The ongoing destructive ‘Python Dance’ of the Nigerian troops in the South East states of Nigeria is easily the most futile conceivable strategy for defeating the growing Biafra consciousness in Igboland. It’s a thought police witch-hunt operation. And it is destined to end in a shameful retreat like all brawny wars waged against persuasions rooted in hearts and minds.
The barbarous militarization of the reasonably quiet geopolitical zone is a bald-faced abuse of the Nigerian army. Emptying the barracks into civilian space in the absence of a present or imminent security threat is creating a gladiatorial arena for no just reason.
It should never have happened because it is unconstitutional for the president of Nigeria to deploy troops on a whim. And even if were, it’s an repulsive course of action because its atmospherics cannot but help solidify the case for Biafra 2.0, radicalize the youths of the region, and create the perfect storm that didn’t exist before the soldiers’ siege.
The ‘Python Dance’ does not have any perceptible prospect of getting Igbo heartland over a barrel. It can only be counterproductive. It will lend momentum to Nnamdi Kanu’s cause, enlarge his support base, and enhance his profile as an ordained prophet-leader of Biafra’s second exodus.
The ‘Python Dance’ panacea is a dumb idea. The only way it begins to make sense as a present-day reality is understanding that it is a dramatic product of the intersection of the Biafra paranoia of President Muhammadu Buhari and the snake fetishism of his army chief, General Tukur Yusuf Buratai.
President Buhari is sick from Biafra. He is obsessed with Biafra. He dreads Biafra, nourishes that dread, and makes his nightmares out of its intangible essence.
Buhari is so tormented by a seemingly ubiquitous apparition of Biafra that he is expressing and exercising that fear as state policy. He is radiating that fear like a distressed coward vested with military omnipotence. He is transmitting that fear as a command, making his anxiety the lived experience of other people.
The current siege on Igboland stemmed from Buhari’s desperate need to attack his own Biafra paranoia. He fears that if he hesitates to preemptively destroy Biafra, Biafra will destroy him. He believes the only pro-Biafra activists that can’t haunt him and aggravate his fears are the ones killed in cold blood.
Buhari unleashed Nigerian soldiers on Igboland in a bid to annihilate the fear he harbored within. The facts on the ground did not demand the deployment of a trigger-happy army of occupation to the South East. But he had to validate his Biafran paranoia by dispatching the military.
President Buhari’s short broadcast on his return from London, after 104 days in medical exile, was all about the putative unity of Nigeria and how Biafra would secede over the dead bodies of its canvassers. Of the myriad issues that needed to be addressed, he laser-focused on Biafra. He prioritized and singularized it. As far he was concerned, it was the most serious problem of Nigeria because it represented his greatest private headache.
During his first briefing with military chiefs, he gave them marching orders to destroy ‘threats to national security and unity’. And by that, he meant Biafra. The Biafra he never tires of vowing to ‘crush’.
Fortunately, he has a brutal automaton for chief of army staff. Buratai is in sync with his commander in chief’s anti-Igbo hate. And he received the instruction as another chance to immortalize himself as a militant agent of the Grim Reaper.
In November last year, he launched ‘Operation Python Dance 1’ in the five South East states. He rationalized the provocative militarization as a mission necessitated by ‘’violent agitations by separatist groups’’. That was a false pretext for invading the Igbo space and assaulting the sensibilities of the people. There were no violent agitations in Igboland at the time.
Buratai’s relaunch of his ‘Python Dance’ consequent upon Buhari’s order scarcely lasted 24 hours before claiming its first innocent causalities: 3 dead and 20 severely wounded. By Buratai’s standards, this figure from the army’s raid of Nnamdi Kanu’s residence is nothing. It’s nowhere close to his Zaria overkill .
The military occupation of the South East has now thrown parts of the zone into turmoil, with civilians mustering some forms of resistance. This is a needless crisis. It is a case of making trouble for the fun of it.
The codename of the military operation, ‘Python Dance’, reveals that its purpose is to satisfy an expensive taste. General Buratai is a snake fetishist who takes pride in indulging his fantasy. He is cashing in on his headship of the Nigerian army to eternalize his fascination for snakes.
General Buratai keeps the statuette of an Egyptian cobra on his official desk. He farms snakes. He takes selfies with snakes. He feels an affinity for snakes. He launched ‘Python Dance’ to assert himself.
For some reason, Buratai derives a sense of meaning from snakes. His pursuit of a ‘Python Dance’ is a quest to ensure to ensure that his life counts. It’s an attempt to secure historical significance.
Buratai has purported to ‘kill’ Abubakar Shekau many times. He has declared Boko Haram defeated countless times. But both Shekau and the death cult he leads continue to exist and kill with abandon.
Buratai recently set for himself a 40 day target to get Shekau dead or alive. That deadline passed without any incident. Shekau was not captured. And Buratai did not resign.
In fact, after Buratai failed to make good on his promise to capture or kill Shekau, Nigeria’s most serious threat, Buhari rewarded the army chief with the easier task of terrorizing civilians of South East Nigeria. The spoiled general has seized that face-saving, achievable challenge as an opportunity to execute a snake-themed military operation.
Nnamdi Kanu was a mere source of bombast on a pirate radio station until President Buhari made him a folk hero. Buhari’s arrest and incarceration of Kanu turned him into a martyr and phenomenon. He is now the most popular Igbo man alive.
The grotesque ‘Python Dance’ plays into Kanu’s narrative of Nigeria’s hatred for the Igbo race. It furthers the perception that Nigeria continues to maintain a policy of hostility against Igbo people after the 30 month-long civil war that wasted 3 million Biafrans. The deaths and human violations resulting from the operation will inevitably multiply the grievances that are fueling the agitation for Biafra’s secession from Nigeria.
The siege on Igboland is legitimizing Kanu’s quest for Biafra’s self-determination. His house arrest will make him a prisoner of conscience. Every state sponsored act of intimidation helps his cause.
‘Python Dance’ is snake oil. It will avail Nigeria nothing. Except romancing Buhari’s paranoia and his army chief’s snake fetish.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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