Time to suspend the ‘Python Dance’ – Thisday

President Buhari should withdraw the army from the Southeast in the nation’s interest

That the situation in the Southeast has almost reached a tipping point is an understatement. Even if that is the goal of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the irritant leader of the so-called Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the authorities should not play into his hands. We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari to provide the kind of leadership that a time like this demand by calling for the suspension of “Operation Python Dance Two” so that there can be a meaningful dialogue towards an enduring peace without which progress is impossible. Whatever may be the motivation, provoking the civil populace through acts of unnecessary fright engineering is in itself a threat to national security, especially in the season we are in.

We must state very quickly that in the face of the clear and present danger posed by the activities of terrorists, kidnappers, armed robbers and sundry criminal elements, we understand the need for vigilance. We also share the view that by his unhinged rhetoric, Kanu has constituted himself into a national security threat. Nevertheless, we are mindful of the abuse that could come from a deployment of military troops as can be glimpsed from some of the video clips that are already in circulation. Without prejudice to whatever may be the outcome of the investigation the military authorities claimed to be conducting into those videos, we would like to state that most reasonable people have already drawn their conclusions.

However, it is reassuring that political leaders in the Southeast have finally decided to confront the IPOB menace while reaching out to their counterparts in the North to avoid any reprisal attacks that could lead to a national conflagration. We also commend the Northern traditional and political leaders who have waded in. We need such peace-building process across board.

Rising from a meeting last Friday in Enugu, the South East Governors’ Forum announced the proscription of IPOB activities. Forum Chairman, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi who spoke for his colleagues, said that they were already in touch with their northern counterparts “who have assured us of the safety of our people living in the north and we have also planned for exchange of visits to reinforce confidence”. He added: “We wish to assure Nigerians that full investigation is ongoing on all allegations of killings, maiming and other unlawful conduct in the zone within this period”.

The federal authorities must reciprocate this gesture. Part of the propaganda propelling the Biafran separatists is the idea that the region is being treated more like a forcefully occupied territory rather than a component of a democratic republic. Rightly or wrongly, this assumption has taken hold among unemployed youth and other subscribers to the Biafra movement in the Southeast. Droves of combat troops in open display of raw force can therefore only be interpreted as an act of deliberate provocation.

All factors considered, the idea of “Operation Python Dance” by the military at this point in time in the Southeast was ill-timed. One, the use of the military rather than the police for civil security operations has a tendency to graduate into a major national security risk whose eventual implications may unsettle our fragile and fractious democracy. Two, a retinue of combat ready troops with armoured vehicles and other instruments of war parading the streets of a state capital can easily lead to a disruption of civil life and that can only lead to an escalation of a combustible situation.

It must be clear to all concerned that when any society gets polarised along the lines of “we” versus “them”, as Nigeria clearly is today, anarchy is not too far away. Time has therefore come for critical stakeholders in our country to stand up with one voice to denounce the rising wave of violent acts that are gradually becoming the norm. But President Buhari must take the lead by withdrawing military troops from the streets of the Southeast while rallying together our people for the peace and prosperity he promised when he was campaigning for office.

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it is reassuring that political leaders in the Southeast have finally decided to confront the IPOB menace while reaching out to their counterparts in the North to avoid any reprisal attacks that could lead to a national conflagration

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