STOP THE MILITARISATION OF NIGERIAN ELECTIONS — Nigerian Pilot News
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STOP THE MILITARISATION OF NIGERIAN ELECTIONS

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The address by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, at the Chief of Army Staff Operations Conference with General Officers Commanding (GOCs), Field Commanders and Principal Staff Officers, held at the Army Headquarters Command Mess, in Abuja, last week, is an eye-popping reality of the unfortunate militraisation of our electoral process in Nigeria. It is disturbing, very disturbing indeed if our claim that we are practicing democracy is right.

Nothing is wrong with the attempt by the military to give support to the Police Force where necessary in enforcing law and order; it is a constitutional role. However, it is abnormal for the Army Chief to be presenting a kind of speech expected of the Inspector-General of Police who is Nigeria’s chief of civil security in a matter of strict civil activities. It demeans our democratic values, culture and respect that the military has become an integral part of our electoral consciousness. This is not the primary duty of the military; it is the primary duty of the Police Force.

This is one of the knotty issues that have continued to dent the image of Nigeria’s elections nay democracy, a dangerous signpost since 1999 and it has not abated.

In our recent electoral experience, we are witnesses to how soldiers were directly involved in clearly partisan fashions in electoral processes thereby marring what ought to have been free, fair and credible elections. Nigeria’s general or by-elections are characterised by heavy presence of arm-wielding soldiers, the Police, Civil Defence Corps, as well as operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS).

In a daylight shameless partisanship, they intimidate law-abiding voters, particularly voters who are not supporters or members of the ruling party. Once the security operatives receive “orders from above”, they disenfranchise some set of voters and guide other categories to vote in order to give unfair advantage to those they are sent to “deliver” victory to.

Ekiti State gubernatorial polls for years now have become the perfect example of this type of undemocratic abnormality. The last gubernatorial poll in Osun is the latest odium.

This charge was anchored on alleged intelligence information at the disposal of the Army concerning certain persons who are colluding with foreign elements to cause breach of law and order during the polls. He specifically mentioned some groups, especially IPOB and “political clashes in Taraba State and a few other states” which he said needed enhanced liaison with the police and other security agencies.

He said “we have information of subversive motives by some unpatriotic groups, aided by foreign conspirators, to scuttle the peaceful conduct of the 2019 general election in some parts of the country. We, hereby, warn such detractors to immediately mend their ways. The army is working closely with the police and other security agencies to ensure an enabling environment for the good citizens of our dear country to exercise their civic rights. In this regard, GOCs and field commanders at all levels are to deal decisively with any form of security breach.”All this is an effort is the military attempt to “support the nations’ democracy”.

Although he emphasized the need for the military to remain “apolitical”, professional, “neutral” and “non-partisan”, this cannot be taken with a pinch of salt. Experience has made us wiser than that.

We urge the Police Force to the lead in providing neutral, apolitical, professional and non-partisan security for before, during and after the elections as promised by the Acting IGP Muhammed Abubakar Adamu.

Let us demilitarise our elections. Intelligence agencies should tackle and neutralise any plot intended to breach peace and order before the election in advance. It is not an excuse to flood the streets and polling units with soldiers and gun-wielding operatives. That is not how to consolidate democracy. It rather weakens it.

QUOTE

Nothing is wrong with the attempt by the military to give support to the Police Force where necessary in enforcing law and order; it is a constitutional role. However, it is abnormal for the Army Chief to be presenting a kind of speech expected of the Inspector-General of Police who is Nigeria’s chief of civil security in a matter of civil activities. It demeans democratic values, culture and respect that the military has become an integral part of our electoral consciousness

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