The Nigerian Armed Forces’ inappropriate use of force and mishandling of threats to national security (e.g. tribal agitations, religious violence and communal clashes) have always been an issue of concern for most Nigerians home and abroad. Sadly, there seems to be a continuous repetition of military strategy errors by the Nigerian Armed Forces.
2016: Operation Python Dance I
In 2016, the Nigerian Armed Forces planned and carried out a military operation, code named Operation Python Dance I. It took place from 27 November till 27 December 2016. It’s primary objective was to tackle issues of national security. The issues were widespread and ranged from violent secessionist attacks, communal clashes, kidnapping, armed robbery, to farmers and herdmen’s clashes in five of Nigeria’s South Eastern States. The operation appears to have gone well as there were no viral social media videos of inappropriate use of force by the armed forces. Let’s fast-forward to 2017.
2017: Operation Python Dance II and Biafra
After the ‘success’ of Operation Python Dance I, the Nigerian Armed Forces began a new military operation named Operation Python Dance II (also known as Exercise Egwu Eke II). The operation was a renewed effort by the Armed Forces to combat crime. However, this time around the operation has been overshadowed by gross human rights abuse. There are videos of Armed Forces engaging in extrajudicial killings of self acclaimed Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) members (a separatist group clamoring for the creation of the Republic of Biafra) and those sympathetic to them.
Human rights abuse and viral social media videos
A few days ago, videos showing the Nigerian Armed Forces’ inappropriate use of force in the South Eastern part of Nigeria surfaced on various social media platforms. These viral videos detail violations of human rights and extra-judicial killings of members of the IPOB. In one of the viral videos, members of the IPOB were seen stoning armed millitary men and their armoured vehicles, which led to the Nigerian Armed Forces’ high handedness. In my view, this inappropriate use of force should not be excused given that the protesting members of the IPOB were not armed with lethal weapons. The biggest risk for Nigeria is that the actions of the overzealous and trigger happy members of the Nigerian Armed Forces could provoke the IPOB to take up arms. Similar events occurred in relation to Boko Haram and an operation by the Nigerian Armed Forces in 2009.
2009: Operation Flush and Boko Haram
It is worth noting that in its infancy, Boko Haram was not associated with violent acts of terror. In my view, its creation was propelled by a combination of factors including socio-economic conditions such as high unemployment, inequality and inappropriate use of force by the Nigerian Armed Forces. More than a decade later, the Nigerian Armed Forces is yet to subdue Boko Haram and Nigeria is still suffering from the aftermath of the Nigerian Army’s ‘Operation Flush’.
In 2009, Operation Flush was initiated with the objective to subdue Boko Haram. The operation resulted in the capture and killing of the founder of Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, while in the army’s custody. This too was accompanied by a viral video of Yusuf being tourtured and subsequently killed by the Nigerian Armed Forces. The killing of Yusuf did not end the activities of Boko Haram but resulted in the appointment of a new leader, Abubakar Shekau and ofcourse a subsequently more deadlier Boko Haram that we all know of today.
War is very expensive and not everyone wants to experience anything close to the 1967 Nigerian Civil War where millions of lives were lost. This is why officers found guilty of indiscipline and disobedience to the rules of engagement must be severely dealt with.
In order for us as a people to prevent a replay of another episode of ‘boko-haramic’ activities in Nigeria, we must hold our leaders accountable, injustice must be curtailed, lawlessness must cease and the people’s voice must be heard whilst promoting participatory democracy.
For now, Operation Egwu Eke II is a shameful dance of the python.
If you would like to see some of the viral videos mentioned in this article, click here.
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