By Vincent Ujumadu
REACTIONS and allegations have filled the air waves following the decision of the Nigerian Army to set up an operational outfit code named ‘Operation Python Dance 11 (Egwu Eke 11) in the South Eastern part of the country. The exercise, which officially began in all the five states in the zone on September 15, would end on October 15. It is the second in 10 months, as the first exercise took place from November 26, 2016 to December 27, 2017.
Essentially, according to the Army public relations department, the exercise is to nip in bud, criminal activities in the geo –political zone, particularly, kidnapping, armed robbery, as well as threat to security and peaceful coexistence in the country. But what had played out since the Army started mobilizing for the exercise were anguish and gnashing of teeth.
However, the fear of the people heightened when the literally meaning of the exercise is taken into consideration. For instance, the mere sight of a python in Igbo land portends danger and when the python itself makes its zigzag movement towards anybody’s direction, the only wise thing to do is to flee. That is why most people in the South East are wondering the motive behind naming a military operation in this part of the country a python dance, knowing that seeing a python dancing around would often lead to death, as the venom that comes out of its mouth can be very poisonous.
So far, the operators of the python dance have been ejecting poisonous venom, leaving ugly experiences along its route especially for those they perceive as capable of causing breach of public peace. Unlike most Fridays in the South East when many people travel for wedding and burial ceremonies, yesterday was different as most roads were deserted as people have suddenly become afraid to travel.
The fear was fuelled by the frightening messages trending in the social media as laid down conditions for the people of the South East on how people should comport themselves during the one month operation. Besides, the unfolding events in Aba and Nnamdi Kanu’s home in Umuahia in Abia State, had made many people to remain indoors.
The message, which warned people that their life was in their hands during this period, directed South Easterners to always carry identity cards along wherever they were going to be able to identify themselves; never to stay out late for whatever reason; ensure that their vehicle particulars are complete and valid and that people should not drive vehicles with tinted glass, even if they had permission to use it.
There were also warnings that people must answer only the questions asked them at check points as arguing with any soldier could land one into serious trouble and that people should not engage in interstate journeys, unless it was absolutely necessary.
Other frightening conditions include: stay indoors as much as possible; do not play on the street; do not jog on the street; do not play loud music on your car; avoid fixing weddings and burials requiring the gathering of people during the period; females should move around in pairs and most importantly, nobody should, for any reason, carry Biafra flags.
Barely few minutes after the message went viral in the social media, markets in various cities in the South East were flooded, with people making panic purchasers of food items that would last them for some time. But those who are likely to be affected most during this one month of Operation Python Dance are people who have fixed wedding and burial ceremonies.
Take the case of Chuma Ikegbuna from Anambra State for instance. Chuma, who lives abroad, had returned home to formalize his marriage which he had fixed for today in Ohafia, Abia State. With the skirmishes between the Army and IPOB over the Operation Python Dance, Chuma said he did not know whether to shift the ceremony or to dare the consequences and go ahead with it.
Though he later told Saturday Vanguard that he was prepared to go ahead with the ceremony, he was worried that his relations who were supposed to accompany him to Ohafia suddenly developed cold feet due to the insecurity in the South East as a result of the Operation Python Dance.
It was also observed that many licensing offices in Anambra State had been busy since the social message started circulating, which was an indication that most people believed what they saw and read in the social media, just as some people said they would immediately renew their expired driving licenses if they must drive out of their houses within the period.
Meanwhile, IPOB had accused Governors Willie Obiano and Okezie Ikpeazu of conspiring with Nigerian Army to facilitate Operation Python Dance 11, as the organization said that by allowing the site of the abandoned Oba Airport in Idemili South local government area of Anambra State as a base for the operation, and restricting movements in Aba, the governors were working against their interests.
“The governors gave our old Biafra Airport to the Nigerian military to train on how to kill Biafrans and introduced curfew in Aba and for doing this, they are the most wicked Arewa slaves in Government Houses in Biafra land,” IPOB said.
