Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Military And Its ‘Python Dance’ In South-East

By Adaeze Ojukwu
‘All the world’s a stage,  And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances…’ – William Shakespeare
The Nigerian Army is at it again. Few days ago, the 82 Division of the Nigeria Army launched ‘Operation Python Dance’ in the five South-East states. The division cited security concern as the major reason for the operation.
Meanwhile, pandemonium has spread across several cities in the South East, particularly Onitsha, with the presence of thousands of heavily-armed military personnel and armoured vehicles on major roads and streets in the region. Deputy Director, Army Public Relations of the division, Colonel Sagir Musa, said the exercise would ensure security of lives and property during the yuletide season.  According to him the operation would address security issues such as kidnapping, abduction, banditry, herdsmen/farmers clashes and violent secessionist protests.  According to him, its major objective is to enforce a crime-free Christmas period in the region, just as he warned individuals and groups to shun violence to avoid being targeted by security operatives. Despite the noble objectives of this onslaught, many Nigerians, particularly those of lgbo extraction, view this move with suspicion and skepticism.
Members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and many Nigerians have dismissed the military invasion as another ploy by government and its security apparatus to unleash mayhem on the region, for its unabated agitation for independence. Others see it as part of punitive measures against Igbo people  for being part of the ‘five percenters’ that did not vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in last year’s general elections.
The operation, no doubt, has continued to generate spirited debates, due to inherent flaws in its concept, timing and the culture of alleged human rights abuses of the army, in addition to escalating hostilities across the country. Indeed, it appears that the army is undertaking a futile venture, as it seems ill-conceived and ill-timed. Embarking on such a military attack at Christmas season, which is one of the most celebrated and sacred Christian festivals among Igbo people, is most insensitive. Moreso, it is coming  few days after Amnesty International released a damning report of killing of unarmed Biafran protesters by the Nigerian Army, last year. Since August 2015, security forces have killed at least 150 members and supporters of the pro-Biafran organization, IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) and injured hundreds during non-violent meetings, marches and other gatherings,’ it said.
The group said ‘it investigated the crisis brewing in the South-East, where IPOB campaigns for an independent state of Biafra.’  The report ‘documented extra-judicial executions and the use of excessive force by military, police and other security agencies. It also shows a worrying pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions, including soldiers arresting wounded victims in hospital, and of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees,’ it added.

This, along with other gory accounts of arbitrary use of force by the  army and other security agencies in the region and the country in general have continued to receive national and international condemnation.  Therefore, this operation raises a lot of credibility issues about its real objectives in the region. Why has the military singled out the South-East for this onslaught; Is this mission really sustainable and effective?
Juxtapose the security concerns, advanced by the military for this action in Igboland, with other security challenges bedeviling the country, and one can easily reach some frightening conclusions about this mission and Buhari’s real agenda for the South-East and the neighbouring South-South people, who are equally agitating for  resource control and independence of some sort.
The general disenchantment  among the populace, over the current administration is alarming, given the parlous state of the economy and heightened sectarian violence, allegedly being perpetrated against Northern minorities, Southerners, Christians and innocent citizens by religious extremists and nomadic bandits.
Despite bogus claims, the army, along with other security forces, are yet to dislodge the dreaded Boko Haram in the North East, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, the worst global terrorist organization. Neither have these state security forces arrested the rampaging fully-armed Fulani herdsmen, killing, raping and terrorizing innocent farmers, particularly in the Middle belt and Southern regions of the country. The 2016 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) that monitors global terror trends, listed Boko Haram as the second deadliest terror group after lSIS.  Meanwhile, in 2015 GTI rated Fulani militants as the fourth deadliest terrorist group worldwide, because of its bloody attacks and nefarious activities in Nigeria and parts of the Central African Republic.
Is this a case of two kingdoms? Or is it a reflection of George Orwell’s Animal Farm? Sad to note, that Nigeria is fast degenerating into anarchy and apathy.
It is therefore germane to remind the president of the words of William Shakespeare that life is a stage ‘and every one plays his part.’ Sooner than later his actions and inactions, while on the nation’s presidential stage will be judged for good or for evil. It is also germane to remind Buhari of the words of Jesus as scripted in the Bible. ‘They that take the sword shall perish with the sword.’
The reports of incessant and unwarranted killings of citizens, allegedly by government forces, Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani militants as well as other isolated religious extremists across the country are unparalleled in the annals of this country, except for the unfortunate genocide of Igbo people in 1967.
The latest military invasion of parts of the South East region under the guise of security concerns, is not only provocative but detrimental to the nation’s stretched unity, albeit the hypocritical ‘One Nigeria’ dogma.
Truth be told, the unbridled bloodletting and senseless killings defy all logic and undermine the inalienable rights of citizens’ to life and security. It is equally a direct challenge to God the creator, who abhors killing of the innocent. ‘Thou shall not kill,’ the Bible says.
Buhari must not forget that the buck stops at his table. The clarion call to end this massacre is reverberating across the land.
‘Mr. President, this carnage must stop and urgently too. Remember  the uprisings in the Middle East. You must muster the courage and political will to end this reign of terror in your best interest and that of this country.’
*Ojukwu, a journalist, could be reached with

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