By CASSIDY MADUEKE
In Igboland, there is a saying that “what you do not know is bigger than you, just as it will continue to be beyond you until you experience it practically’’. This adage perfectly describes the combative strategy of IPOB and the Operation Python Dance set up by the Nigerian military to contain the activities and excesses of the agitating group which has been classified as a terrorist organization by the Federal Government and proscribed by South East Governors.
Investigation into the membership of IPOB shows that most of the young people, including its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who parade themselves as agitators spoiling for war were not born before or during the Nigerian civil war which lasted from 1967 to 1970.
They have never experienced any war. The implication of this is that war or violence, to them, is like a fairy tale or what is seen in American movies. They still believe that stones, dane guns and wooden clubs are the best arms and armament to prosecute a war. Even if they know about military equipment, do they have the funds or sponsors to help them procure them?
The situation is made worse because the teaching of history has been expunged from the curriculum of Nigerian schools and most of the characters involved in IPOB have not bothered to read about Nigeria’s civil war, why and how it started, how it was won and lost and its impact on both Biafra, the Federal troops and Nigeria as a country.
Suffice it to say that this was the same experience that led to the death of promising undergraduates of Igbo extraction in 1967 when Nigeria’s civil war commenced. They came out in their numbers in same manner and fashion as undergraduates from University of Nigeria, Nsukka to face federal troops with machetes, stones and wooden clubs not knowing what bullets in a single gun could do to tens of them. The result was the massive mowing down of the young men with the talents inherent in them. Fifty years after the war, its scars are still visible in homes, families and villages in the South East.
Analyzing its support base, it has been observed that rational Igbos, including those from same village with IPOB leader, who experienced the civil war are not in favor of the push by the group which believes that war or secession is the solution for the marginalization of the Igbos. The do not believe in dialogue which was the counsel of the Great Nnamdi Azikiwe of Africa to the then young Col. Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu as a better way to handle agitations before the break out of the civil war.
When the jungle of the civil war matured and Ojukwu realized that it had turned out to be a suicide mission, he had to seek the intervention of the Great Zik to find a soft landing for Biafra. After several negotiations that did not produce desired results, the old man had to leave for London for his safety. It was a matter of time before Ojukwu fled. At that time the push had come to shove. But then, those who did not have anywhere to run to, and those who had places to run to, but did not have the means to do so, resigned to fate to either survive the war or pay the supreme prize.
The war left in its wake colossal damage to property, just as thousands of lives were lost. It will be recalled that before his demise, Ojukwu described the war as a mistake and that such incident should not happen again. According to him, if Nigeria finds itself in another civil war, it means the people who died between 1967 and 1970 died in vain. NTA still plays the recording up till today.
By and large, history has a way of repeating itself in the sense that it took a show of force by the Nigerian army driving and brandishing military vehicles and armoured tanks in Nnamdi Kanu’s village in Umuahia, Abia State, for him to be silenced. This is an indication that the man was not prepared for the action he has been propagating and the threats he had been making. If he was really ready to die for the course as he claims why did he go into hiding since the military show of force happened.
It should also not be forgotten that a chunk of his followers have paid the supreme prize during confrontations with security agencies at different times. This is unlike Ojukwu who stayed and fought till almost the end of the civil war before fleeing. The situation on hand now is that Kanu is no-where to be found even when the real deal as he speculated has not started. The general impression is that the captain has abandoned his ship and that the leadership of IPOB is now in question.
The lesson for the Federal Government on the experience of Python Dance is that security agencies should do everything possible to stop whoever and whatever that would lead to further bloodshed in any part of the country since military show of force has had maximum impact. Further interventions should also be done more professionally, since it has become obvious that agitators have not acquired weapons.
Since the military in the South East zone now aims at reducing criminal activities which include kidnappings, Operation Python Dance should ensure that the rights, privileges, value , due respect and protection of lives and properties of citizens/residents of the zone are not undermined in any way.
It has become obvious that God Almighty in his infinite mercy brought many tribes and races together to form one nation. It therefore behooves that the virtues of mutual respect and not mutual suspicion should be the order of the day.
Dialogue and not violence should be embraced as a means of seeking solution to national challenges. After all, it still takes round table discussions to end a war even though the difference is that so much destruction would have taken before such meetings are convened.
From the foregoing, it has become imperative to reintroduce History as a subject in Nigerian schools so that young people will be thought about the Nigerian civil war and why such incidents should be avoided.
It is the prayer of all Nigerians of goodwill that God averts any incident that will lead to further bloodshed in Nigeria.
*Madueke writes from Abuja, Nigeria