The Nigeria Army has just announced that the reason for the heightened state of military deployment in the Igbo speaking South East of Nigeria is to enable her men and officers to stage what they code named as operation Python Dance part two or in Igbo the exercise is called Egwu Eke 11.
The Army in summary stated that the reasons for this latest military show of force is to combat the rising incidence of crimes and criminality such as kidnappings and also to check the excesses of the unarmed and totally peaceful members of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) campaigning for self determination of the South East of Nigeria.
Tried as they can, the Army ended up exposing the underbelly of this unconstitutional show of force against the people of South East of Nigeria as if they are to be collectively cowed, intimidated, harassed and their tranquil environments violated for observing the seat at home order made by the Nnamdi Kanu led Indigenous peoples of Biafra on May 30th this year to mark the 50 years of the breakout of the 30 months fratricidal war in which over 3 million people of mostly Igbo speaking perished.
Recall also that a group of old men who called themselves members of the Arewa youth coalition had since last two Months issued a quit notice on Igbos in the nineteen Northern States by October 1st just for observing the IPOB’s spearheaded total seat at home order.
These so-called Northern Youth also alluded to the fact that they endorsed the division and balkanization of the Nigerian nation state but the Army and police failed to arrest them as if they are sacred cows who are above the law. This failure to equitably enforce the law is a violation of the Constitutional provision in section one which makes the provisions of the supreme body of law binding on all persons and authorities. In a constitutional democracy what keeps the society going is the assurance that everyone of the citizens must be made subject to the supremacy of the Constitution because if certain persons can openly canvass genocide and issue threats to apply force either psychologically or physically to expel members of a significant section of the Nigerian nation and the law enforcement agencies are manipulated to overlook these mischievous attempts to instigate Ethnic Cleansing, it therefore means that the sanctity of the Nigerian Constitution is undermined.
Spectacularly, the ministers of Interior and Justice in Muhammadu Buhari’s administration sought to explain away the reason for not applying the same law enforcement method the government of Buhari used in the case of IPOB in which the leader of that group Mr. Nnamdi Kanu was arrested and clamped into detention for two years for series of charges relating to the so-called treasonable felony.
This double standards have made a lot of Nigerians to question the validity of the claim that all citizens are equal before the law. The danger is that the more this government keeps picking and choosing when to abuse the power of deployment of armed forces to contain possible threats to law and order whether real or imagined, the confidence and trust the people ought to repose on the integrity of the Nigerian Constitution would be progressively imperiled.
Recall that IPOB is unarmed and their methods of advocacy are peaceful, constructive and civil.
But they have suffered series of attacks from soldiers resulting in the killing through extra legal means of almost 600 of their members as documented by Amnesty International.
It would seem that this government made up mostly of persons of Hausa/Fulani origin at the heads of the command and control structures of the armed security forces have decided to look the other way whilst the Arewa youth coalition members issued the so-called anti-Igbo quit notice and even when a hate song calling for genocide against Igbos in the North circulated these heads of the security forces under the Buhari’s government failed to fish out the perpetrators or even the members of the Arewa youth coalition that provided the morale and motivation for this dastardly criminal hate song targeted at instigating genocide against Igbos in the North. But suddenly, out of the blues the government has found or rather manufactured some infantile and spurious reasons for deploying great numbers of military operatives and weapons.
Already these soldiers have reportedly killed two commercial tricyclists in Umuahia for failing to pay some bribes to soldiers who mounted checkpoint at a place called ISI GATE in the Abia State capital. Sadly, the South East of Nigeria is cursed with some of the most predatory characters masquerading as state governors because even when soldiers killed many unarmed members of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra in their domains they failed to raise their voices in condemnation of these crimes against humanity.
Even as i write the cowardly characters are stridently denying a report that they castigated the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for the 2016 murders through extralegal executions of unarmed members of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra by armed security forces for which the international community has been informed of the atrocities through a qualitatively documented reports by the United Kingdom founded Amnesty International.
