The Daily Sun on Monday noted that “finally, after one month filled with drama, alleged killings and alleged deadly vaccination stories, the Nigerian Army has formally ended Operation Python Dance II in the South East.” There was a traditional activation of camp fire, which formally signified successful completion of the exercise. “General Adamu Baba Abubakar commended the officers, soldiers and personnel of paramilitary organizations that collaborated and synergized, worked tirelessly and commendably throughout the one month period of the exercise.”
In a statement by the Deputy Director, Public Relations of the 82 Division of the Army, Colonel Sagir Musa, stated that “the achievements recorded during the exercise, in the areas of attainment of the mission, specific training objectives, improvement in peace and security, curtailing the menace of violent irredentist groups in the theatre of the exercise (Igbo land) is remarkable.”
Now, on the 9th day of September before the Nigerian Army went on what it called a show of force in Igbo land, there was no protest or tension or arguments about anything whatsoever the South East. The entire region was in perfect peace until huge convoys of military hardware, guns, armoured personnel carriers, tanks and all kinds of materiel alerted everyone that war was imminent. The subsequent report of the Army’s invasion of the house of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, was a confirmation of the intent of the Army.
The Army carried on in Igbo land as if Igbos are a subject people under an occupation force. It was no surprise that on the 12th September, the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, declared a 3-day curfew and a brief two-page tract was issued by a thoughtful individual named ‘George’ titled “Operation Python Dance: Abia People Circulate Whatsapp Message in Preparation for ‘War’. It accurately identified the Army ‘Operation” as purely “provocative” and stated that the aim of the tract was “to keep people safe during the military exercise…Your life is in your hand,” it stated. It itemized 15 do’s and don’ts including the need to carry your ID card, never stay out late, carry your particulars, don’t use tinted glass, answer questions if asked, don’t argue with military, “they are battle ready”, stay indoors, don’t play on the street, don’t jog, don’t carry Biafra flag with you, don’t play loud music, and so on. The 15th injunction was “be warned, this is like war situation.” Dozens were said to have been killed in Nnamdi Kanu’s house.
The Army’s invasion of the South East from every appearance was utterly unprovoked, but clearly premeditated, and manifestly designed to humiliate. Subsequent developments showed the hand of its architects. On Thursday 13th July, 2017, Arewa Youths had called on the Federal Government to declare IPOB a terrorist organization. On Thursday 14th September, the Nigerian Army fulfilled that wish by declaring IPOB a terrorist organization.
Then the video of the brutal torture of Igbo youths captured the world’s imagination and Prof. Wole Soyinka had to note that “there is a video clip going viral showing allegedly the dehumanization of Biafran supporters in the East. It shows some civilians being made to run a gantlet of whips and then being made to crawl, being lined up in a pond of mud…I do not say this video is genuine, It could be IPOB propaganda, it is possible, but I am saying to the military that you can’t afford to stay silent when that kind of documented allegation is making the round of the world.”
Speaking further, Soyinka said, “each time I hear python dance, crocodile smile, and what goes along it, that we are not mobilizing against anybody or group, and that it is kidnappers we are after, I ask ‘are you talking to children?’”
It took quite a while to sell the idea of IPOB being a terrorist organization to the Federal Government which soon took the cue from the Army. The shameless ‘legal’ process of christening a non-violent organization, an organization that has maintained a clean sheet in terms of violence, as a terrorist organization revealed the true character of administration officials. It was probably the most pathetic of its decisions because it smacked of a government desperate to demonize, to conjure evidence in order to win an argument.
Thenceforth everything went downhill. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, argued that Fulani herdsmen’s criminality should not be misconstrued for terrorism. The herdsmen massacred 27 persons in Bassa, Plateau State, two days ago. Nnamdi Kanu has never been known to throw stone at a police vehicle. Indeed, Lai Mohammed insisted that “acts and utterances of IPOB were acts of terrorism. For instance, Nnamdi Kanu said he wanted Biafra, not peacefully, but by force. And that if they don’t get Biafra, Somalia will be a paradise to the kind of mayhem they will unleash.” Yet self-same Lai Mohammed was quoted in June 2013 to have criticized the government for the proscription of Boko Haram. Indeed, President Buhari in a June 2, 2013 interview condemned “the declaration of a state of emergency to fight Boko Haram in three Northern states is a grave injustice against the North.”
The Nigerian Defence Minister Brig. Gen. Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali offered his own perspective on who can be labeled a terrorist. “There are many indices that make a group terrorist. One of them that has been mentioned in the country is that any group that is fond of making hate speeches, making provocative statements, becoming a security challenge to the country, then that group has to be registered as a terrorist group.” The government has been frustrated by the unwillingness of foreign governments to dance to its tune about IPOB being a terrorist organization. The Americans, the British are being badgered daily to join the chorus. Yet the desperate ministers of Nigeria know fully that these governments base such decisions on facts not on prejudices, on evidence not on hate and political expedience.
Nothing illustrates the dangers posed by the internal contradictions of Nigeria than the moral equivalency drawn by Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, who not only compared Nnamdi Kanu with Abubakar Shekau, the blood-thirsty leader of Boko Haram, Shettima’s attack on South East governors sounds like bigotry.
At all events, however, the Biafra perpetuation syndrome is alive and well deriving from the endemic injustice of the Nigerian system which assures that more Nnamdi Kanus are bound to emerge sooner or later. The next Nnamdi Kanus are likely to skip Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr., and try Mao and Lenin. Nothing dramatizes the victory of the Python Dance than its ‘wonderful’ medical service to the ‘appreciative’ people of the South East.