundreds of millions of Euros in military aid needed for help these despots keep its people in a perpertual state of oppresion and subjugation for a quarter of a century now.
That has yielded a military capability that is one of the only things about which the country can boast. Make no mistake, this is a well and funded effort. While Chad is one of the poorest countries on the continent, in 2009 its military expenditures reached $739 million – 33 percent of government spending, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
To brush aside human rights issues and give Chad the global legitimacy it needs, the French sought to discredit Nigeria via somemformmof hybrid warfare to cripple the Nigerian army and stir a constant state of unrest.
With Nigeria fatigued by nearly a decade of a senseless war of attrition, Chad was forced to enter the fight against Boko Haram in 2015 and roared into international headlines that acknowledged the country’s efficient, effective into northeast Nigeria.
The narrative became that of Chadian forces uproot Boko Haram from key towns in weeks, a task Nigeria had failed at for years. Nigeria’s efficient and firm handling of Boko Haram in the early stages of the insurgency was forgotten.
Nigeria’s brutal and effective handling of Boko Haram via sheer kinetic power was condemned by the West. In a four day operation the Nigerian army stormed the camps of Boko Haram fighters, killed nearly 300 members of the sects members, captured the leader of the sect Mohammed Yusuf and promptly handed him over to the police.
The Nigerian police force (not the army) then made a public spectacle by executing Mohammed Yusuf and other captured members in the open, and captured on camera.
The E.U, led by France made a public outcry, accusing the Nigerian army of using a disproportionate use of force. The Nigerian army promptly stepped on the brakes and had the Nigerian Police Force take over. The rest is history.
Idris Derby is at his best in times of war, and is enjoyin his new international respect, but if anything to go by, history has shown that governance by the bullet is not sustainable. It’s unclear how he’ll balance pressure to develop the country with the instinct to prioritize its military capacity.
Most of N’Djamena is still made up of squat one- or two-story dun-colored buildings that blend into the sand courtyards around them. A whooping %80 of the populace leave below the poverty line.
Yet Chad, in a move befitting its rising profile, proposed hosting the African Union summit in 2014. But a budget crunch caused by the plummeting oil prices forced Chad to back out, embarrassing Chadians and reminding them how precarious their rise is. With oil prices at historic lows the Chadians are near economic bankruptcy.
Herein lies the danger, the population is fed up with war. They’ve been living with war for 50 years, and as the economy gets worse, soon the populace will grow fedup and begin asking ” how can we have oil and still be so poor?” You can only keep the people subjugated in mystery for so long, soon they will begin to clamor for the opportunities, better schools, roads, hospitals etc.
Inevitably the suspicion is that most of that oil money stays within the elite, drawn largely from Déby’s family and tribe. What happens if Chad tires of draining its own coffers and losing its own soldiers to other countries’ wars and growing dissent threatens Derby’s hold on power? Your guess is as good as mine :
Time is ticking on our ability to avoid war with a neighbouring country over resources. Chaos on Chad’s borders makes Chadians reluctant to invite domestic upheaval. Its picture perfect : The strongman seeking security on his country’s borders, the dashing warrior soldiers who will race toward any fight, the world powers who see the Sahel as the next counterterrorism battleground.
With what we have left it will be nearly impossible for Nigeria to defend against another Chadian run for the unexplored oil beds in the Nigerian controlled Lake Chad Basin and parts of Borno.
For the first time, you have Nigeria flanked on all sides by major French and America military facilities and bases smack right in the two countries Nigeria has feuded with over natural resouces. A war between Chad and Nigeria in the Lake Chad Basin is a strong possibility.
With two of the Western worlds most powerful militaries having bases and high value assets in Chad, the temptation to make a go for it will be nearly impossible to resist. Chad might erroneously predict that Nigeria, exhausted with a decade of war and internal strife will have no real appetite for a fight to defend those Nigerian controlled areas.
On the other hand, Nigeria, after losing Bakassi to Cameroon in the most one sided legal battle at the Hague, will most certainly go to war to defend those islands if that is what is necessary to protect her vital economic asset. In such a situation Nigeria will in all certainty prosecute the war with unprecedented violence, which will startle and rattle the Chadian army.
Should the Nigerian Army take the battle far beyond the border (which is likely), or mistakenly kill American or French personnel caught in the cross fire from Nigeria’s massive Field Artillery forces (which is likeky), this will play into the hands of France and the Unted States to assist Chad militarily or directly intervene. In this scenario the Nigerian armed forces lack the necessary weapons and assets to defend against such an enemy and will most certainly not prevail.
Chad’s ‘cowboys’ have warriors ethos
N’DJAMENA, Chad – Chadian soldiers don’t run from the enemy. They can fight for three days without water. They are the only ones Boko Haram is scared of.
A Spartan-like mystique has formed around Chad’s military, whose members have been honed and hardened by decades of civil war, rebellions, and foreign invasions. They are undisciplined and unpredictable, described as warriors more than soldiers. A former government minister jokingly calls them the “Chadian cowboys.”
The moniker fits. Today in increasingly cosmopolitan N’Djamena, they drive around the capital city standing in the back of pickup trucks, holding on to the roof bar with their guns slung over their shoulders.
“There’s a very strong warrior ethos here, which they take great pride in. The tragedies of casualties are, as you know, real, but … very badly wounded soldiers don’t complain,” says US Ambassador to Chad James Knight. “There’s a sense that this is their duty, this is their role in life, and they’re very proud to be so good at it.”
Many soldiers, especially high-ranking ones, come from the north, an unforgiving desert region where the nomadic population once made a living robbing traders passing through Chad on their way to Mediterranean ports. Rebel leaders who became presidents marched down from this region each time they seized power.
Gen. Isaak Al Bashar Togou, today a military adviser to the presidential circle, enlisted at age 15. Thirty-seven years later when he speaks about his days as a division general and Chad’s record of driving out first the French at independence, then the Libyans in the 1980s, his pride and ferocity come through. “People from the north of Chad won’t let strange people control them,” he says.
Moussa Dago, the secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says his grandfather used to tell him, “If you run away from the war, you destroy your tribe.” Diplomacy, Mr. Dago says, is not possible without the strength to force people to listen.
President Idriss Déby – himself a northern fighter who seized power in a rebellion 25 years ago – has a strong grip on power that has deterred attempted rebellions since 2009. The unprecedented period of peace left him with a powerful, large army that he needed to keep busy.
These fighters have been deployed around the region to fight the growing Islamist threat, wowing international partners with their derring-do and earning Chad appreciation and support for its role.
Today they are a major component of MINUSMA, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the area. They also played a role in the Central African Republic peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, before withdrawing amid backlash for opening fire on civilians.
Chad’s military doesn’t know how to do peacekeeping, says Thierry Vircoulon, director of the International Crisis Group’s Central Africa project. “It’s an aggressive force, basically,” he says. “That’s why they are unfit for peacekeeping, but very fit for the fight against the jihadists.”