To my prying friends – those fond of snooping in military matters… Now that you have ‘provoked’ me to project our success story and address your thirst for news, be assured that the operational plans of May 2017 will, as a matter of professional principles, remain a strictly guarded secret.
Between May 27 and 30, 2017, there seemed to have been 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 belong to “the Cult of the Amateurs” and regularly sound vociferous and uncouth in their inquiries.
It was all about the MASSOB/IPOB sit-at-home order and how they (MASSOB/IPOB members) planned to enforce the order in the South-East using propaganda, intimidation, harassment and brute force as tactics, in relation to the constitutional duty of security agencies to ensure peace, preserve lives and protect 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 South-East, if not the entire nation.
Fundamentally, some journalists and indeed the public now wish to know what miracle the security agencies/Nigerian Army used in managing the threats that was obvious between May 27 and 30. Similarly, in view of the plans and intrigues to lure or provoke the Army into a confrontation with MASSOB/IPOB, and the organised propaganda campaigns to discredit the Nigerian Army (should there be a clash), journalists were curious to know how the army was able to extricate itself from the “MASSOB/IPOB trap”.
Instructively, the grand machination to inveigle and embarrass the Army and other security agencies in the build up to sit-at-home order became manifest on May 18 and 19, when there was the deliberate but unusual presence of the IPOB women’s wing in Abiriba Stadium, all dressed in Biafran T-Shirts, and exhibiting Biafran flags, banners and other insignia. The subsequent “drama of nakedness” and the comical allegation of the infraction of rights by IPOB propagandists against the soldiers on patrol in Abiriba, further buttressed this point.
Likewise, when (on May 30) IPOB’s foot soldiers and louts barricaded parts of Umuahi-Aba–Port Harcourt expressway, vandalised the few vehicles they encountered, and enforced the closure of markets and other businesses in different locations across the South-East, the intention was to lure the Nigerian Army into serious clashes. Also, between May 29 and 30, 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 Army. For instance, an old video clip from about seven years back (showing some army personnel allegedly maltreating civilians), suddenly resurfaced on social media, insinuating that the Nigerian Army troops had tortured secessionist agitators in Onitsha on May 30, 2017.
Allegations of the shooting of IPOB 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 to the detriment of the Army. Also, there were claims of the presence of ‘international observers and mediators’ allegedly primed to observe, document and condemn the assumed/expected human rights violations by the Nigerian Army.
However, the Army under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, and the 82 Division (in charge of the South-East) under a seasoned and fair-minded military police cum infantry general – Major-General Adamu Abubakar – are evidently, progressively, professionally and successfully responding not only to the myriad of crisis and challenges of security across the region, but also engaging in a robust training of troops in the 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 Nigerian Army’s strategic leadership, in its astuteness, dynamism and foresight, had issued ‘segmented directives’ that formations and units in the South-East should, in conjunction with other security agencies, immediately and concurrently commence the show of force in their respective areas of responsibilities on Saturday 27 till the evening of Monday 29, May. The aim of the exercise has been achieved, as not a single life was lost and there was no breakdown of law and order recorded in the entire South-East region before, during and after the MASSOB/IPOB sit-at-home order.
Remarkably enough, at the odd hours of Monday May 29, all Nigerian Army personnel in the South-East were directed to withdraw from the streets/checkpoints across the region. No soldier was to be seen (especially in uniform) outside the barracks. Troops were thus effectively confined or ‘gated’ in their barracks on Tuesday May 30, 2017. However, they were 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 Nigerian Army was able to extricate itself from the MASSOB/IPOB ‘ambush’ and the machinations of their local and international cohorts/collaborators. Now that you have ‘provoked’ me to project our success story and address your thirst for news, be assured that the operational plans of 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, endeavour to connect the dots and make reasonable deductions in exposing 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.
Sagir Musa, a Colonel, is the deputy director of the 82 Division Army Public Relations Department.