By Philip Agbese
I recall that a section of the polity has decided to drag the Nigerian Army into the murky water of politics for their selfish reasons. This arose from the charge given by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces President Muhammadu Buhari for the Nigeria Army to deal ruthlessly with those who intend to snatch ballot boxes during the elections or engage in acts of thuggery aimed at disrupting the polls.
I must confess that I am amazed as to how the PDP bigwigs and sympathizers have blown the issue out of proportion. They forgot that for the credibility of the polls to be achieved, there ought to be a level of security in place to guard against vices such as ballot box snatching, vote buying and other evil acts associated with elections in this country.
While I am not against these folks airing their opinion on issues they have reservations, I am however taken aback with the way and manner they have so politicized the issue with the aim of misleading the unsuspecting members of the public to believe that there is indeed something sinister in the directive.
Yes, the Chief of Army Staff addressed his principal officers that included the General Officers Commanding the various divisions in the country to remind them of the task at hand which is necessary to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country and the need for the troops to respect the constituted authorities. I see nothing wrong with this. And I wonder how the PDP interpreted or is interpreting issues, especially in the build-up to the elections.
It even gets confusing when it is common knowledge that over time, the Nigerian Army in discharging its constitutionally recognized and authorized mandate, focuses on two cardinal objectives, and they are subservience to constituted authority and the respect for human rights.
This is also sufficing to add that the Nigeria Army has overtime provided that needed support to the Nigerian police in the effective discharge of its duties in times of elections and other emergencies. And if this is and has been the case, why cry wolf where none exist? I think that the members of the general public should resist the antics of some unscrupulous elements hell-bent on causing disaffection in the polity to win the sympathy of the electorates with some days left to the general elections.
There are abound instances where the Nigerian Army had ensured that voters carry out their civic responsibility without fear or favour. The Ekiti and Osun states elections are glaring examples of the invaluable role the Nigerian Army plays in entrenching and sustaining democracy in Nigeria. Ordinarily, Nigerians should not have any cause for worry or concern if they do not have ulterior motives during the elections.
But those that want to incite and cause mayhem should have every reason to be afraid because I think that any action that negates peace and tranquility would and should be resisted by the Nigerian Army. And this should give every true lover of democracy a cause for concern.
The desperation to rig the election at all cost is what has driven the PDP to begin to act towards every other citizen even worse than what Boko Haram have done in North East Nigeria.
This desperation led by Obasanjo and some Governors to return an Atiku Abubakar who has become desperate as to drag the Nigerian Army despite its apolitical nature into politics is what many today have become afraid of.
The fear of ballot box snatcher is real, and every Nigerian looks up to the Army to be able to provide the needed security for them to be able to exercise their franchise. One would, therefore, plead with the PDP to allow the Nigerian Army to focus on its role and responsibilities as those who have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear.
The Nigeria Army under Lt Gen Tukur Buratai is a responsive organization and one that has tremendously shown respect for the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Worthy of mention also is the fact that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai is a professional officer and one whose loyalty can never be doubted.
He is also a refined promoter of human rights as evident in his numerous interactions with the civilian populace through the Directorate of Civil-Military relations. This much has been said about him in multiple forums and how he has done so much in three years to reflect on the average soldier in the country.
It is also on record that the Nigerian Army has not unlawfully engaged any citizen in any arms’ struggle and this very much we are aware the Army has continued to imbibe. An example of the professionalism of the Nigeria Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was in 2016 in Rivers state when militants opened fire on troops during a rerun election. Guess what? The Army didn’t retaliate but instead fished out the criminals and handed to the police.
Now, that is just an example of the professionalism of the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai in recent times. The public outcry by the PDP and its agents are in poor taste and meant to mislead. Needless I add that there is no rest for the wicked. And make no mistakes, the Nigerian Army would rise to the occasion during and after the elections in Nigeria. For those who may not want a python dance with the Army, it is simply thumb print on your ballot paper and AVOID the box itself.
Agbese is a researcher in human rights law at the Middlesex University, London.(PA542@live.mdx.ac.uk)