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Published On: Mon, Aug 27th, 2018

Python Dance 3 sparks outrage in South East

By OBINNA EZUGWU

For a region that is arguably the most peaceful in the country, the recent announcement of yet another military operation termed Operation Python Dance III in the South East Geopolitical Zone came as a rude shock to many, especially given that the people of the zone were yet to fully recover from the impact of the previous operation in September 2017.

During the previous operation a yet to be ascertained number of people were killed in Abia State and beyond, while the whereabouts of the self acclaimed leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his parents remain unknown.

Operation Python Dance III, the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 82 Division Nigeria Army, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Boman Kabuk, announced on Wednesday fortnight ago at the 302 Artillery Regiment Onitsha, Anambra State, when he paid a familiarisation visit to the military cantonment, having resumed duties in Enugu on August 6, 2018, will involve formations and units under 82 Division, Nigerian Army in a training exercise.

“Exercise Egwu Eke III, is a training exercise for troops of 82 Division of the Nigerian Army and during the training, if there are criminal activities like armed robbery, kidnapping and other criminal activities that disturb peace and tranquility of the citizenry along the line, the Army will not close its eyes and watch those criminals activities to thrive,” the GOC said.

But it’s a plan that has continued to draw condemnation from many leaders of the zone who insist that the military exercise is only part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued attempt to ‘intimidate’ the Igbo nation, since according to them, there is no armed insurrection in the zone to warrant what they say is high handed military operation, even as others insist that it is illegal for the president to unilaterally deploy the military for such operation without going through the National Assembly.

Condemning the proposed operation, one time governorship aspirant in Lagos State and chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Barr Okey Okoroji accused President of using the Nigerian Army as an army of occupation to intimidate the people of the South East and prepare grounds for rigging 2019 general election in the zone.

“Obviously, Buhari has developed a penchant for haunting the weak,” Okoroji said. “His hatred for the South East and the South South, which has its basis in bigotry, is the propelling factor that drives all the antagonistic and obnoxious policies he is choosing to unleash on that region.

“He has not gotten tired of bloodshed, he has not gotten tired of deploying Nigerian Army as  army of occupation in that region, whose only goal is to kill because there is not internal security threat in that part of the country.”

“Even if there is internal security threat in any part, it is the duty of the police and not the army. It is the police that are trained to maintain peace or for crime fighting. We don’t have an international war. There is no insurgency in that region. There is no insurrection in the region, just a figment of Buhari’s imagination.  And he is using the so called Operation Python Dance III as a ploy to rig elections and to prepare for the rigging of the 2019 election in that region.”

Okoroji however argued that the president will fail in his bid to cower the region while calling on the international community to pay attention to his activities in the area.

“It is an effort that will end up in futility. It is going to be one of his greatest undoing. He is a man on his way out of power. He has lost the support of the people. The people of Nigeria are tired of his mal-administration and mis-governance. The international community is tired of Buhari’s flawed administration that has added no value, whatsoever to the development of this country.

“It has not added value to the lives of our people, if anything it has taken lives out of our people. His operation Python Dance III in South Eastern Nigeria would be dealt with the way similar oppressive policies are dealt with by the people.

“We have no arms; we are lawful people who are interested in living our lives in accordance with rule of law. Buhari is not interested in rule of law; he is a president of impunity. He was out of the country for almost 15 days. He has been holidaying while Nigerians back here are hungry and are subjected to all kinds of security challenges. The economy is in shambles, many foreign investors have left.

“So it is for want of what to do that this dictatorial president of Nigeria wants to do the so called Operation Python Dance III. But what he forgets is that power is transient. Not only is power transient, since he is determined to go and kill people, is he sure of his own life?” he queried.

“The international community should be paying attention to the atrocities of this man; for the violence he has chosen to unleash to the people of Nigeria and unbridled hatred for the Igbo man. At the appropriate time, he will reap the result of his atrocities,” Okoroji concluded.

In his own remarks, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, senior lawyer and president emeritus of Igbo think tank group, Aka Ikenga pointed out that the South East remained a peaceful region and wondered why the administration will leave places like Zamfara and Sokoto in the North West where there is armed banditry as well as Boko Haram in the North East and Fulani herdsmen in the North Central and begin to deploy the military in the South East.

Uwazurike recalled that the number of people killed in the previous operation had not yet been ascertained, and wondered why the operation is necessary.

“There’s insecurity in the North.  The military dishes out casualty figures from time to time. Recently it conducted a Catwalk Exercise in the North Central zone. But in the South-East, it conducted operation python dance,” he said.

“One year after the casualty figure has not been released. It’s about to launch another operation. Note that the North Central zone only was an exercise. The South-East one is an operation. Soon all kinds reasons will be parroted by those who point at their father’s compound with their left hand as the justification for this desecration of Igboland,” he noted.

Similarly, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo last week through its spokesperson, Mr. Chucks Ibegbu warned that sending troops to the region would only cause undue panic among the people and will only serve to heat up the polity.

Ibegbu chided the military for being unable to produce its needed weapons, but only revelling in intimidating innocent Nigerians, while advising that troops be deployed to farms, road construction sites or be engaged in city beautification purposes if there are no more defence jobs for them to do.

“Nigeria Army should by now be producing medium range missiles and ammunitions for which Nigeria is spending billions of naira that should have been used to develop the country. Rather, they produce only salt and light weapons at DICON and spend the rest of their time intimidating innocent Nigerians,” he said.

“We need a people’s Army and security agencies and not intimidators. Let the Army go and produce food for its personnel in Army farms and sell the rest to Nigerian citizens.”

Meanwhile, rights group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria(HURIWA), had last week described the proposed exercise as totally unnecessary because, according to them, the South East of Nigeria does not have any major national security threat as much as the North East where the war on terror is raging.

The group which stated this in a statement by its  National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, said the only place such military operation is relevant is in the North East, while wondering what the government had done about the killing of thousands of people in Zamfara.

“We do not understand the strategic need of such a wide ranging military exercise in the peaceful South East of Nigeria when the military combat troops are in high demand in the North West state of Zamfara whereby bandits have killed over 3,000 innocent people and in the entire North East,” the group said.

“Be that as it may there are rules of engagement that must be complied with. The previous two phases of operation python dance left so much wounds and deaths resulting from excessive use of brute force against civilians,” the group said.

The group lamented that the last Operation Python dance led to the extra-legal killings of dozens of civilians including the disappearance of the leader IPOB leader, Kanu and his parents and called on President Buhari to order investigation into the killings.

“The Nigerian government headed by Buhari has still not conducted thorough investigation into the dozens of extra-legal killings that was caused by the military forces during the operation python dance II even with the Kangaroo panel it set up to do a yeoman’s job.”

It noted that the Nigerian Armed Forces when deployed for either internal or external operations, are bound by the laws of war and international law in the conduct of the operations, but said after  dozens of civilians were killed in Abia State, not a single soldier has been prosecuted for these “crimes against humanity.”

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