Already, millions of South Easterners have lost faith in the governors and are deeply suspicious of the military which they errorneously brand as Hausa/Fulani soldiers.
So this second stage of python dance by the Army has further heightened the mutual suspicions and disharmony between the military and critical members of the civil populace in the South East of Nigeria who view majority of the soldiers deployed to the South East of Nigeria as persons sent to occupy a conquered territory.
These critics have made copious references to the numerous breaches of peace by armed Fulani herdsmen that attacked several communities in the South East of Nigeria but for which this same Nigeria Army did practically nothing.
So the current deployment of soldiers all around the South East of Nigeria including military hardwares is seen as another attempt to provoke the peaceful Igbo people so the enemies of Igbo people can find some reasons to unleash anarchy and violence of unprecedented scope in the South East of Nigeria.
The explanations for this latest provocative deployment of the Army do not hold water since their objectives are such that even village vigilante groups can sufficiently tackle talk less of the Nigerian police force that are present in the South East of Nigeria. If i may ask, has the Police in the Imo state command not apprehended the alleged killers of the Catholic Priest in Orlu? So why use this as a cover for this dubious military misadventure? Why is the military not deployed to Kano in North West whereby only two days ago some boko haram terrorists were arrested and weapons concealed by them found? Why this brazen show of double standards and discrimination?
Recall that the Kano born Interior minister who was Chief of Army Staff under the late Umaru Musa Yaradua’s government Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Danbazau as he then was, was recently quoted as stating that the federal government will not deploy soldiers to quell the incessant invasion and attacks of farming communities all across Nigeria by armed Fulani herdsmen because these attacks are purely law and order matter.
How come that the few cases of crimes of kidnappings and the peaceful assemblies of members of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra have now become threats to the territorial integrity of Nigeria to warrant the deployment of the Army in the ongoing Python Dance part two?
This is pure discrimination and this offends the Constitution which outlaws discrimination on the bases of Ethnicity or religion as enshrined in chapter four of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended).
Is it not under this dispensation that armed Fulani herdsmen attacked Agatu and destroyed farmlands, killing hundreds of civilians but this government never deployed soldiers to apprehend these terrorists and a serving minister applied some unsustainable amd untenable differential yardstick to justify the contemptuous disrespect of the constitutional mandate of providing security to lives and property of the citizens.
These reasons adduced for the latest dance by the Python in the guise of military operations in the South East of Nigeria are unconstitutional, dubious, baseless and jaundiced.
A reflection on the media briefing addressed by the Chief of Army operations in the person of Major General A.A Ahmadu shows how nebulous and laughable the objectives are. These same objectives can be achieved by even the boys scout. So why this unnecessary show of force? Can it be attributed to the media statement whereby the current President classified the South East of Nigeria as constituting the 5% that voted for him whereas the North gave him 95%? Even these affirmations if true makes the deployment of the Military this time around even more ridiculous and illegal.
This deployment is not in compliance with both section 217 and 218 of the Constitution which unambiguously provided that the National Assembly must approve the modality for the Presidential deployment of the Military.
Moreover, there is no such breakdown of law and order that could warrant military deployment in aid of civil authority in the entirety of South East of Nigeria.
The military chief said the commencement of Exercise EGWU EKE II, (PYTHON DANCE II) to be conducted in 82 Division Area of Responsibility, covering Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states, is scheduled to take place from Friday 15 September to Saturday 14 October 2017.
His words: “As you are all aware, a similar Exercise nicknamed EGWU EKE I, (PYTHON DANCE I) was conducted from 27 Nov – 27 Dec 16 within the 5 South Eastern States of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. The objective was to effectively contain the reported cases of kidnapping and other vices prevalent in the South East region every Yuletide season”.
