“Governors and other politicians and their collaborators are stockpiling arms ahead of the elections. Steps should be taken urgently to prevent those in possession of illegal arms from unleashing them on Nigerians during and after the elections. Apart from stockpiling arms and ammunition, some politicians, including governors, are acquiring police and army uniforms to be distributed to uninformed youth to cause mayhem during the elections”, Director-General of the National Task Force on prohibition of illegal importation of small arms, ammunition and light weapons, Dr. Osita Okereke, while speaking recently at the National Assembly on the need for the Senate to quickly pass the Bill on National Commission on prohibition of illegal importation of small arms, ammunition and light weapons and other related matters.
I am startled. I am enraged. I am mesmerized. And I am confused. If this revelation can come from a top government official, then the military must be ready to safeguard Nigeria and her patriots at all times, especially in this critical moment. With this revelation, it is paramount that those who are opposed to the operation python dance III should be treated as accomplices and enemies of the sovereignty of Nigeria. I cannot say more. I wish my country well and I do not want any citizen to die because of the 2019 general elections. No one, however highly placed, should put the lives of Nigerians in danger because of selfish political interest. Nigerian patriots must join hands and resist it.
Those who have seen a python dance in Nigeria, especially in the military style, should ask Nnamdi Kanu what he saw before running away and the political Boko Haram before they turned into guerrilla war farers. There is no doubt that, like before, many Nigerian politicians with the old induced mindset of taking general elections as “do or die” affairs, are alive strong and thirsty. Reports from investigations reveal that they are preparing to cause trouble or create civil disturbances during and after the 2019 elections. There are a lot of pointers to that. The frequency of interception of arms and ammunitions on the Nigerian borders and within the country by the Nigeria Customs and security agencies has received wide media reportage. It calls for concern and no reasonable citizen will prefer to die or allow his children or relatives to die or be killed for the election of politicians some of who have been described as “thieves”.
It had been the case before that every general elections cause the loss of innocent Nigerians, some who operate as political thugs used to snatch ballot boxes, for multiple thumb printing, for intimidation of political opponents and for even outright assassination of political oppositions. All these were quite possible with the connivance or direct involvement of political office holders. Even the security outfits, to some extent, compromised their duties for the office holders. It used to be harrowing experiences. Now that another tough democratic but electioneering event is coming, it is paramount on the Nigerian security to safeguard the citizenry with whatever style that is possible. If the elephant or lion can be invited to dance, let it be done with alacrity.
Elections in Nigeria come with security challenges. The question is why Nigerians should die during a democratic exercise. The 2019 may not be totally casualty-free because there are still a lot of ferocious and die-hard politicians across the country. The case of secessionist Nnamdi Kanu is on. The Niger Delta militants have been threatening to resume hostility. Civil disturbances have been on from time to time. Who knows what the evil perpetrators have in mind to do during or after the general elections if it did not favour them?
Serious concerns have been expressed on this challenge. The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Samson Ayokunle, recently identified desperation of politicians ahead of the 2019 general elections as the source of great anxiety among Nigerians. During the nationwide special prayers for the 2019 polls and release of captives” organized by CAN, he frowned at the discreditable conduct of some politicians in disobeying party rules and regulations. “We have seen the desperation of the politicians, many of whom have taken others to court in flagrant disobedience of their parties; some even engaged in buying votes to win elections. This is not the spirit of democracy; this is not the spirit of God. So, all these are generating palpable fear”, he said.
The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, while speaking at the 2018 second general meeting of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), youth wing summit, expressed worry, saying that the youths must resist being used by politicians and other stakeholders to cause violence in the forthcoming general elections. “Nigeria is being politicized by the politicians”, he noted.
Director-General of the National Task Force on prohibition of illegal importation of small arms, ammunition and light weapons, Dr. Osita Okereke, is much more worried about the level of illegal arms in the possession of politicians. He recalled that on December 7, 2017, the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) gave Nigeria a mandate to pass the Bill into law. But why has the national assembly not fastened the bill? According to him, nothing was done by Nigeria to honour the directives despite a reminder on February 8, 2018 by the same sub-regional organization which gave Nigeria an ultimatum to pass the Bill into law within three weeks. “Our country did not obey the directive and now it is one year that Nigeria has not deemed it fit to comply with the order,” he said, adding, “As I am talking to you, Boko Haram insurgents are in every village in the country. Arms and ammunition are in all nooks and crannies of this country. Kidnappers have taken over virtually all villages and communities in Nigeria and the only way to fish out all these unwanted elements in our midst is through the establishment of this commission in the country.
But the spokesman of Coalition of United Political Parties, Ikenga Ugochinyere, in a statement criticized the operations ahead of the polls. He raised alarm over what he described as “the unholy collaboration to rig the 2019 Presidential elections, announce fake results and deploy lethal force to quell the expected popular resistance.” He claimed further that the unprecedented move of the Nigerian Army to put the entire country on military lock down from 28th December, 2018 to 28th February, 2019 in a manoeuvre termed Operation Python Dance III. The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has criticized the exercise as a ploy by the ruling government to intimidate voters and rig the 2019 presidential election. “Our nation is a democratic state and we are not in a state of emergency that requires the militarization of our electoral process,” the party’s official statement read.
However, it is a very welcome development for the Nigerian Army to launch “Operation Python Dance III” to checkmate violent groups and ethnic militia and to ensure a successful 2019 election. It is a very timely, worthy and laudable exercise. During the flag off in Maiduguri on Friday, December 28, 2018, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Buratai, described as successful the earlier operation codenamed “Operation Egwu Eke I and II” in tackling security challenges in the Southeastern part of Nigeria. He expressed the reassurance of the Nigerian Army and indeed the entire Armed Forces of Nigeria as well as other security agencies to maintain law and order during and after the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
Represented by the Army’s Chief of Training and Operations, Major-General Lamidi Adeosun, Burutai announced that the exercise will run from January 1 to February 28, 2018 as a fulfillment of the Army’s mandate to conduct internal security operations in the country to combat criminality and other security challenges. He maintained that “the Nigerian Army will continue to conduct internal security operations in combating criminality and other security challenges in the country, in line with its constitutional mandate of providing military aid to civil authority. As the build up to the 2019 general elections gathers momentum, an upsurge of security challenges such as stockpiling of arms by criminal groups, formation of ethnic militias and violence induced by political activities has been observed.
These challenges, according to the military chief, coupled with other security threats across the country such as terrorism, militancy, kidnapping and banditry portend that dissident groups and criminal elements could cash in on the situation to perpetrate large scale violence before, during and after the 2019 general elections. “I also believe Exercise Egwu Eke III with its mandate of combating the upsurge of security challenges as we approach the 2019 general elections will be a success. The operation will be conducted across the six geopolitical zones of the country from January 1 to February 28, 2019,” he concluded.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]