By David Abu
Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai is a man and soldier with a large heart. As Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations in the country, Gen. Buratai is confronting adversaries of Nigeria on many fronts and in more invisible ways than known in public space.
The Army Chief is leading Nigerian troops in extinguishing Boko Haram terrorism on the battlefield in the Northeast; troops have fought to a standstill the venom of militancy and crude oil theft in the Niger Delta; it is battling armed banditry and cattle rustling in the Northwest and its operations have tamed to near dissipation the tempo of farmers/herders crises in the North Central.
The Nigerian Military has been the saving grace in quenching the cruel and violent separatism movements in the Southeast, anchored by the Nnamdi Kanu- led IPOB and its nest of killer merchants, armed vandals/looters of businesses, armed robbers and kidnappers.
But apart from these visible and manifold wars against Nigeria, prosecuted by the military, they are also fighting other silent resistance or frustration wars against the State. There are enemies of Nigeria within who have continued to plot to weaken or diminish the potency of the Nigerian military’s intervention in the prevailing or potential insecurity upheavals assailing in the country.
For these categories of Nigerians, who are mostly opposition politicians, all their plots and energies are concentrated on waning the spirit and power of the military in tackling these wars. So, they launch attacks on the institution of the Nigerian Army with frivolous allegations. There is nothing cheerful in their eyes insofar as they are not permitted to thrive in their evil designs against Nigeria.
And these antagonistic forces have not relented in their evil machinations. The latest plot is the irritable, consistent and stiff opposition to the decision of the FGN under President Muhammadu Buhari in lunching a military exercise across Nigeria code named “Operation Python Dance III” (OPDIII).
This is the operation that cleansed Southeastern region of armed criminals masquerading as separatism agitators; it restored peace and security in the region because the Nigerian military did a thorough and professional job of assisting regular security agencies in dusting out these armed criminals from their dens or hideout.
Today, the people are happier because they live in communities, villages and cities purged of violence, killings, armed robbery, kidnappings and allied crimes which were freely perpetrated by these cursed and criminal souls. The Christmas and yuletide have been celebrated freely without wailings of attacks and deaths in the region peculiar to these times.
It is not strange today that some negligible Nigerians are protesting and kicking against the launch of OPDIII all over Nigeria to cleanse the nation of armed criminals. These are politicians suspected of amassing dangerous weapons in preparation to disrupt the next general elections beginning in February 2019.
And those who fear most and protesting loudest against OPDIII are opposition politicians, actively backed by their conspiratorial cronies. They want a free terrain where they can foist electoral violence and robbery on Nigeria and quickly turn around to blame President Buhari for “incompetence” to secure Nigerians.
These arch enemies of Nigeria know exactly why they are protesting against OPDIII. And they have not concealed the target of what they want to achieve. They argue feebly and implausibly that President Buhari should rather send the troops to combat Boko Haram terrorism.
But who has told the adversaries the territories in the Northeast have no troops? Before now, when Boko Haram insurgency was at its peak (and that Buhari battled insurgents in the Northeast), did it prevent him from deploying troops to tackle other emergent insurrections all over the country simultaneously? These Nigerians should stop spurring imprudent sentiments about a purely military exercise by playing to the gallery.
For avoidance of doubts, Operation Python Dance III in the wisdom of the FGN is conceived to be conducted as a military exercise by the Nigerian Army to provide additional support for the Police and other security agencies during the 2019 general elections. No one can deny that Nigeria has an unsavoury history of electoral violence and frauds, perpetrated by dubious politicians. OPDIII is meant to checkmate these realities.
The exercise remains one of the most successful military drills in the country. Again, it has successfully chased out criminal elements from the Southeast and some parts of the South-south. With exception of the Southwest, every other region in the country has felt its positive impact. It is a positive and incontestable record in public domain.
That South-South which has respite from militancy, kidnappings of oil workers, crude oil theft, blowing up of oil pipelines and facilities is mainly facilitated by similar exercises in the region conducted by the Nigerian Army. This success story has been replicated across all troubled regions of Nigeria.
So, no sane or upright Nigerian can dispute the validity or civility of the exercise and it’s far-reaching impacts. Soldiers who handle these special assignments are highly skilled, disciplined and professional officers and men of the Nigerian Army.
Gen. Buratai has a reputation of a no- nonsense Army officer. He has devoted time and energy in the last three years to persistently dissuade soldiers and officers of the Army from meddling into the political affairs of the country. Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army has demonstrated to Nigerians repeatedly that even in very difficult times, the Army is handy to complement the roles traditionally assigned to regular security.
Today’s Nigeria Army is more zealous to see Nigeria’s democracy flourishes and the democratic/electoral process is insulated from every violent entanglement. It explains why Gen. Buaratai penalized Army officers indicted for professional misconduct and connivance to rig the 2015 governorship elections in Ekiti state.
Gen. Buratai had the option to play the card of comradeship by shielding his own; but he rather exposed them. In Nigeria’s recent history, there is no Army which has completely subordinated itself to the democratic process and governance or to civil authorities like the Army led by Gen. Buratai.
Why then are some people afraid of Operation Python Dance III? If OPDIII succeeded in the past, there is no cogent reason for anybody to doubt them now, except those who have their mindset fixated on rigging the 2019 ballot, and have armed political thugs and criminals. But they must be flushed out before the election. Nigerians want peace while exercising their civic responsibility.
No one has reason or anything to fear. But politicians who have not campaigned or sold out their manifestoes to the masses to earn support, but are amassing weapons to intimidate voters, cause violence, kidnap opponents, kill and rig the elections should naturally be haunted by the phobia of Python Dance III.
Outside this clan of politicians with a passion for violence, Nigerians know OPDIII will assist greatly. Nigerians are aware OPDIII will not allow anyone to intimidate voters on election day. It will not allow anyone to kidnap his opponents or unlawfully cage rival camps within the period in the braggadocios display of jungle might.
Certainly, its bad investment for architects of ballot snatching, whose thugs most times overwhelm and even kidnap the police or civil defence officers on election duty.
They are scared that with OPDIII, this is impossible and one can imagine the pains and frustrations in them. So, anyone who stands by the path of truth should fear not, Operation Python Dance III.
Abu PhD is a fellow of the Centre for International and Strategic Studies, Abuja.