By Eza Idibia
The nationwide Operation Python Dance is the military exercise by the Nigerian Army to provide additional support for the police and other security agencies for the period covering the 2019 general elections. Incidentally, Operation Python Dance has its own track record, similar exercises, although confined to the south-east geo-political zone, recorded huge successes in its first and second iteration in the area covering Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states in the south east, and stretching to Cross River and Rivers in some sessions . For the duration of the exercise in the two consecutive years it has held in the area, even though promoted as training exercise, it has been credited with stemming some of the crimes that were once rampant in the areas covered. It was Operation Python Dance that eventually curbed the menace of kidnap for ransom and armed banditry that were the dread of the states in the south-east. These are achievements that have been hailed by Nigerians from that part of the country for making it possible for them to work up the courage to visit their home states in the Yuletide season in the years referenced when in the past they were scared of venturing home for fear of being robbed or abducted.
It is therefore in order to say that the exercise remains one of the most successful military drills in the country going by its capacity to effectively send criminal elements away from the south-east and south-south. Of note is that there were initial apprehension and rejection from these parts of the country where there was initially misconception that the troops being sent in will have run-ins with the civilian population. This fear was further heightened by the coordinated propaganda that was aimed at making the people hostile towards the exercise.
The only concern people could have had is the one about the potential for people to be brutalised by overzealous military personnel. But in an age when troops have been trained to adhere to rules of engagement that meet global standards, such concerns have no place. The civility of the previous exercise is a reference point here. The civility of the exercise with its far reaching impacts rather give one a high impression about the Nigerian Army, its officers and men.
The assurance that this would be the case derives from the repeated efforts by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Tukur Buratai, who has been consistent in discouraging soldiers and officers from meddling in politics and political activities in the country. This should banish the thoughts of those that think soldiers are being deployed to influence the elections one way or the other when in reality Operation Python Dance is about ensuring that the present wave of criminality does not jeopardize the nation’s democracy since there is every tendency that persons with questionable intents would attempt to sabotage the votes by causing security breaches.
General Buratai has demonstrated even at the most difficult of times that the Army serves to uphold the nation’s democracy. He has in the course of his work demonstrated that the military is subservient to the civilian authorities. It is a trait that must be acknowledged because it is a critical step in weaning the military to know its place in our democracy.
With the positive attributes identified with Operation Python Dance and the professionalism displayed till date by those behind the exercise, it is logical to wonder why some people are expressing morbid fear about its imminence. Do people really have something to fear from the exercise holding across the country when it has in past held successfully in some parts of the country?
The answer can be found in the criminality that the exercise will curtail and the intentions of those that promote such criminality. There are those politicians that deliberately sponsor violence in the hope that they can create an atmosphere that will not allow elections to hold so that they can in turn ask for absurdities like interim government and other aberrations that are alien to the constitution. Once the operations kicks off, troops will be able to suppress the plots to destabilize the electoral process once they ensure that all plans to cause outbreak of violence are diffused.
The operation will not give room for voters’ intimidation, gangster minded candidates will not be able to kidnap or abduct their opponents, while ballot snatching, disruption of polling units and other acts of violence meant to rig the polls. Anyone that is afraid that the deployment for the operation will not allow these to take place should be investigated as to the nature of their true intentions.
Any true lover of democracy in Nigeria will therefore welcome Operation Python Dance with zeal given the good news it means for the peaceful conduct of elections in a country where some politicians have mobilized hoodlums to compromise the polls on an industrial scale. They will not only embrace the exercise but will take the additional step of educating other citizens about the benefit of having the exercise to deal with the threats to the elections.
Idibia is a forensic psychologist based in Owerri, Imo State.