There is unease in the Southeast zone over the current plan by the Nigerian Army to launch Python Dance 3 (Egwueke 3) in the region.
Reacting to the development, Anambra State President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Damian Okeke Ogene, has warned the federal government that the re-introduction of Operation Python Dance is causing grave tension in the Southeast region.
Speaking with newsmen in Awka, Anambra State, Ogene said the proposed Python Dance 3 would yield better result if the soldiers were deployed to Sambisa forest, Benue, Taraba and other troubled parts of the country, where innocent citizens were being killed on daily basis.
He contended that Southeast remains the most peaceful and stable region in the country and so does not need the proposed operation, adding that state governments in the region had sustained effective security network while cautioning against any act that could generate tension and apprehension in the zone, especially as general elections were just around the corner.
However, Ogene enjoined Southeast youths to remain calm and refused to be provoked as what was needed in the Igbo struggle was not confrontation and violence, but a united front, sense of purpose and maturity.
He alleged that the re-introduction of the Python dance in the region was another way of intimidating the people.
In November 2016, the Nigerian Army in Awka, Anambra State, launched a military operation in the Southeast, code named “Egwueke” which it stated was to tackle violent crimes, kidnappings, armed robberies among others, especially as Yuletide season was setting in.
The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division, Enugu, Enugu State, Col. Musa Sagir, who represented the GOC 82 Div. Maj. Gen. Attahiru, said they hoped to end the operation by December 27, however added that they could extend the exercise till January 2017 if the need be.
Having seen the result recorded in 2016, the army in 2017 announced the second phase of the military operation.
The Egwueke exercise did not however generate much controversy until 2017 when the military unleashed its might against members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) whose activities in the Southeast was generating much heat as the leader of the group and Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, was traversing the Southeast and some Southsouth states with the message of the group’s plan to push for secession of the region from Nigeria. That didn’t go down well with the President Buhari led federal government.
During the exercise, the military struck Kanu’s compound in Afaraukwu, Umuahia, the Abia State capital, with many IPOB members allegedly killed. Also, many innocent and armless young boys and girls in their prime allegedly died under the weapons of the military, as Aba and Onitsha, the two major commercial cities in the Southeast, including Port Harcourt, Rivers State, became fully militarised. After the operation, the leader of IPOB disappeared, leaving speculations that he may either be dead or in detention of the Nigerian military.
Because of these, the current announcement by the military that it wants to carry out Egwueke III in the Southeast has elicited diverse reactions.
While some are in support of the military operation, many, in an interview with our reporter in Aba, the commercial nerve of Abia State said there was no need for the Egwueke operation after the experience of 2017.
Mr. Offor who said that the benefits of the Operation Python dance outweighs the issues it generated in 2017 called on army authorities in the country to apply civility in their operations
But in a chat with newsmen, the Chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation, Aba unit, Dr. Charles Chinekezi, said “Egwueke III is unnecessary, uncalled for and a ploy to come and shoot people once again like it happened the other time. There is no reason for whatever type of Egwueke because Southeast is the most peaceful area in Nigeria today. It is only the East that is relatively peaceful because the rate of violent crime is drastically reduced. There is no agitation. Kidnapping and armed robbery are very low.
“As a matter of fact ever contemplating another type of Egwueke is mischief on the side of the army and their pay masters who detect what they do from Abuja. It is my candid opinion and Nigerians know that this is true.
“The presence of the soldiers in the Southeast has helped to control crime in the East, especially when kidnappers and hoodlums almost sent everybody in Aba in particular away many years ago.
“When the soldiers came, it took them two weeks to get everything and those behind it arrested. But what we are saying is that for the military to think about any type of Egwueke that will only pitch them against defenceless and armless young persons again, where they will begin to shoot and kill them, is unacceptable and uncalled for and that is why we are saying that we don’t want another type of Egwueke in the Southeast.”
However, our source noted that normal life and other activities go on in Enugu State ?as most residents seem oblivious of the Python 3 Dance notice issued by the Nigerian Army.
Some residents interviewed said they were unaware of the impending operation. But a few who admitted knowledge of the third phase of the Python 3 Dance operation were optimistic that it would not have much effect in Enugu.
An aluminium sheets dealer, Innocent Ogbonna, said “The first two operations were not noticed in Enugu.” This, he said is because Enugu is a peaceful state. We don’t have trouble makers here.”
He added that the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), although firmly present in the state, conduct themselves in peaceful manner.
Except for the handful of Ben Onwuka-led Biafra Zionists Federation (BZF), which has made three attempts to seize the Enugu Government House, there had not been any serious uprising concerning Biafra in the state.
According to Enugu State Police Command spokesman, Superintendent Ebere Amaraizu, “Enugu State is as safe as the World Bank. People should go about their normal businesses without fear of molestation by any security agency. ”