The military’s Operation Python Dance III, which caused much disaffection between the people of South East and the Buhari administration, has been received with open arms by the Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi.
The new commissioner-designate overseeing the new Ebonyi Ministry of Internal Security and Border Peace, Dr Kenneth Ugbala, speaking on behalf of the governor said the military exercise in his State would guarantee peace and citizen’s security and previous exercises conducted in the state were was hitch-free.
The governor advised residents of the state to support the Nigerian Army’s operation.
Operation python dance which was first conceived and designed to counter what the army termed “violent agitations in the South East” lasted between 15th September and 15th October 2017 leading to the disputed invasion of Afaraukwu in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State, the home town of Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader, leaving with it tales of terror, bloodshed and tears on the groups members.
Only on Friday 13 January, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo through its National Publicity Secretary, Uche Achi-Okpaga reiterated Ohanaeze’s position that “the South-East is the most peaceful region” and wondered why the military is “sending soldiers to attack the whole place, but where there is violence in the North-East, they have no solution.”
However, the Ebonyi State government position did not come as a surprise to many watchers. The State through the incumbent governor have appeared sometimes to pursue an independent course of action from the other sisters States of the zone.
Dr. Ugbala, speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abakaliki said that law abiding citizens have nothing to fear over the exercise targeted at those he called “criminals” and “unscrupulous elements” from the State. “Those to be agitated over the exercise are criminals because there is no hiding place for them in the state.
“The soldiers and other security agencies involved in the exercise are highly trained professionals who would not deviate from their mandate and delve into other issues.
“There is a natural disagreement between unscrupulous elements and security operatives, as such people should not view the exercise negatively,” he said.
He explained that the State governor’s commitment to security of lives and property manifested in kick-starting the exercise in the State.
“We received a letter from the army that the operation python dance III exercise would be launched in Ebonyi and were not worried over it”, he said.
“This government would identify with any policy or activity that would ensure adequate protection of lives and property of its citizens.”
Earlier on 7 January, Gov. Umahi made an absurd allegation that members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) had threatened to kidnap the five governors of the South East States then “kill them and kill themselves”. Umahi said he received the threat from a text message on his wife’s phone.
Umahi said then, “We are not against them (IPOB) but their approach. And as the Chief Security Officer State.
“We don’t want to be colonized again. We are a state demanding better treatment in the affairs of our nation,” he said. The governor did not elaborate on which colonizers he referred to.
However, allegations of kidnap against IPOB could further harden the federal government and justify the proscription of the group as a terrorist organization, a development many Nigerians, particularly of Igbo extraction consider unjust in the light of IPOB’s unarmed and largely peaceful agitations for self-determination within the South East and South South regions.
But reacting to Governor Umahi kidnap allegation, IPOB self-acclaimed leader, Nnamdi Kanu, in a global phone-in program he had with his members on Saturday 13 February from Jerusalem, Israel, he counter-accused Umahi of sabotaging his party the PDP, which has as its running mate an Igbo, Mr. Peter Obi, by clandestinely working for and subterrenearly “campaigning for a murderous APC government that killed his own people…”.
Mr. Kanu claimed he had intelligence that Gov. Umahi had been promised presidency by “enemies of the Igbos” for 2023, and alleged the governor was therefore trying to scuttle the PDP chances of winning.
Umahi May Be Protecting His Political Interest
But Gov. Umahi, standing for re-election on 2 March against the federal ruling APC party in the State may be courting the federal government and the army in order to forestall the fears expressed by other some PDP governors of the SS/SE regions that security forces will be unleashed against their re-election machinery.
But Dr. Ugbala – the commissioner-designate, gave assurance that the Operation Python Dance exercise is not politically motivated to benefit any political party in the State but purely to “ensure peace and security of its citizens”.
“The state governor has always said that President Muhammadu Buhari is his only boss and the only person he would take instructions from.
“The government should sieve the truth from such negative information because when a man is weak, he would look for reasons to anchor his failure,” he said.
The commissioner-designate restated the State government’s resolve to monitor the movement of election materials during the elections so as to prevent malpractices.
“Anybody who wants to bring politics into the operation python dance exercise no matter how highly placed, should answer for it, as we are not joining issues with any opposition party,” he said.