Between the 27 – 30 May 2017, there seems to be a dramatic increase in the number of phone calls the 82 Division Army Public Relations Department received from all manners of journalists – conventional reporters, freelancers, the online and social media activists. Though dogged and inquisitive, yet, the traditional reporters appeared, as usual, more refined and professional than the bloggers and other social media elements who mostly – “the Cult of the Amateurs” are regularly sounding vociferous and uncouth in their inquiries.
It was all about the MASSOB/IPOB’s Sit – At – Home Order and how they (MASSOB/IPOB members) planned to enforce the order in the South East (SE) using propaganda, intimidation, harassment and brute force as tactics, and the constitutional duty of security agencies to ensure peace, security and the protection of human rights. It was about the probable/impending confrontation between MASSOB/IPOB members and the security agencies. The assumption was much, and the apprehension was palpable in the SE if not the entire nation.
Fundamentally, some journalists and indeed the public wish to know, – how, – what miracle the security agencies/Nigerian Army (NA) used to manage the security threats, that was obvious – on the 27 – 30 May 2017? Similarly, in view of the plans and intrigues to lure or provoke the NA into confrontation with MASSOB/IPOB, and the organized propaganda campaigns to discredit the NA (should there be a clash), journalists were curious to know how the army was able to extricate itself from the “MASSOB/IPOB’s trap”.
Instructively, the grand machination to inveigle and embarrass the NA and other security agencies in the build up to Sit – At – Home Order became manifest on 18 and 19 May 2017, when there was deliberate but unusual presence of IPOB women wing in Abiriba Stadium, – all dressed in Biafran T-Shirts, exhibited Biafran flags, banners and other insignia. The subsequent “drama of nakedness” and the comical allegation of rights infractions by IPOB’s propagandists against the soldiers on patrol in Abiriba further buttressed the point.
Likewise, when (on 30 May 2017), IPOB’s foot soldiers and louts barricaded parts of Umuahi – Aba – Port Harcourt express way, vandalized the few vehicles they encountered, and enforced closure of markets and other businesses in different locations across the SE, the intention was to lure the NA into serious clashes. Also, between 29 -30 May 2017, there were claims on the pages of newspapers and social media platforms, baseless as they seemed, – all arranged by MASSOB/IPOB to malign the image of the NA. For instance, an old video clip of about 7 years old (shows some army personnel allegedly maltreating civilians), suddenly resurfaced on social media, – insinuating that NA troops tortured secessionist agitators in Onitsha on the 30 May 2017.
Allegations of shootings of IPOB’s members in Aba and Umuahia during a procession in honour of “Biafran heroes and heroines”, and the plan by the army to arrest Nnamdi Kanu were simultaneously churned out to the public with the major aim of courting local and international attention/sympathy at the detriment of the NA. Also, the claimed presence of ‘International observers and mediators’ allegedly primed to observe, document and condemn the assumed/expected human rights violations by the NA.
But, the NA under the leadership of Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, and the 82 Division (in charge of the SE) under a seasoned and fair-minded Military Police cum Infantry General – Major General Adamu Abubakar is/are evidently, progressively, professionally and successfully responding not only to the myriad of crisis and challenges of security across the region, but also engage/s on a robust training of troops on protection of civilians and respect for human rights in and out of conflict situations.
Hence, unknown to MASSOB/IPOB and their local and international cohorts/supporters, the NA’s strategic leadership, in its astuteness, dynamism and foresight, had issued a ‘segmented directives’ that formations and units in the SE, should in conjunction with other security agencies, immediately, concurrently, commence Show Of Force in their respective Areas Of Responsibilities on Saturday 27 to the evening of Monday 29 May 2017.The aim of such exercise has been achieved, – as there was not a single life that was lost and no breakdown of law and order recorded in the entire SE Region before and after the MASSOB/IPOB’s Sit-At-Home Order.
Remarkably enough, at odd hours of Monday 29 May 2017, all NA personnel in the SE were directed to withdraw from the streets/checkpoints across the region. No soldier should be seen (especially in uniform) outside the barracks. Troops were thus effectively confined or ‘gated’ in/to the barracks on Tuesday 30 May 2017. However, they are to remain in a standing position (within the barracks) – ready – in the real military sense of the word – for any eventuality.
To my prying friends, – those fond of snooping in military matters, – that was how the NA was able to extricate itself from the MASSOB/IPOB’s ‘ambush’ and the machinations of their local and international cohorts/collaborators. Now that you ‘provoked’ me to project our success story and address your thirst for news, be assured that the operational plans for the 30 May 2017, will as a matter of professional principles, remain a strictly guarded secret. Therefore, in a situation like this, it is my view that the media should be more watchful, endeavor to join the dots and make reasonable meanings in order to expose the intrigues of a few ill meaning elites in our midst. Such undertaking could also help to better educate and enlighten our fellow country men and women.
Colonel Sagir Musa is Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82nd Division