The Upper Crust

Of the Army, public hysteria and vaccination

With Uche Nnadozie

It came as a surprise to many but not to me. When the Army announced a military exercise in the South East and parts of Cross River state code named “operation python dance 2” I reasoned that based on the nature of agitations that was afoot in the area at the time, there would be some skirmishes. Surely they were. But the scale, thankfully was within tolerable admiration. The Army authorities at the time equally stated that as part of the operation, the force will engage with the communities on matters of their health. There was to be a health outreach targeted at everyday people with usual Nigerian primary ailments such as malaria, typhoid, high blood pressure, eye realted issues among others. This simply was standard community relation sservice.

As the operations lasted, propaganda, very vile propaganda took centre stage. The followers of the now proscribed Indeginous People of Biafra, IPOB and their leader took turns to malign and in fact incite the populace against the army. In some first amateur videos recorded and distributed by IPOB propagandists, Nigerians were shocked to find young people attempting to chase away soldiers who were passing by. Bottles, stones and stuff like that were freely used to throw at the passing soldiers. In fact, the motley croweds were so emboldened they even made attempts to barrcade roads with a bid to restrict the movement of Nigerian army in Nigerian territory.

As a result of this and similar incidence around Aba and Umuahia in Abia state, it became obvious that the army was on a dangerous mission. The skirmish spread to Obigbo in Rivers state where it was reported a police man was killed while trying to ensure a mosque was not torched by irate IPOB youths. This kind of resistance is a direct response to the many months and years of brainwashing by IPOB cadre who had mastered the art of false narrative, victim and seige mentality to confuse many Igbo children, youth and the elderly. Indeed, the narrative on the streets of the south east is that President Muhammadu Buhari is an enemy of Igbo people as such is a target for annihilation. Therefore, anything associated with Buhari like his party, his associates or even agents of the federal government are seen as enemies among IPOBians.

Within this context, it is understandable therefore when a harmless military excercise can become an event that will attract such global activism. Nigerians of Igbo extraction and elements of the main opposition party from around the world saw the military manovre as a declaration of war. In fact folks had to make up videos and pictures to paint a dire situation of war crimes and even went a step further to petition all manner of world leaders and organisations. A few days after the operation python dance commenced things moved quite quickly. Southeast governors found their nerves and proscribed IPOB. IPOB was accused of all manner of alleged criminal behaviour. The army had earlier tagged IPOB a terrorist organisation. The federal government followed through by obtaning a court warrant and officially called IPOB a terror gang that it is based on its activities.

Thankfully sense began to return to the beleagured zone. IPOB became mute. Its leader was nowhere to be found. But remnants of IPOB had to do something. To show they are not down and out someone in there manufactured this story about army vaccination or immunization. The story was told of attempts by the army to inauculate students and pupils by force. And that it was by force because the army who had wanted to kill Igbos with guns have changed strategy by going biological through monkey box. The hoax which was later found to have originated from IPOB surrogates spread like wild fire. The claim was that monkey pox was a diseas arranged by President Buhari to reduce Igbo population (whatever that means). As the lie spread, pannic followed and before anyone realized it, schools were shutting downand kids took off from their various schools. In some cases people met their deaths in a race from danger.

It is discorceting to me that folks tried to rationalize this as some phantom loss of faith by the people in the army. No! People took to their heels because they were lied to. Seeing victims of monkey pox will make anyone run for dear life. After all, in Anambra where the lie was put to test, people were already peacefully gathered to take their free medications when the melee began. In Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states, the outreach had been successfully executed. There was no loss of faith in the army. But in Anambra, politics took over. Politicians I suspect persuaded their contacts in IPOB to set off the lie in order to discredit the president’s party. Because, these politicians too felt like th free medical outreach was a form of campaign. And in a state that hosts governorship election next month and where IPOB had promised election boycot its understandable to me to find this sort of highwire politics.

In the end, it is the country we destroy. The army does not conduct vaccinations. The army normally conduct the medical outreach they embarked on in the south east. Its a form of “CSR’’. vaccinations are global activities. It is not to be reduced to local politcking. The last time somes states in the north tried this kind of prank, it resulted in the relapse of polio epidemic. Yet again, the army does not conduct and did not offer any vaccination. It was a crude way to get even with Buhari for the deadly blow visited on IPOB which Anambra politicians were happy to exploit.

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