The South-East geopolitical zone is about to witness the third in a series of Joint Military exercises, codenamed, ‘Operation Python Dance,’ and the people are agitated, as they relive the untoward experiences of the previous operations.
The first two military activities, ‘Operation Python Dance I’ and ‘Operation Python Dance II’ were carried out in late 2016 and 2017, respectively, with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, listing their modus operandi to include “raids, cordon and search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, checkpoints, and ultimately, a show of force to curb the rising threat to national security in the South-Eastern part of the country.”
However, the people of the zone doubt the intent of these deployments. To them, the military wants to “provoke a war” by applying brute force to “oppress and suppress, harass and intimidate, and abuse and curtail the rights” of the indigenes, with the purported final objective of whipping them into line or wiping them out of existence.
What evidence do they need to buttress their fears and anxiety other than the alleged “blood, tears and sorrow” that accompanied past military manoeuvres, especially the ‘Operation Python Dance II’ that took place between September 15 and October 14, 2017, resulting in the invasion of the home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
Aftermath of that operation, Kanu “disappeared” and several IPOB members were reportedly killed, and their bodies allegedly taken to God knows where by the security operatives.
Sadly, barely one year after, 38 decomposing bodies were reportedly discovered in a forest at Obiawom village, Ogwe Autonomous Community, Asa Land in Ukwa West Local Government Area in Abia State, incidentally the epicentre of ‘Operation Python Dance II’.
The IPOB, through its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, claimed that the bodies were those of its members suspiciously killed by the Nigerian troops during the operation it described as “one of the most ignored gruesome acts against humanity, which had continuously received conspiracy of silence from concerned authorities.”
Four bodies were earlier reportedly found in another section of the forest, raising the possibility of additional bodies still uncovered, and prompting the IPOB to call on the Nigerian Government and its security operatives “to release the remaining bodies of Biafrans in their custody since last year.”
The latest discovery brings to memory the horror of about 30 male dead bodies floating in the Anambra River on January 19, 2013, at the Amansea community in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Besides the river having its source at Agba Ogwudu, a boundary town between Anambra and Enugu states, no one could identify the decomposing bodies, how they got there, and who killed them, as the residents only woke up to behold the ugly spectacle that its stench enveloped the neighbourhood.
Ironically as in the Amansea community case, the authorities, particularly the Police, are yet to satisfactorily explain to Nigerians what transpired at Obiawom village that culminated in over 38 bodies being dumped in its forest. The government should come out fast with an explanation for the massacre of scores of persons, no matter their crimes.
Whether they were members of the proscribed IPOB, as claimed by its spokesperson, or criminal elements terrorising Abia State or other parts of the South-East, they deserved to go through the crucible of the laws of the land, which presume a suspect to be innocent until proven otherwise by the courts.
Nonetheless, only condemned persons, who failed to get commuttal of their sentences, had to face execution, as prescribed by law. And we are not aware of any executions, certainly not of such a high number, sanctioned by any authorities in Nigeria in recent times. Which is why the government must unravel this mass destruction of Nigerians.
And the investigation could as well determine if the bodies were those of persons accusingly killed by the Military during ‘Operation Python Dance II’ in 2017. When discovered, the bodies were “decomposing”, indicating, perhaps, that the people were killed recently and dumped in the forest.
Indeed, the military operation ended about a year ago, and the agrarian residents of the Obiawom community, shocked to the marrow, said “the bodies might have been dumped in the last two weeks by yet-to-be known persons, who “took us unawares.”
While we condemn, unmistakably, the dastardly and unwarranted killings, we demand a full-scale investigation into their immediate and remote causes, the circumstances surrounding them, the identities of the victims, the time and place(s) of their deaths and how and when they were conveyed and discharged in Obiawom village, which had not reported any of its inhabitants missing, or among the dead.
Moreover, the new realities behoves on the government to shine the lights on the oft-repeated allegation of genocide against members of the IPOB, and the whereabouts of their leader, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who’s last seen on September 10, 2017, when officers of ‘Operation Python Dance II’ laid siege to his father’s palace at Afaraukwu community in Umuahia, capital city of Abia State.
Anything short of an assuaging explanation of the circumstances of the mysterious decomposing bodies in Obiawom forest, and the fallouts from the ‘Operation Python Dance II’ would reinforce the feelings of the IPOB members, the Abia people, and indeed, all Igbo, both within and outside the South-East, that they are an endangered race that the Nigerian government is using the Military to stoke an alibi for its extermination.
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