Adeoye Akinsanya in his book, An introduction to Political Science in Nigeria, reports: “In 1983, when Chadian forces invaded Nigeria in the Borno State, Buhari used the forces under his command to chase them out of the country, crossing into Chadian territory in spite of an order given by then President Shagari to withdraw. This 1983 Chadian military affair led to more than 100 victims and “prisoners of war”. Chivalrous as this act may have seemed at the time, it would turn out to be sheer tomfoolery because for a long time, Nigeria would have to deal with a lack-lustre, if not even frosty, relationship with her close regional neighbours.
When the Boko Haram insurgency, which reared its head in earnest in 2009 and fuelled inopportunely by rogue elites for the 2007 elections, took root, it was time to hem in the insurgents and deal decisively with their undesirable acts. It was a tough act. Some antagonists of government had earlier promised to foment violence after losing out in the 2007 elections. Their actions would lead to sabotage, divisiveness and outright support for the insurgency. They infiltrated the ranks of government and the armed forces and caused esprit-de-corps to dip among the rank and file. Added to this, Nigeria was not getting all the much needed support from her neighbours in arresting the miscreants. Things got so out of hand that suicide bombings, kidnappings, mass murder and land grabs were the order of the day.
It has taken the sagacity and tact by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, to reverse the plunge. Firstly, he moved to equip the armed forces through trainings and provision of cutting-edge military hardware. Then, he engaged Nigeria’s neighbours in fruitful diplomatic reengagement. In the process, the much needed esprit-de-corps among the Nigerian troops was revived and a previously taciturn neighbourhood came alive in helping to fight the insurgents. In the past few weeks, Boko Haram has been on the back foot. The once dreaded group has now been reduced to a mere gang of irritants. It won’t be long before the entire insurgency is totally decimated.
Assuming Nigeria were to continue with a stymied principle of dealing with every problem with force and farce, how successful would it have been in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency? The skirmish of 1983 not only took Nigeria backwards in her regional diplomacy, it was not well thought out and has unwittingly cost Nigeria so much in terms of men and resources. Its progenitor actually even boasts about it without much discernment. We must not go back to such mindless strong-arm diplomacy. It is wasteful and needless. Rather, the path taken by Nigeria’s President and Commander-in-Chief is the way to go and should be a lesson in strategy and regional engagement for years to come. That’s why it is key that all Nigerians should reelect Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on March 28, 2015.