Politics

Chad’s Idris Derby as Odogo’s wife, the incriminator

Yoruba people have been serially accused of over-explanation of their world. Perhaps, just like every other tribe in Africa. Chinua Achebe’s explanation of “the word” to the Igbo is that the race regards the art of conversation very highly, to the extent that, “proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.” Traditional Yoruba society too deplored words, signs, innuendos, folklores to explain its world. So when someone advertently or inadvertently gets the other into trouble, the Yoruba use, among others, the story – real or imagined – of an Odogo and his wife to illustrate its implication. And it goes thus: A precious commodity was stolen in Odogo’s neighbourhood. All hands were on deck, including the owner’s and virtually the whole of the community’s, to locate who must have stolen this precious ware. They scavenged everywhere for it, including conducting a house-to-house search. When they got to Mr. Odogo’s house, he was away but the team members met his wife. They disclosed their mission to Mrs. Odogo and intention to conduct a search. All of a sudden, the woman asked the team to take it easy. “Could you wait for my husband to return; perhaps he kept the ware for you?” she demanded. So Yoruba, to sum up how Mrs. Odogo had implicated her husband of theft, say: adasinilorun, aya Odogo; eleru nw’eru, eleru nw’eru, oni k’an je k’oko ohun de, boya a ri!

In my forthcoming book entitled Ayinla Omowura: Life and Times of an Apala Legend, which is already being printed, I cited the above as the late Yoruba Apala musician’s alibi when police arrested him for stealing a vehicle’s tyres in the 1960s. Coming from the home of a friend he called Baba Kudira, alias Akeweje, at about 8am in the evening on a “9 November, odun to koja – last year,” a year he didn’t mention, Ayinla claimed to have gone to stake pools in Abeokuta, “so that I could r’owo jaye – get money to enjoy life,” he said. Later changing his mind about staking and with his name having been written on the pools paper, Ayinla tore the paper outside the pool’s place and winds blew it to the side of the vehicle whose tyres were stolen. When arrested the next day on accusation of theft, the paper with his name being the only pointer to his involvement in the crime, his alibi was that the torn paper was his own Odogo’s wife which incriminated him.

Pardon my veer. Anyway, Chadian President, Idris Derby, reminds me of this profound Yoruba message. A troubling, yet enervating news had last week sneaked out, to wit that Derby, leading Chadian troops in an onslaught against the invidious Boko Haram insurgents, succeeded in routing them out of Chad. It is said that the honeypot for the terrorists who inhabit the Lake Chad Basin region, is economic. That terrorism is sustained in the region due to its oil wealth and gas resources. Lake Chad Basin, an area that is naturally endowed, is shared to a great extent by Nigeria, Chad, Niger and a great chunk of it by Cameroon. From the moment oil exploration began in Chad, the region has become, not only a point of surrounding countries’ greed, it is a beehive for terrorists. So, the Chadian Army, in an Operation that was dubbed Anger of Boma, launched in March, 2020, ferreted the islands of Lake Chad for the insurgents and by the time it ended the operation, though about a hundred Chadian soldiers were reportedly killed, a thousand terrorists were either killed or sent out of Chad.

Spokesman to the Chadian Army, Colonel Azem Bernandoua Agouna, said that the victory was got in eight days of shelling the terrorists’ base which cost Chad’s Defense and Security Forces casualties of “52 soldiers, while 196 others were injured.” Said Agouna further, “1,000 terrorists were neutralized, 50 canoes destroyed and several individual and collective weapons (were) recovered.” The Chadian Army also said with confidence that the terrorists had been driven “out of all the islands of the lake… Chadian soldiers are currently stationed deep on the islands of Niger and Nigeria, waiting for these friendly countries’ soldiers to take over.” Just like Nigeria which lost about 70 soldiers to the terrorists’ ambush of Nigerians soldiers in Yobe State, reported to be “one of the deadliest recent attacks on troops in Nigeria,” on March 23, these Jihadists attacked Chad’s town of Boma and massacred about a hundred Chadian infantrymen.

This Chadian heroism is not unique. Nigeria had, for more than six decades, been at the cusp of global rating for gallantry and military heroism. During the Nigerian civil war that ended in 1970, though Nigeria was fighting herself, she prosecuted the war with gallantry. Her first exploits in extending tentacles to neighbouring African countries in turmoil was in Congo from 1960 to 1964 when it provided UN peacekeepers to Congo (ONUC). After breaking this ice, Nigeria had since been a major and active participant in UN peacekeeping missions. A Peace-keeping contributors profile said that Nigeria deploys “military contingents, unarmed military observers, military staff officers, formed police units, police advisors and civilian experts to over 25 UN missions. Nigeria is currently one of the largest UN contributing countries with military and civilian personnel deployed in ten UN peacekeeping operations and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).”

