By Francois Bonaventure
In November 2014, Mahamat Bichara Gnoti, a political associate of Chadian President, Idriss Déby Itno, was arrested with missiles.
Upon investigation, it was discovered that the missiles were meant for the terrorist group, Boko Haram and that the associate of Deby was indeed one of their suppliers of arms.
Since the arrest of Gnoti, not much has been heard about the case because as is widely known, the man is well connected with the Chadian President.
The connection between him and the Chadian President was remarkable because of the claims to counter-insurgency and anti terrorism stance of the Chadian President in the wake of Boko Haram attacks on Nigeria.
The Nigerian government, then led by President Goodluck Jonathan was irked by the activities of the terrorists especially the abduction of the over 200 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State and wanted to do all it could, not to appear helpless.
That was when the idea of the multinational task force that operate within the sub-region without hindrance was mooted and Nigeria bought into it wholesale.
The understanding of Nigeria was that since the terrorists were operating along the border towns and normally cross over to other territories when the heat turns on them, the best way to handle the situation was to seek the cooperation of those countries that Nigeria shares common border with so that military cooperation would be made feasible.
Nigeria shares border with Cameroun, Niger and Chad on the fringe affected by Boko Haram insurgency, but it was suggested to Jonathan that it was important he meets with the president of Chad, as they said a lot depends on his cooperation since his country links the operational base of the insurgents.
Jonathan agreed and in spite of the status of Nigeria in the sub-region, travelled to Ndjamena to meet with Deby in his capital of Ndjamena.
If Jonathan had bothered to do a little background check on his host, he would have been a little circumspect on his dealing with his Chadian counterpart.
Deby, is not new to schemes and subterfuges. He took over power from President Hissène Habré in December 1990 through a well organised rebellion and has since survived various rebellions against his own rule.
The highpoint of his scheme to remain in power was the removal of term limits for the president in 2006 paving the way for a life presidency.
This was the man Jonathan was dealing with and without realising what was happening found himself in the meeting that had been prearranged to extort Nigeria.
But typical of Jonathan, even when he saw some prominent Nigerians on the team of the Chadian president ‘welcoming’ him to the crisis ridden country, he did not suspect foul play and went on with the deal and in fact, travelled twice to Ndjamena to wrap up the agreement.
Jonathan after the meeting in N’Djamena, told newsmen that there was a need for Nigeria and her neighbours to intensify joint actions and cooperation to win the war against terrorism and insurgency.
He said, “If you look at the economies of Nigeria and Chad, both are linked. The Boko Haram people don’t ask permission to move from Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria.
“If the countries do not cooperate, we will not find it easy to win the war, because when the heat is strong in one country, the criminals and terrorists will go to another one and hide. So we must work together and we are discussing along that line.”
But this was only the side Jonathan was exposed to.
Details of the negotiations that would emerge later indicated that the Chadian President, had already been groomed to make certain financial demands on the Nigerian president, which he did and was paid handsomely before he accepted to allow his troops participate in the multinational task force.
Knowing how desperate Jonathan was, the Chadian president who is said to be worth millions of dollars continued to squeeze his Nigerian counterpart any time he needs money using the participation of his troops and use of his territories as bait.
In March 2015, Deby was furious that the Jonathan government negotiated a ceasefire with the Boko Haram in a deal he facilitated.
“I told President Goodluck not to open negotiations with terrorists … but it was a political choice,” Mr. Deby told a French magazine.
The Boko Haram openly denounced the ceasefire as they did not get anything from the deal and launched assaults on communities.
It was only then that Deby raised his voice against the ceasefire but made no mention of the amount that went with it.
The Nigerian government initially claimed splinter groups of the Boko Haram were responsible for the continued fighting, but later blamed the failure on sabotage while saying nothing about the money involved.
Deby and his collaborators continued to explore ways of bilking an unsuspecting government but unfortunately for them, Jonathan lost the 2015 elections and a new man, Muhammadu Buhari came in as president.
Seeing the commitment of the new helmsman to live up to his promise to defeat the insurgency and terrorism, the Chadian President put on the same act and had the Nigerian President visit him in his nation’s capital.
But President Buhari was a different meat to chew. After listening to the Chadian President with his so called commitment to fight the insurgents and the financial demands he was making on Nigeria, President Buhari saw through the plot to extort Nigeria, but rather than decline flatly, offered a diplomatic approach by offering to make the financial contribution to the multinational task force which was headed by Nigeria.
Deby did not like the idea and not long after, Chad’s cooperation in the multinational task force waned.
But Nigeria continued the fight and as the insurgents saw the renewed vigour from the Nigerian side, many of them took to their heels and ran into Chadian territories for cover.
This is because most of them are dregs of Chadian rebels that helped Deby to power when he ousted the regime of Hissen Habre.
Deby, knowing fully well that the terrorists were using his country as a base did nothing ostensibly to get back at the Nigerian president for refusing to make financial payments to him directly.
But the number of terrorists in his country continued to increase as Nigeria became unbearable for them.
When the terrorists could no longer fend for themselves as they could no longer cross over and raid Nigerian villages as they used to, they turned their guns on their fellow country men and women in Chad who called on the Chadian government to wade in.
As the Deby led goverment dilly-dallied , the people, whose lives were being snuffed out in hundreds by the terrorists rose in revolt against the Chadian government.
Knowing the extent his people can go if he fails to do something, the Chadian President shamelessly turned the heat on the Boko Haram who he was using to extort Nigeria and other countries.
But rather than let it lie low as a price he had to pay for his greed, Deby decided to use the attack as another opportunity to bend the hands of the Nigerian government by running a propaganda that he was leading the war from front.
Unfortunately some gullible Nigerians took the claim seriously and began to blackmail Nigeria.
But everyone knows it was not the Chadian soldiers that have secured Nigeria and made it impossible for the insurgents to do as they wished all these years.
The recruitment of some unpatriotic elements to help Deby with his propaganda so that he would further extort Nigeria and share the loot with them has been exposed.
Bonaventure wrote this piece from London.