In saner climes, the military need not assure the people of its neutrality in the democratic process, particularly its roles in elections. It ought to be given that if the military has any role to play on elections days, it should be such that is absolutely necessary and discreetly discharged so that the people may exercise their franchise without let, hindrance or scared by intimidating military presence.
Unfortunately, ours is not a normal society. It is a society where the police no longer commands respect making the military feel called to action on every conceivable threat to security, including the simplest of crimes.
Notwithstanding, the statement just released by the Defence headquarters on Thursday 7th February 2019, is capable of achieving the unintended opposite. It is only in Nigeria that the military is heard, in a democracy, making such a loud political broadcast directly to the citizens though creatively mixing it up with directives to its personnel, which it could have done within its established channels of communication.
The needless threatening reminder of the most dreaded operations EGWU EKE III and PYTHON DANCE III, ostensibly to ensure that the people “carry out their civic right to vote and be voted for in a peaceful environment devoid of violence and intimidation by criminal elements” will only scare off innocent voters.
The experience in a particular region of the country was so bitter that a reminder, rather than deter the targeted “criminal elements”, would simply keep innocent voters indoors. They often do so against their business interests, locking up their shops talk less of an election in which they don’t particularly see themselves as mutual stakeholders or beneficiaries.
Contrary to the alarmist impression created in the statement, call for boycott of elections, which was canvassed by a group in the Southeast, is no more an issue these days. Even when then strenuously propagated, it was never taken seriously and absolutely devoid of violent engagement. The meddlesome statement by the military headquarters in that regards, smacked of incitement by agent provocateurs spoiling for war.
The citizenry is appreciative of the patriotic efforts of the armed forces, both in the defence of our territorial integrity and the pressure of direct engagement in internal security, brought about by the stack failure of civil policing which is indispensable. While the military may be on the alert for possible invitation, where the police and other civil security services are unable to curtail the excesses of some social deviants, the military is more needed in securing parts of the Northeast occupied by the Boko Haram terrorists generally and for delivering free, fair and credible elections therein.
Some of us are still unable to reconcile the contradictions of the 2015 general elections in Borno state where 20 of its 27 Local Governments were said to be under Boko Haram occupation and administration. Yet, elections were said to have peacefully taken place all over the state with 501, 922 valid votes cast during the presidential election, more than most other peaceful states. Of course, 473, 543 of the figure was credited to the APC.
The bottom line is that the military should remain focused on its securing the war devastated areas for peace and happiness of the people including their participation in credible elections. True to its tradition, the armed forces should be wary of statements with political colouration capable of heating up the polity electorally.