Residents of Abia State in the South East have dared the Nigerian Army to stage Operation Python Dance 3 following the conclusion of the first and second phases of the exercise. Their rejection of the move is not unconnected with what residents see as the undue militarisation of that part of the country and killings which the residents blame Operation Python Dance 1 and Operation Python Dance 2 for.
The General Officer Command, GOC, 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Kabuk, had on Tuesday hinted of plan to start ‘Operation Python Dance 3′ in the South-East. He said although the Python Dance 3 is a training exercise, the Nigerian ARmy would not fold its arms if there were criminal activities going on before, during and after the exercise.
Reacting to the issue, Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), a pan Igbo group, said it totally condemns any plan to stage any military exercise or operation in the already traumatised South East. Speaking through its Secretary General, Professor Nathaniel Aniekwu, ADF cautioned that such moves would not go down well with the people who are yet to recover from the activities of soldiers last year. “You recall that after they invaded Igbo land last year in the name of Python Dance 2, ADF went to court to challenge the government.
The government never showed up in court even for one day. At the end, a judge who has no Igbo origin who was presiding over the high court case in Enugu dismissed it. We have filed an appeal on that same issue which is still in court and somebody is there planning another one. “It is not that we are not aware of what is happening. We know, but we want to use all legal means to convey our points. We know that they cannot undo what they did here last year.
They cannot bring back those who were killed for nothing, but we want it to be on record that such a time in history, such a thing took place. “We made it clear that the military has no right to invade Igbo land last year.
There was no armed insurrection that required you bringing out soldiers and aircraft on the same citizens that paid the tax used in purchasing those weapons. We want to establish that President Muhammadu Buhari acted wrongly to have issued that order before we start talking about those that were killed and the damages.
They did not even accord the court the respect of showing up. We totally condemn any plans to do anything military exercise in the South East again.” Also reacting, Professor Charles Chinekezi, chairman Aba unit of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), said that the South East should be the last place any military action should be contemplated now considering the relative peace the zone has enjoyed in recent time.
“Based on the original target of the last exercise which is the IPOB agitation, which was actually a non-violent movement, I don’t see the necessity of coming up with another phase of the Python Dance here. There is no more agitation here. Even the previous exercise that came in the name of tackling violent agitation was a bit harsh because what was termed violent agitation had been an emotional movement in this part of the world for over 50 years. “People are yet to recover from the shock of the previous exercise where several Igbo groups have written and called for probe of what actually took place here and no one has answered. Staging another of such exercise here again, will refresh the minds of people who might have forgotten the past to begin to see this nation differently.
“I don’t see any issue on ground now that the police, the current group of soldiers who have camps almost everywhere here and other sister agencies, cannot handle even as we approach the ember month. This place is relatively peaceful and when soldiers are pushed into the streets in the name of one special exercise or training, you will see them having unnecessary altercations with some youths who might not be comfortable with their method of handling things and the result may not be good.” Chinekezi went further to proffer what he termed another solution to security challenges in the South East outside staging of military operation.
“If actually there is any security challenges or issues I will advise that they take intelligent approach to crime fighting in making the South East peaceful and secure. “The security of this region is not predicated on staging Python Dance 3. We don’t want to see a situation where overzealous military officers will turn our streets to fields where they exhibit their training skills on people.
They can tactically analyse situations as it concerns violent crimes like kidnapping and armed robbery and tackle them. Bringing an end to such crimes is not based on bravado and braggadocio of the armed forces. It should be based on intelligence. Whenever soldiers are released to go and show their presence it has never ended well.”
Dr. Joel Obodozie, who is resident in Aba said: “I don’t know what they meant by Python Dance 3. I read a story about it as early as February this year in one of the national dailies where the Chief of Army Staff said they would stage a part three here and my feeling was has the part two ended? I am not surprised that stories about it are emerging now. The biggest problem in Nigeria is that, we don’t learn. As at last year, it was obvious that the military didn’t sensitise the people enough about what they were coming to do. Now, we are approaching another end of the year, they have not said please listen and hear us. Tomorrow you will see trucks of military parading themselves and you want people to be happy? “It is even funny to say that a military exercise will take place in the South East.
A place like Aba is already the biggest military settlement in Africa. I don’t think even Mogadishu, the Somalian capital, has as many military checkpoints as we have in Aba. As far as I am concerned, that python that started dancing since September 2017 is still dancing here in Aba. What they should tell us is that more pythons will join the dance as it is becoming more interesting.
Telling us that another one will come or may come is funny because right there at Obikabia Junction at Ogbor Hill, you see soldiers sending our youths to extort money from motorists and give them balance. Go to School of Health junction by the mosque, they collect money there every morning and evening, yet they said they are coming to stop crime.
By the time they finish teaching those youths how to forcefully extort money from people, what will they become? Our politicians are only interested in what will happen next year instead saying what is necessary now. Mrs. Juliet Okonkwo, a nurse, in one of the government hospitals in Aba, noted: “Just a few months ago you saw how soldiers and police turned Osisioma Junction here in Aba into a war zone with stray bullets everywhere over little misunderstanding. For me, I think there are better ways to secure South East this ’ember’ months than moving soldiers here. Soldiers aren’t police.
They must find something wrong with innocent civilians which they don’t like and which may not even be a problem at all. Anybody planning Python Dance Three in already militarilised region like South East needs to think again because it is not the best. Nobody has answered for the gory pictures we all saw last year and I think any military operation that should take place now should be in the North Central and North East where there are security challenges.”
The military exercise known as Operation Python Dance (Egwu Eke) took place from November 27 to December 16, 2016, while the second phase took place between September 15 and October 14, 2017. From the inception of the Python Dance two years ago to the beginning of this year, several reports have emerged about the possibility of the part three of the exercise which the Nigerian Army sees as a continuous training of soldiers on how to deal with internal crisis. The army before the commencement of Egwu Eke 2 said it was a continuation of the Egwu Eke 1. They also said it was meant to tackle kidnappings, armed banditry and violent agitations by secessionist groups, among other crimes that have recently bedevilled the South East region.
At the end of the exercise last year, the Nigerian Army declared it a success, as according to it, it yielded needed results. But to residents and dwellers within the South East based on several reports, the military exercise brought a lot of painful experiences. As the clock ticks, indications are high as military authorities make plans to stage Python Dance 3 in the South East. Meanwhile people of Ogwe autonomous community, Asa in Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia State have cried out following the discovery of corpses of yet-to-be identified persons dumped in a forest within the community. With fear of not been marked by security operatives who are said to be parading the area,