Operation Python Dance can swallow Nigeria!

A similar totalitarian tendency is again playing out, from the Northernisation of security services, the Presidency and the National Assembly, through to the avarice of political office holders, to the rising aggression towards opposition and dissent.

It is ethnic and religious domination that is at the root of the Nigerian condition and it is mainly a problem of leadership. Apart from Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (ceremonial President of the First Republic) and General Aguiyi-Ironsi (first Military Head of State) both of who made every concession to the North, for national unity, as well as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who made effort to carry all parts of Nigeria along, both times he led, whatever people will say, Nigeria has been in short supply of detribalised leaders. The ultimate solution is to decentralise the Nigerian federation into regions with the critical mass of people and resources to take their fate in their hands, as was the case in the economically successful First Republic.

The January 15, 1966, coup d’etat was largely a reaction by socialist intellectuals of the Nigerian Army to (1) rising corruption and nepotism in Federal Government, even in the Armed Forces (2) the deployment of force and guile to further the ambition of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) to bring Northern minorities and the rest of Nigeria under its political and religious domination and (3) NPC’s capitalisation on intra-party crisis to imprison Chief Obafemi Awolowo and to destroy the Action Group in the Western Region, which constituted its most formidable opposition. Six more coups d’etat or so and long periods of military dictatorship, which ran the country aground, followed.

A similar totalitarian tendency is again playing out, from the Northernisation of security services, the Presidency and the National Assembly, through to the avarice of political office holders, to the rising aggression towards opposition and dissent. President Muhammadu Buhari, who operated in the theatre of Western Region crisis of the First Republic, that largely triggered the January 15, 1966 coup d’etat and also in the coup d’etat of July 29, 1966 and its aftermath and had been military Head of State, should know better and can do more to stabilise Nigeria.

Right now, the government might be courting the disintegration of Nigeria by the deployment of force in the East and, in particular, against Nnamdi Kanu and his Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) on the pretext of routine military exercise, code-named Python Dance, which had better been called off. But routine military exercise should not be contested, so why call this one off? Without any incident of armed rebellion in IPOB activities, the involvement of the Army is premature. Nnamdi Kanu and the leaders of IPOB have made it clear that they are ready to die for the emancipation of their people but would never take up arms against Nigeria. Shooting and manhandling of civilians started one week before the September 15, 2017 official commencement of that exercise, betraying the true nature of the campaign, which is bound to be resisted. Python Dance that will end up in extra-judicial killing will make things worse.

Most Nigerians have come to believe that the agitation by IPOB and Niger Delta militants and other groups are not baseless and have, more or less, come to agreement on the fundamental issues to be addressed for Nigeria to move forward, by way of political and economic restructuring of the federation. The general perception is that the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government is not eager to address these issues. Therefore, some aggrieved sections of the country are bound to key into the resistance and there will be a conflagration that can stretch government and precipitate balkanization, fuelled by the fear that other agitators would be suppressed one after the other and had better acted together. Moreover, if the horrific Nigerian Civil War could not deter the agitation for self-determination, which is a universal civil liberty, then these fundamental issues must be irresistible and nothing other than change of attitude, from combat to dialogue and negotiation, could save Nigeria. Python Dance would rather swallow it.

Moreover, if, after 50 years, the same people who were at the vanguard of Nigerian independence struggle and in the forefront of domestic investment, education, sports and everything that makes the society tick are again demanding to leave the house they built, like a man running away from his home, you must know that the matter is serious. The toad does not run in the afternoon for nothing, nor a man lightly abandon the house built by his sweat and blood. Why not test their agitation by referendum when the chance is 50: 50? Or, would Nigeria collapse if they left? If so, they deserve attention and not disdain!

Do you know that Nigeria would have fared much better, politically and economically, if the Aburi Accord of January 1967, to reconcile the Eastern Region to the Nigerian federation, after the hostilities of 1966, had been implemented – even if modified with mutual respect? But the Federal Government chose to levy war on the Region which threatened to secede on account of its repudiation by Gowon! The rest is history. In place of the Aburi Accord, today, we have the Report of 2014 National Conference. Why not treat it?

Furthermore, the abrogation of the competitive regional and fiscal structures of the First Republic, the transfer of all essential resources and legislative powers from federating units to Federal Government and the redistribution of federal revenues and offices in favour of Northern constituencies by the military establishment, in the greed of oil boom, cannot be sustained if Nigeria is to move forward. It seems that they never thought that crude oil, like coal, would ever decline. We are now saddled with a bloated bureaucracy that consumes more than 70 per cent of public revenues and an imperial Federal Government and Presidency that constitute a noose on the citizens and the states, rendering the country unproductive but obsessed with avarice for oil revenues and bedevilled by laxity, massive corruption, unemployment, militancy and crime! It should have been clear that such a bogus, aberrant, structure, foisted by Decree 24 of 1999, as the 1999 Constitution, would soon be resisted, given the dearth of detribalised leadership.

Operation Python Dance should be called off – if it cannot be conducted with equanimity, as is already evident. The first step to resolving agitations in a democracy should be restitution and dialogue with the aggrieved parties at the appropriate level of state or Federal Government. In this case that an entire region is involved, the appropriate level is Federal Government which should not be too big for its citizens.

Let us address fundamental issues (diseases) to reposition Nigeria and stop toying about with symptoms till the patient dies. Otherwise, even after IPOB, agitation will not cease in the country due to injustice.



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