The pythons President Muhammadu Buhari unleashed on his people in the South East, without cause and the ostensible national endorsement of the python’s venomous rage, brutality and its casualties has exposed our lack of love for one another, depraved national conscience and lack of sophistication and temperament needed for democracy to flourish.
Lets be clear on one thing; wrong is wrong. Injustice is unacceptable, notwithstanding who it is being meted out to. Operation Python Dance II is illegal and unconstitutional. There was neither insurrection in the South East nor a break down of law and order that justified the sending of troops to humiliate, trample on the rights of those Nigerians who live in that part of the country, and kill unarmed civilians, as it unfortunately turned out to be.
Apart from the harassment, torture and killing of civilians, more worrisome was the treacherous silence of the otherwise vocal press of the Lagos-Ibadan axis and the self-professed pro-democracy activists and defenders.
In cases, where the mainstream press could not afford to be silent, their lack of courage to tell the truth and distortion of facts was sickening – in a perverted attempt to justify the killing of defenseless civilians in a democracy.
The somewhat collective conspiracy against IPOB was unnecessary. It shows our lack of sophistication. No matter the provocation – if any – the rule of law should never be compromised. A democratic country must conform to certain fundamental norms. And a country is held to a higher standard than a reckless organization like IPOB.
For his alleged crime against his fatherland, IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu was charged to court and granted bail. Yes, he breached some of the conditions of his bail. Since the matter will be coming up in October, why couldn’t Buhari’s government toe the path of legality by praying the court on the adjourned date to send Kanu back to jail for breach of his bail conditions? And let the court decide his fate as practiced in democracies.
Rather than allow the law to have its course, Mr. Buhari, accused by many of not being a democrat, proved his accusers right. What happened in Umuahia and Aba in the past days could only be possible under a fascist regime.
There are accusations that the decision to send pythons to the South East was one misguided by political permutations. 2019 is rapidly approaching, the successful sit-at-home order by IPOB earlier in the year underlined how powerful and influential the group has become in Igboland. Politicians in the region need not consult an oracle to know that no other rod leads to power in the zone than through IPOB.
Many believe that the South East governors, threatened by Kanu’s new status, no thanks to Buhari’s handling of the matter, are behind the deployment of troops in the region in their selfish aim to silence IPOB and its leader.
If this is true then President Buhari unwisely fell prey to the selfish advice of the governors by going after Kanu. With his Pythons killing many civilians, in their attempt to suppress the struggle of a people crying against injustice and marginalization, he has secured himself an inglorious place in history as a president who killed his own people.
The rush with which the governors announced a phony ban of IPOB tends to support this allegation.
It was also a shocking exhibition of ignorance that left many cringing about the incompetence of the people in whom the affairs of the South East zone is entrusted to.
It was shocking that no one among the five state governors, who should be law enforcers, have a good knowledge of the law of the country. Side by side the fact that none of the Attorney Generals of the Eastern States could tell their excellencies that they lack the competence to proscribe IPOB.
The case of Maj. Gen. John Eneche of the Nigerian army is quite pardonable, as a soldier. Being versed in law could not be legitimately demanded from a soldier. In any case, due to the militarization of our democracy and the wrong body language exuding from Buhari, Mr. Eneche woke up one morning in democracy and arrogated to himself the power to declare a group a terrorist organization.
And the Attorney General, whose job it is to do so, when the facts are right, by approaching a high court for such a declaration, keeps mum. The presidency says nothing, and no word from the National Assembly and the so-called pro-democracy activists. Strange country!
To be very clear, both attempts by the governors and Defence Headquarters to ban IPOB and label it a terror group were absurd anomalies. They are illegal and unconstitutional.
Under Section 2 (1c) of the Terrorism Act 2011, it is only a judge of the Federal High Court, upon the application of the Attorney General of the Federation, National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police, with the approval of the President, can declare any entity to be a proscribed organization. And such is legally required to be published in a National Gazette.
The labelling of IPOB as a terrorist organization is grotesque and laughable. The Nigeria military unleashed terror on unarmed civilians, turns round and calls the victims terrorists.
Of course, it is clear that Mr. Eneche and other officers at the Defence Headquarters acted without consultation. But then again it goes to show the danger of militarization of democratic rule. The military is beginning to usurp power illegitimately. So would any one be surprised if we are woken up one morning by marshal music?
I have always disapproved of the mindset and orientation of the Nigerian military. As Aba and Umuahia boiled, Army spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman said it was politicians who are behind IPOB and said, “It is so sad and unfortunate that a particular group of people, for political expediency and mischief, are trying to set the military and Nigerian society against each other“.
How could a soldier, whose job is to defend the people and die in the course if need be, conjecture a scenario whereby the military would be fighting the civilian population? It is simply absurd.
Despite the noise about the war on corruption, what Nigeria needed in 2015 was national healing. If the only thing Buhari would be able to achieve as president is to bring this country that was badly divided together, history would be fair to him as a great leader and patriot.
Instead of being the president for all as he promised during his inauguration, he deepened the ethnic divisions by his lopsided appointments that favoured only his Duara kinsmen.
IPOB and the South East are lamenting of marginalization. But the truth remains that every Nigerian has been cheated by a rogue elite, including those who are from the part of the country that has dominated power in the country.
The Hausa/Fulani people have nothing to show either for the many years their self-serving people have been in power. They only served themselves and their immediate families, amassed stupendous wealth and left the people impoverished.
These unpatriotic leaders are the ones who sow the seeds of ethnic hatred, so that the people would never know who their real enemies are.
Even the pythons that were sent to kill their fellow oppressed Nigerians are not better off, though they, like others, fail to realize that they are in the same boat with the agitators.
As long as we tribalize the struggle against injustice in Nigeria, the perpetrators may continue to win.
For the avoidance of doubt, agitations and request for referendum is the people’s right and part and parcel of democracy. And every democratic government must have the capacity and sophistication to stomach them.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari cannot exonerate itself from woeful blames that the unnecessary sending of troops to the South East was done in bad faith.
The herdsmen rampaging across the country have been maiming, raping, killing people on a daily basis; there was the Agatu massacre; Southern Kaduna pogrom, indiscriminate killings, brazen quit notices given across Nigeria. No one was ever arrested and prosecuted, talk less of sending troops.
I find it difficult to accuse the government of double standard because to do so, would mean that IPOB members were also violent. They were not. They were never violent; never killed or attacked anyone before the sending of the troops. They were only noise makers.
At a time national reconciliation was badly needed, President Buhari unwisely sent troops to the South East. I have always wished that we as Nigerians understood that we are brothers, despite divergent languages and religions that were forced down on us. Unfortunately, the killings of defenseless civilians in Igboland by Nigerian soldiers has taken the country 50 years back. It has left me less optimistic.