“The effect of the exercise yielded tremendous results as law abiding citizens in the area celebrated the Christmas festivities of 2016 in safer environment than what it used to be. Building on this achievement, Exercise EGWU EKE II has become more expedient due to the mindless assassinations (even in religious places), attacks on security personnel and theft of weapons, kidnappings, armed banditry and violent agitations by secessionist groups, amongst other crimes that have recently bedeviled the region.”
Certainly, even a two year old kindergarten will tell you that the above classifications of crime and criminality are not such that the armed military forces are to be deployed. Why then is there the Nigeria police force and other para-military forces?
But the military chief in this same media briefing seems to have stressed contradictory reasons for the exercise when he also stated that it would be a form of a training exercise. I ask, in which jurisdictions is the actual enforcement of the law taken as a training exercise?
Hear him: “The need for troops to be exercised, refreshed and imbibe the requisite skills to cope with these emerging security challenges within the 82 Division Area of Responsibility in aid of civil authority necessitates this exercise.”
The Army said the exercise is in furtherance to the actualization of the Chief Of Army Staff’ vision, of having a Professionally Responsive Nigeria Army in the Discharge of its Constitutional Roles that exercise EGWU EKE II becomes highly desirable in conjunction with Sister Services and other security agencies to ensure success.
“During the Exercise, emphasis will be placed on raids, cordon and search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points, patrols, humanitarian relief activities such as medical outreach and show of force to curb the rising threat to national security in the South Eastern part of the country.”
“It is pertinent to mention that the security, safety and well-being of innocent and law abiding citizens of the states mentioned above have been adequately factored into the planning of the exercise. Thus, the rights of individuals as enshrined in the constitution would be respected and safeguarded.”
“Additionally, EXERCISE EGWU EKE II is also conceptualised to transit into real time operations thereby fulfilling both training and operational objectives of sharpening operational skills of personnel as well as providing an avenue to conduct operations against violent criminals and agitators when called upon”, the Army argued.
A rational look at the above would show that there is a plot to embark on broad based invasions of the privacy of the citizens of Nigeria from South East hiding under this military exercise named after a very dangerous specie of snakes. Is the Army not aware that even the same Constitution which created the military institutions has also guaranteed to the citizens the inalienable rights to freedoms of movement and peaceful assemblies? Why is the Army rating peaceful agitation for self determination recognised under international laws which Nigeria signed on to as a big crime?
If peaceful agitation for self determination by the citizens is a crime it therefore means that Nigeria committed a crime since it is a signatory to these international laws such as the Universal Declarations of HUMAN RIGHTS, the International Covenant on civil and political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights because these global laws recognised right to seek self determination.
If i may ask for the umpteenth time, why has the Army not thought it wise to go after armed Fulani herdsmen attacking communities daily but are about embarking on this unconstitutional assignment to harass and intimidate citizens living in the South East of Nigeria?
Why has Buhari not respected the constitutional provision on federal character Principle by appointing an Igbo speaking military officer as one of the service chiefs because Igbo constitute one of the Tripod that make up the majorities of the nation?
The Constitution says the Army is created for the protections of the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
The truth is that IPOB members aren’t threats to the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
Those who threaten the National territorial integrity of Nigeria are boko haram terrorists that still control some local government areas of Borno and Yobe State. Boko Haram terrorists have killed over 30,000 innocent Nigerians but IPOB is absolutely non-violent even when armed soldiers have killed over 600 of their members.
Why can’t this government concentrate the focus of the military towards liberating these territories under boko haram terrorists instead of embarking on this gambit called Python Dance part two?
Why is President Muhammadu Buhari milirarizing South East of Nigeria as if it is a conquered territory? The earlier President Muhammadu Buhari sees all parts of Nigeria as his constituency the better. President Muhammadu Buhari should remember that political power is ephemeral and transient and as the Musicians of old sang, NO CONDITION IS PERMANENT. Let the people of good conscience speak out against this undue military harassment of Igbo by Muhammadu Buhari.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and firstname.lastname@example.org;email@example.com.