Continuing, the Profile had this to say further about Nigeria: “As the preponderant power in West Africa, Nigeria has been the main provider of military and other resources for ECOWAS peace operations to the tune of US$8 billion in its various missions in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone. During the peak of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean civil wars in the 1990s, Nigeria provided over 70% of ECOMOG’s military and civilian personnel, as well as logistical support. In 2003, it deployed 1,500 troops to the ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL), and a medical and signals team to the ECOWAS Mission in Cote d’Ivoire in 2003 (ECOMICI). In 2004, 1,500 Nigerian troops were deployed in Darfur as part of the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS). Recently, Nigeria also provided 1,200 troops to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), and 200 police officers to AMISOM. Nigeria deployed the first set of individual police officers (IPOs) in Africa in ONUC in 1960 while the pioneer Formed Police Unit (FPU) of 120 officers was deployed in Liberia in 2004.”

Since the mid-2000s however, Nigeria’s debilitating domestic security challenges have muzzled off its ability to contribute to peace keeping operations. Chief among these challenges is the Boko Haram insurgency. Between ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, there has been an embarrassing sustenance of terrorists’ menace to an extent that this has greatly taken away Nigeria’s military manhood. Nigeria slipped from a country known, before now, for her military prowess, into a hub of global jokes, a sissy if you like. Strategic experts have located a troubling metastasis of the cancer. While under Jonathan, the challenge was a Head of State who, in spite of the avalanche of Intel he got, was dismissive of the war as an orchestrated Northern Nigerian political menace, the atrophy Nigeria witnesses today is a Commander-in-Chief who is a mere effigy sapped of every known attributes of valour and whose acute cronyism has upped Nigeria’s military rating as troops of effeminate soldiers. It is said that about 22,000 persons have either been killed or missing since the uprising began, with thousands of displaced persons in camps.

Why did Chad and Derby become the Yoruba Odogo wife, the proverbial incriminator? Like Buhari, Derby, born June 18, 1952, is a Chadian politician. Though he has been in office as President since 1990, he is also head of the Patriotic Salvation Movement. Having taken over power at the thick of a rebellion which ousted President Hissene Habre in December, 1990 he transmuted into a civilian ruler after election and is said to be a graduate of Muammar Gaddafi’s “World Revolutionary Center.”

The difference however is that, while Derby, as the Chadian leader, was so angry in his spirit at this wanton killing of his citizens, roused enough to personally, on April 4, 2020, lead his troops to a rout of the terrorists, Buhari sent out, as usual, a condolence message and an insipid vow to defeat the insurgents, a vow which has become his paterfamilias that Nigerians are used to. Derby was at the forefront in the battle at a bank of Lake Chad called Kelkoua, and in the process, his troops dismantled two of the terrorists’ command posts. Some Boko Haram terrorists were also said to have escaped into Nigerian, Nigerien and Cameroonian territories.

Though Derby is being celebrated as the Mrs. Odogo who revealed the underbelly of the Nigerian C-in-C as a sissy, we also must not lose track of allegations that Derby is a sell-out and implicated in the oil resources politics of the Lake Chad territory in which countries like Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun and Niger are in a rat race over. Derby was alleged to have personally taken umbrage against his “allies” of Boko Haram because they reneged on their alliance of over a decade by killing 92 of his soldiers. Derby had allegedly before now exhibited some treacherous disposition to Nigeria. While Jonathan was president, an allegation surfaced that he demanded and collected the sum of $20 million from the Otuoke politician to provide military assistance to Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram. It was same Derby, in 2014, who pulled out his troops, numbering hundreds, who had earlier been stationed in Niger, in the task of providing assistance to the collaborative effort in the region to fight the terrorists.

In spite of glaring suspicions of Derby’s “valour,” it must be said that his rout of Boko Haram has revealed that Nigeria under Buhari is nothing more than a pusillanimous military leadership. The fact must be stated that fighting this insurgency seems to be, for the military Generals in the war theatre, a mercantile activity that must be prolonged for the sake of the belly. Billions of dollars are voted for hardware, software and military welfare yearly which allegedly slip into the bottomless pockets of the Generals and their collaborators in government. Moles within are also alleged to collect fat dividends from the insurgents for revealing tracks of proposed attacks. So while Derby may have fought his Boko Haram allies as comeuppance for their “betrayal” of their alliance, the Nigerian government, devoid of cronyism and fired by the leadership and determination of the Derby hue, would have made far greater marks than it is making in the war against the terrorists. The first move in this regard would be for Buhari to sack his expired security chiefs.

About the author

Augustine Aminu

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