Leader of IPOB, Kanu, in a letter he signed personally, has also backed out of the mediation between his group and the South-East governors which would have taken place in Enugu yesterday.
In the letter, Kanu said his security was no longer guaranteed, alleging that since the Army could march to his house with Armoured Personnel Carriers, there was no guarantee that he would come back from the Enugu meeting alive.
He said in the letter: “Before now, prominent leaders and groups had insisted that I toe the line of peaceful dialogue and meet with the governors to find a lasting solution to our grievances. I conceded to that request, which led to the 30th of August 2017 meeting with the South-East Governors Forum at the Government House in Enugu, in the company of the very eminent Prof. Ben Nwabueze and Evangelist Elliott Ugochukwu-Ukoh.
“In view of the concerted effort by the oppressive Nigerian state to shatter the peace and tranquillity of the South-East and the rest of Biafra land through military intimidation, it has become necessary for me to clarify why, regrettably, I may not be able to attend Friday’s meeting with the South-East governors as earlier agreed, for three main reasons:
*We are currently busy attending to our dead and injured from this latest round of unprovoked military onslaught against innocent civilians in our own land. All the casualties so far were shot by men of the Nigerian Army deployed to my house and those stationed along motor ways leading into Umuahia, my hometown.
* I have been reliably informed also, that a detachment of this same soldiers responsible for the murder of innocent unarmed IPOB family members have now been stationed near Enugu to ambush and assassinate me on my way to the meeting with the governors on Friday.
* On that same Friday the 15th of September 2017, the leadership of IPOB through the instrumentality of the Directorate of State (DOS) head-quartered in Germany, will be meeting to vote on the viability or otherwise of continuing our struggle in this non-violent manner. There is urgent need to begin the process of defending ourselves in the face of relentless murderous attacks from the Nigerian state.
“It is impossible to engage in any meaningful conversation with the governors in the midst of so much bloodshed, abductions and military siege of our town and villages. Accordingly, we will not engage in any meeting with anybody until the atmosphere is conducive and peaceful enough to allow for such.
“The siren-blaring military convoys and armoured vehicles occupying the entire region is not only designed to intimidate our people, but also deliberately primed to scuttle the IPOB/South-East governors meeting of Friday 15th September.
“I would like to use this opportunity to thank all men and women of good conscience from all over the world that have risen to condemn the barbaric slaughter of innocent Biafrans by the Nigerian military. Above all, I salute the steadfastness, devotion and total commitment to freedom from eternal slavery by the great IPOB family in Biafra land. I assure you that I remain resolute and dedicated to our shared vision of freedom regardless of the cost and visionless antics of the mindless oppressor.”
Worried by the ripples caused by the setting up of the operation, a governorship candidate of Progressive Peoples’ Alliance, PPA, in the Anambra November 18 election, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo called on the federal government to cancel the Operation Python Dance 11. Ezeemo, who spoke after watching some video clips of soldiers allegedly subjecting some young people to torture, decried what he termed “a total disregard for human life” by the soldiers. Condemning the treatment allegedly being meted out to civilians in the Southeast, argued that “civil disturbances are meant to be handled by the police, especially such that do not involve firearms.”.
While not approving some of the activities of members of IPOB, the PPA governorship candidate said: “There are more civilized ways of checking the activities of people who the army believes, are causing unrest in the society. They can be arrested and detained, but not killing or torturing them and making them to drink polluted water because whatever disease they contract would spread to the rest of the people.”
“Humans are humans regardless of who they are and it should be realized that someone gave birth to them and looking up to them as their social security and for them to look after their parents in their old”.
He complained about lack of social justice across the country, adding, “It is quite appalling that our leadership is faulty; it is unfortunate that nobody enforces social justice, leading to people’s rights being abused every day. Greed and impatience had corrupted the people and the system is rotten and the people are suffering.”
He, however, advised Nnamdi Kanu and his loyalists to be more civil and cautious in their choice of words; to be less inciting and more persuasive.
Operation Python Dance has created fear here among the people and many are likely to be cautious before they resort to violence. This is the other side of the effects of this operation.