In a broadcast to the people of Abia State yesterday, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, announced that from Friday (today) there will be withdrawal of soldiers from the streets of Aba and Umuahia. A few hours later, the Nigerian Army released a statement through its spokesman, Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, saying that the Operation Python Dance 2 “is commencing on Friday (today) as scheduled. Commanders have been instructed to ensure that all hands are on deck to commence the exercise to its logical completion.”
The Army’s announcement has been interpreted by some to mean that either (a) Governor Ikpeazu was lying OR (b) the Army is reneging on its assurances to the governor to withdraw soldiers.
Actually, the correct answer is none of the above.
Here is what the governor actually said in his statement: “After several interventions, I want to inform you that by tomorrow morning, there will be withdrawal of solders from the streets at Aba and Umuahia, apart from the pre-existing military checkpoints at various locations in the state.”
The Army deployed soldiers to the streets as tensions in Abia escalated. That move is separate from the planned Operation Python Dance which had not even commenced. It is those deployed soldiers who will be leaving the streets today. That does not imply a cancellation of the Army’s Operation.
Another point is that the governor’s comments above said soldiers will leave the streets of “Aba and Umuahia.” However, we know that the Army Operation is for the entire South East, so Ikpeazu couldn’t possibly have been referring to it when he made his comments.
Also, the governor said further in his broadcast that he will be “meeting the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Mohamaudu Buhari, to discuss possible ways of relaxing the Operation Python dance 2 in the state for now.” Now, if his first comment meant a “cancellation” of the Operation, surely he wouldn’t need to meet President Buhari again to discuss its “relaxation”.
The Army statement clarified that Governor Ikpeazu’s mention of a gradual withdrawal of soldiers in Aba and Umuahia “should not be misconstrued as withdrawing of troops earmarked for Exercise Egwu Eke II (Python Dance 2).”
So there you have it. No conflict between the two statements, really.
One can only hope that soldiers partaking in the Operation, “conduct themselves in the best professional manner, abide by the Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct in line with requirements of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, just as their spokesman said they will do.