I had thought that the operation code-named “Python Dance”, which the Nigerian Army launched in the South East in the twilight of 2016 meant something special in military parlance. I thought it represented an idea, which could make sense only to the initiated.
But its translation into Igbo as “Egwu Eke” in the second phase of the operation has exposed the ordinariness of the expression. What we have is not even a translation. It is outright transliteration. In this regard, Python Dance means nothing other than the dance of the python.
So we then ask: How does the python dance? Does the python even dance? Does its snaky and dodgy movement amount to a dance? Even if we associate this snake with dancing, how does that represent what the army did in the South East last year and which it is doing again now? As a matter of fact, there is a contradiction between what the python represents and the allusion being made to it here. Tropical pythons are generally docile and nonvenomous. One, therefore, wonders how this attribute fits the military operation in the South East.
Even though the expression, as employed by the army, has no semantic value, the activities of soldiers in carrying out the operation in the South East tell us in clear terms the intent and purpose of the exercise. It is about oppression and suppression, harassment and intimidation. It is about brute force, and abuse and curtailment of human rights. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, has, in his own words, said it was about raids, cordon and search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, checkpoints, and ultimately, a show of force to curb the rising threat to national security in the south eastern part of the country. This declaration by Buratai is punitive in intent and purpose. It is a provocative dance; a slap on the face and an assault on the mentality of the people of the South East. I do not see the python playing this role. What I see is a sting, a calculated violence on the sobriety of a people.
The operation, to all intents and purposes, is aimed at provoking a war. Government is clearly the aggressor here. The Biafran agitators, whom government is targeting in this operation have made it clear at all times that theirs is not an arms struggle. They are not interested in warfare. So, who does the government think it wants to provoke into war? If the idea is to intimidate and beat the people of the South East into line, then it will be ultimately counterproductive. Those who seek to preserve the unity of the country by bruising and brutalising the body and mind of a section of it may end up achieving the very opposite of their mission.
In fact, what is going on at moment in the South East is not about Python Dance as declared. The operation, according to the time table released by the Nigerian Army, is supposed to start on September 15 and end on October 14. Yet military raids and killings in the region started several days before the official commencement of the operation. This goes to show that the announcement of the exercise is merely to fulfill all righteousness. Government has very sinister intentions. It is poised for action. It wants to put an end to separatist agitations by sheer force of arms. Democratic governance does not admit of this crude tactic. What we have on our hands is a hateful and vengeful exercise. It is a shame that a government which is elected by the people to serve the collective interest of the country is showing open disdain and dislike for a section.
But we do not need to second-guess what government is up to. It is doing the bidding of the Arewa aggressors who, in June, issued a quit notice to the Igbo to leave the North not later than 1st of October. In stepping out against the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Arewa youths freely engaged in hate speech and hate song. They called the Igbo names. They incited the northern population to violence and murder. While all this was taking place, men and women of goodwill condemned the action of the Arewa youths and called for the arrest of their ring leaders. Curiously, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said government would not arrest the Arewa boys because of its security implications. Malami did not tell us what the security implications were. But he did not bat an eyelid when he approached the courts to rearrest Nnamdi Kanu. For Malami, arresting Kanu or any of the Biafran agitators has no security implication. Only that of the Arewa boys has. Can a country survive under this brazen show of nepotism and favoritism?
Viewing the situation from where we are at moment, it is evident that government is trying to meet the conditions given by the Arewa boys for the suspension of the quit notice. No one should lose sight of the fact that government has created a state of siege in the South East at a time the Igbo in the North are likely to come under attack from their northern traducers. It is a case of double jeopardy for the Igbo, especially those who may be on the run when the guns begin to boom in northern towns and cities. Now, the East which they are supposed to return to has been seized by an army of occupation. If this is not a grand design to annihilate a people, I wonder what else it is.
These are, indeed, trying times for the Igbo. But the way to survive the onslaught is by being steadfast. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is already doing this. It is telling the inconvenient truth to government. It had told them to withdraw the troops deployed to the South East. That is the final word. There is no middle ground on this matter. Speaking tongue-in-cheek or sounding cowardly as Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has done is shameful. Men of courage do not seek cover whenever they want to make a point. They say it as it is. Okezie fell short in this regard. He failed to condemn the invasion and shootings that took place in Umuahia on 10th of September. For the governor, the incident could “presumably be attributed to the commencement of the said Operation Python Dance II.” Really? Does Governor Okezie not know that Operation Python Dance was yet to commence? The governor appears to be scared stiff. That is why he has imposed a curfew in Aba. The governor is clearly going for the wrong solution. He should tell the Federal Government to withdraw the troops. That is the only way to go.
He and other lily-livered governors like Willie Obiano of Anambra State should make bold to remind the Federal Government that the army operation in the South East is misplaced. If the government wants to carry out anti-kidnapping drills, it knows where to go to. After all, we have more cases of kidnappings and armed banditry in other parts of the South other than the South East. In the same vein, if government is interested in show of force, it should look northward. The North East should be a fertile ground for such activities. Making the South East a whipping boy should be rejected and condemned by South East leaders. Those who bury their heads in the sand will have posterity to contend with.