Nigerian Army and the Macabre Dance of Pythons in Igboland


Jude Ndukwe
Recently, the Nigerian Army announced the commencement of what it deviously termed Exercise Python Dance in the South Eastern part of the country commencing from November 27, 2016 to end on December 27, 2016. Since then, many groups and stakeholders, within and without the South-east, have raised issues with the said exercise, questioning the rationale behind such an operation at a time when the South-east is at its most peaceful state.

Not even the desperate explanation of Col. Sagir Musa, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division, Enugu, could douse the rising tension. Rather than douse the people’s suspicions, the army spokesman raised issues that elicited more questions than answers.

The people of the South-east have raised concerns that the Exercise Python Dance by the army is just a smokescreen nomenclature for the continued alleged genocidal atrocities committed by the army against Ndigbo for which the top echelon of the security outfit would answer at the appropriate time, no matter how long.

The Igbo cannot be fooled! They will not be intimidated!
It is said in some quarters that the period of the exercise proper has been carefully chosen to coincide with the time Igbo sons and daughters from all over the world converge on their motherland to celebrate the Christmas holidays with their kith and kin. It is this period that the army has chosen to send a message to our visiting brothers and sisters that the conquest of Igboland is not a fable as some of them must have only heard but not seen yet; it is an opportunity for them to see for themselves how conquered, subjugated and helpless the land of their fathers have become.

It is a way of sending a message to brothers and sisters based in the diaspora to, out of fear, request their kinsmen and women back home to surrender their will and their rights to the occupying army and their sponsors. Like Col. Sagir Musa said, “It is designed to, where necessary, dovetail into real time activities such as anti kidnap drills, patrols, raids, cordon and search, check points, road blocks and show of force.”

One then wonders when it has become the duty of the army to conduct raids, cordon and search, mount check points, road blocks and show of force in a region that is one of the most peaceful in Nigeria today? These are normally the functions of the police, but where South-east is the target, the army is detailed to do a “finish off” job for those who, after having dipped the South-east in the ocean, still want to ensure pepper is rubbed into their eyes even amidst the abundance of water.

It becomes even more curious when, in a facile attempt to justify their reasons for this inexcusable invasion, the Nigerian army gleefully reeled out the other regions where similar exercises had taken place in the past. It mentioned “EX SHIRIN HARBI which was conducted from 17 – 19 April 2016 in 3 Division Area of Responsibility (AOR) to take care of the insurgency and sundry crimes such as cattle rustling in parts of the North East Region.”

It also mentioned “EX HARBIN KUNAMA which was held in 1 Division AOR from 9 – 15 July 2016 to rid the general area of North West Region of banditry, insurgency and cattle rustling among others. Also, EX CROCODILE SMILE was conducted from 5 – 10 September 2016 in the Niger Delta Region by a combination of 2 and 82 Divisions with an overarching aim of reducing incidences of illegal bunkering, oil thefts, piracy and other peculiar criminalities across the entire Region.”

It is instructive to note that while these similar exercises lasted only between 2 – 6 days in the other regions, that of the South-east has been planned to last one full month with the possibility of extending it.

One then wonders why similar exercises in the North-east and North-west where unprovoked violence by terrorist Fulani herdsmen against innocent citizens whose only crimes are that they are Christians and belong to what is dubiously termed minorities in our clime has escalated beyond rational imagination, lasted only few days but that in the South-east is lasting so long?

The arguments in some quarters that the operation might just be another way of providing cover for terrorist Fulani herdsmen to continue to unleash violence on innocent Igbo citizens simply because of their political choice in the 2015 presidential election, a sin for which the South-east is yet to be forgiven, may be true after all.

This same military was among the security agencies the governor of Enugu State where the famous 82 Division is located, informed ahead of time about an impending attack on the sleepy community of Ukpabi Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of the state sometime in April this year, yet, not only that the terrorist Fulani herdsmen executed the attack, it was executed with the brutality of a hateful lot, the precision of a well-trained militia and the confidence of a well protected cannibalistic group.

Since then, right under the nose of the military and other sister security agencies who, sometimes, are tipped off, yet, always with ample time, the herdsmen have carried out with impunity even more daring attacks that have left a lot of people dead, raped, maimed and homeless in every imaginable corner of the Sout-east, yet, little or nothing is done by this same army showing bravado today against innocent people whose only crimes are the exercise of their rights to peaceful assemblies and associations.

There are visual and verbal testimonies of how the army purportedly massacred innocent pro-Biafra agitators in this same South-east, but they suddenly become powerless when the same region is invaded by weapon wielding terrorist Fulani herdsmen in what may be appropriately termed Operation Python Kill, for after the killings come the dance.

When they say they are bringing pythons to dance for us in the Southeast, we understand full well what they mean. We get their message but we will not be intimidated. We will not relent. We will not give up our ancestral heritage to any blood thirsty agency, lest, we answer to our fathers when we eventually meet them on that Day why we gave up their heritage so cheaply.

Our people must arise, for danger is nigh. Bullets may fly by night, but we must not take flight. The song is defend the land, the cry is do not give up our farmland. Brothers’ blood has wet the ground, let the seed of courage go round. Let those in prison not lose hope; let the spirits of our fathers help them to cope. The flag of victory shall soon be waved; our land shall soon be saved. Let the lovers of our land endure for victory is sure!

We are very much aware of the inconveniences needless multiple road blocks would cause us; the expected news of raids of entertainment centres at random in the name of looking for one non-existent criminal or the other; the sad news of brothers felled by “stray” bullets; the implicating of innocent indigenes with “planted” evidence in order to have them summarily executed. We are used to all this in the South-east but we will never be conquered. We will never surrender our land to anyone. Thousands may be extra-judicially executed but our land will remain that of Ndigbo.

No matter how beautiful the pythons you bring to the South-east are, your dance will be a dry one, without an audience and without anyone to cheer you up except those you have enchanted with filthy lucre and the promises of fame, power and pardon for corrupt practices. And such men are extremely very few!
May the blood of our felled Igbo brothers and sisters wash away your footprints after your macabre dance. Iseeee!
—; Twitter:@stjudendukwe