April 18,1983 was just another day in the history of Nigeria and the daily activities of the average Nigerian.
But that day will forever remain etched in the subconscious of President Muhammaudu Buhari,the Military High Command and indeed,the gallant soldiers who fought for the territorial integrity of the nation.
On that fateful day and in a well planned and rehearsed operation, three thousand Chadian soldiers under the command of Idris Derby invaded and seized 19 Islands in the Lake Chad axis of Borno State.
Twenty four hours later, six villages in Borno State fell to Chadian troops.
Stunned by this daring unprovoked attack, Nigeria’s President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari ordered the Commander of the 3rd Army Division of the Nigerian Army, General Muhammadu Buhari to flush out the invaders.
General Buhari, in his capacity as General Officer Commanding (GOC) augmented his forces with the Nigerian Army 21st Amoured Brigade in Maiduguri.
Being a skilled military tactician, General Buhari resisted the temptation of deploying Nigeria’s overwhelming superiority in armoury and man power to carry out the harzardous task and mission.
He knew the Chadians were highly skilled fighters who use their excellent mobility to their advantage.
In a tactical mannovvre,he deployed the Nigerian Army Scout Regiment to carry out a reconnissance on Chadian military positions.
The Nigerian Army Scout Regiment is the reconnaissance arm of the infantry. Its job is to obtain and disseminate viral combat and battlefield information on the enemy under any conditions.
The Scouts assigned to the 301 Field Artillery Regiment scanned the horizon for artillery targets in the vast featureless plains of the Sambisa Their reports confirmed the General’s suspicion that the Nigerian Army would embark on a massive retaliatory attack which would using it armoured and combat tanks.
The occupying Chadian troops had prepared series of anti – tank obstacles on the likely approaches by digging 10 feet trenches around fortified positions. The plan was to lure Nigerian tanks towards the myriad of concealed trenches thereby making it impossible the advancing troops to navigate the terrain.
Once trapped, the tanks would be engaged by concealed troops with anti-tank weapons and Rocket Propelled Grenades at close range making them sitting ducks in the battle field.
Armed with the crucial Intelligence gathered by Scouts, the *GOC*, perfected his preparations for a punitive attack.
On his orders and taking advantage of the night, Nigerian troops quitely moved into flanking positions and at day break, the troops under General Buhari’s command, launched a massive operation to dislodge the invading Chadian forces.
With forensic derring – do,four thousand soldiers besieged the Chadian forces on three fronts as they came under relentless artillery bombardment from the Western flank, Nigerian soldiers in the Western axis began their push to link up with the third strike component in the rear thus effectively encircling the Chadian forces.
As Chadian casualties mounted, General Buhari ordered a temporary halt to the advance, to allow Chadian forces an escape route back into Chad via the Northern axis.
Stunned and disoriented by the unexpected attack from ever advancing Nigeria infantry, Chadian soldiers began to abandon their positions and fled the battlefield in droves, leaving their vehicles and equipment behind.
Bouyed up by this development, Nigerian troops, chased the fleeing Chadian soldiers who scampered to safety with their tails behind them.
To the General, flushing out the invaders was not enough, he was determined to make a bold statement to the Chadians and teach them a bitter lesson.
To this end,Nigerian troops crossed the border into Chadian territory and continued their onslaught and pursuit.
Taken aback by the turn of events, President Shagari ordered the rampaging General and his troops to halt their advance.
This however, fell on deaf ears as Nigerian troops continued their advance until they were fifty kilometres from the N’Djamena, the Chadian Capital.
Facing possible court martial, General Buhari stoped the advance and withdrew his forces.
He was immediately summoned by the President for disobeying a direct order to stop his advance.
In his defence , General Buhari submitted that in the heat of battle,he was unaware he had crossed into Chadian territory.