By Fred Doc Nwaozo –
The last time I checked, Imo and South-East at large was dominated by operation this and that. Initially, it was only ‘Operation Python Dance’ until ‘Operation David Dance’ followed suit. The former – a military exercise – which is targeted at wiping out all forms of social ills lingering in the region including armed robbery, kidnapping, abduction, herdsmen/farmers clashes, and violent secessionist movements, was recently launched by the Nigerian Army (NA).
In various quarters, the residents of the affected area – particularly members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – have strongly kicked against the military exercise, saying that it was not for the good interest of the entire people of the Igbo nation. To this end, the IPOB equally launched a parallel exercise code-named Operation David Dance. According to them, the ‘David’ signifies the one in the Holy Bible who defeated Goliath in a battlefield with a mere stone. It suffices to say: they were trying to insinuate that the military exercise represents ‘Goliath.’
As some groups within the South-East zone have continued to condemn the new military operation, which is meant to last between November 27 and December 27, 2016, the Army has explained extensively that the exercise did not mean any harm except to criminals, hence, would be in the overall interest of the good people of the area contrary to the views making the rounds. In a press statement released by the Deputy Director of the Army Public Relations – 82 Division Enugu – Colonel Sagir Musa, the initiative reportedly aimed towards achieving a hitch-free yuletide in the entire South-East would help the people of the region in the areas of healthcare and security, among others.
Col. Musa, however, categorically stated that the exercise wasn’t peculiar to the South-East. According to him, having painstakingly examined the myriad of security challenges across the country, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai directed the setting up of the conduct of both Command Post and Field Training exercises, as a way of enhancing troops preparedness toward combating the spectrum of the contemporary challenges. In view of this directive, the Army Headquarters instructed the immediate commencement of the request in different regions across the federation.
He further highlighted those operations Ex Shirin Harbi, Ex Harbin Kunama, Ex Crocodile Smile, and Ex Python Dance were instituted for the North-East, North-West, Niger Delta, and South-East regions, respectively, in regard to their individual security plights. The information personnel equally disclosed that an elaborate Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) would be maintained throughout the exercise. Thus, he urged the people of the South-East to support rather than despise it, since it means well for them.
It’s noteworthy that the governors of the five states that make up the zone namely Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Abia, and Ebonyi, have thrown their weight behind the operation. They are of the opinion that the exercise would help tremendously to take out all the bad eggs in the zone irrespective of where they are hiding, thus ought to be supported at all cost. Many have called the governors’ gesture an act of sabotage that is only aimed at witch-hunting the Igbo people; they opined that it was a conspiracy between the governors and the Federal Government (FG) to truncate the ongoing call for a ‘Biafra’ nation.
What got me personally incensed the moment I received the news regarding the operation was its code-name. Why ‘python’? Where did they cull that from, or what informed the name? I know quite well the military has a unique and weird pattern of doing things, especially issues pertaining to security, but they should have searched for a name that wouldn’t boggle or startle one’s mind when heard. We are not advocating a friendly name because we’re not unaware that security issues are involved, but at least something humanly would have been used as the code-name instead of Python.
Moreover, Nigeria isn’t in a military era, hence, no one would hear of the operation and finds it friendly. The police are good enough to guide and guard any Nigerian province at the moment when it calls for security matters except the North-East that is still faced with the Boko-Haram terrorism. The armed forces can be introduced later if security challenges become more severe or get out of hand. Right now, I don’t think the police are complaining, or have been overpowered.
What we must comprehend is that civilians don’t like hearing that their space is being militarised. The military should be involved only during an emergency. The moment civilians hear that the area where they live would be militarised, they would start shivering, thinking the place is no longer safe for human inhabitation.
Now that the deed is already done, let’s not engage in retrogressive discussions but concentrate on progressive ones. The only thing that can convince the people that the exercise truly means well for them is by ensuring that a thorough civil-military relation is sustained as long as the initiative lasts, as earlier claimed by the army. Outside this, the operation would end up springing up further crises.
For the time being, I would advise the people of the zone in general to maintain normalcy. Let’s support the exercise since we have been assured that it’s only for our good.
With what I have seen so far, I think the operation has not violated any existing rules, or extant laws. If they continue like this, we wouldn’t have any need to raise any alarm. In fact, I enjoin them to extend the dance to my immediate clan if it would remain like this. We all need to observe as well as enjoy the dance while it lasts since it has proven thus far to be for our collective interest.
Nwaozor is political/public affairs analyst and civil rights activist