When a Nigerian army calls its Operation Python Dance, it may make sense anywhere else in the country but the Southeast. In Igboland, it makes abomination. The army reflected either a disgraceful lack of cultural education or an impunity of desecration.
The python is a sacred animal in Igboland. To launch an offensive against crime or subversion, the army could have found other metaphors. The long, fat, sly and slithering beast is called Eke believed to be a messenger and agent of the earth goddess, Ala. It is therefore a totem in the east.
If its army’s python was about soldiers in uniforms starched for combat, tanks poised to roll and the air awaiting orders, then it mocks not IPOB alone but the cultural integrity of the land. It is like pissing on a holy ground, what T.S. Elliot symbolically fleshed out in his play, Murder in the Cathedral. By myth, the Igbo python swallows frogs, not humans. The Nigerian army python has no tailless amphibian in his feral sights. Its nozzles and tanks target Igbos not of the spirit but of the mammalian world. You cannot slaughter a cow in India and make a feast of beef in an open market.
The military missed the point on the symbolic level. By flexing their superior arms, the soldiers only show a wrong-headed operation. The deployment of the army was one more stumble in handling ethnic entrepreneur Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB. All it achieved was to further mythicise an opportunist.
The army and Buhari ought to know that Kanu is no hero in the mould that history shows. He is no Nelson Mandela, who conceived and duelled for free blacks in South Africa. He is no Castro camped in bushes and who saw death before he gave his country life. He is no Patrick Henry of the American Revolution who cried, “give me liberty or give me death.” No Amilcar Cabral. No Che. No John Brown of the anti-slavery headiness who torched Harpers Ferry, launched the Pottawatomie Massacre and was hanged for his cause. Some historians credit Brown as the emotional flame thrower that burned the anti-slavery fervour till all slaves breathed freedom.
Kanu was a mere London vagrant who caught an opportunity for a happy ‘loot’ at the expense of his people. So, Buhari only is making the man bigger than he is and should be. Mere mortals can turn into heroes by the accident of other people’s folly. It is like the character in Jerzy Kosinski Novel Being There where a nobody who knows nothing has by association risen in wisdom that is not his and suddenly is being projected to run for the U.S. president.
It is such foolishness that has made the government rush to tag IPOB a terrorist group when they have not even accept the herdsmen as such.
Kanu was first locked up unnecessarily. The government organised a court action to release him on impossible bail terms that the man accepted before challenging. The man broke the rules. So, the government started court proceedings to get him back behind bars. They know the court dilates. So, the less than smart attorney general Malami and his boss Buhari lack political finesse.
Rather than wait on end for the court to rule on the bail violations, they could have picked up Kanu on fresh violations. The man committed treason my mounting a guard of honour with so-called Biafran soldiers. On that score, he should not only have been picked up but also a special court could start an expedited trial.
That way, the so-called Operation Python Dance would have had no rhythm in the east. Again, Abia State Governor and the apostle of local content, Okezie Ikpeazu, would have focussed more on galvanising the state over indigenising our taste through enterprise. The state would not have roiled and no curfew declared. By allowing Kanu linger for so long in the east, Buhari attracted turbulence. He deposited Kanu as unrefined honey that attracted the wave of bees in the form of pedestrian devotees flocking in different parts of the Southeast.
They allowed the man’s ego to soar because the lower class adored him. The elite courted him not out of love or approval but out of sympathy and yearning for order. The crowd of fawning lower-class followers make people think that IPOB is unstoppable. It is a lie. The Biafra sentiment heaves in every Igbo breast. But Biafra does not always mean separatism in Igboland. It is a metaphor for ethnic pride, no more, no less. The Biafra of IPOB fantasy is a corpse. The followers are only copulating the still and decomposing cadaver.
So the sentiment is strong, even revolutionary. Here is what a master revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin, says: “A revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, not every revolutionary situation leads to revolution.” Lenin and his folks expected the Marxist revolution to happen first in Germany. Every such revolution requires a revolutionary elite. Kanu and his IPOB don’t have any such credentials.
Again, the conditions that helped Ojukwu’s Biafra are non-existent today. The business, intellectual, political and bureaucratic classes are out of sync with him. Hence it was naïve that Buhari should give that group the sort of gravitas that belongs elsewhere.
The Buhari administration created the Kanu hobgoblin. He now has a task to stop it from moving from irritation to a big rash. That is another desecration of the body politic.