Armed forces, security services in 2023 general elections - By: . | Dailytrust

Armed forces, security services in 2023 general elections

Armed Forces Remembrance Day
Armed Forces Remembrance Day

The armed forces and the security services have played significant roles in the politics of our country both directly and indirectly. It was the military that cut short the life of Nigeria’s first democratically elected government in 1966. Subsequently the Armed Forces came in and out of government by way of coups. Each coup claimed to have come to play a messianic role. Except for a brief civilian interregnum between 1979 and 1983, the Armed Forces remained in power until 1999. All the military regimes failed despite the fact that military officers are usually well trained in the art of leadership, and in order for them to support civil/political leaders. Unfortunately, they did not only step into the shoes of the civilians but stayed too long in the office, depending, of course, on the politicians and technocrats. Soon, they became like the politicians whom they chased out; corrupt and profligate. But they realised their mistake and returned to do what they were engaged to do in the first place.

During every election, we have used members of the Armed Forces and Security Services not only to ensure that voting is done in a peaceful atmosphere, but also to see to it that results were collated and transported (transmitted) to their destination without molestation or diversion. This has not always worked out the way it was intended. Politicians have bought over and used our officers and men in the past for their selfish purposes.

You have the responsibility and power to protect the ballot boxes, the voters and the country, and that protection, in the particular case of the 2023 general elections, is the assurance you can give us for a new start; the assurance that there will be no covering up for criminal elements, that the uniform and the gun will not be partisan. This has happened in the past, and some of the problems we are encountering today are directly or indirectly traceable to such actions. You don’t have to wait until things go bad before you are called upon.  Rise now and ensure that the wishes of the people through their votes are protected.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the Chief of Army Staff has come out to seriously warn his officers to steer clear of partisan politics as they participate in the 2023 elections! This is indeed heartwarming and one hopes that service chiefs and heads of the Security Services would do the same thing sooner or later. I am sure that watching from a distance these many years you are able to see how we are drifting as a country. You are now in the position to use your uniform and skills, (not your guns) to protect our democracy and the people. Your job is to protect us at all times, not only during war or external threat to our existence. Even when you carried out coups in the past, it was because you perceived a threat to our existence as a nation. In my opinion, every bad government is a threat to our lives and our corporate existence. A badly (corruptly) managed election that installs a bad government is a cancer and therefore a threat to our lives and existence as a nation. When the country suffers internal threats such as insurgencies, banditry, kidnapping, and assassinations, the army, the police and other security services are the ones that will suffer as you go after the criminals. Prevention, they say, is better than cure.

The Police, State Services and Civil Defence all have a very crucial role to play toward the success of the forthcoming elections. Here, one needs to make a special appeal to the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police. In the past voters had complained about the presence of too many soldiers on some election grounds. This may have been necessitated by the inadequacy of the police personnel to do the job. This can be avoided if the police authorities retrieve  three quarters of their personnel that are attached to the politicians. Apart from manning the polling stations and the transportation of results, these personnel that have been trained and equipped with the skills to sniff out criminals and fomenters of trouble must be available in good numbers to walk around and nip any problems in the bud.

To make sure the internal security personnel play their roles effectively, there is the need to plan ahead and plan well. Adequate logistics must be provided for them well ahead of time. If this is done, the late arrival of voting materials at the points of use would be eliminated, thus making the voting process without stress or tension. If all the military and security services personnel are challenged by their bosses to shun partisanship and duly play their assigned roles, we should have smooth elections in 2023. There is one thing that needs stressing here; the payment of allowances. If we want to prevent these personnel from getting tempted, then, whoever is responsible for the payment of their allowances must ensure that all allowances must be fully paid and at the right time. We cannot preach patriotism to them and deny them their dues and expect them to be committed.

The 2023 elections are too crucial for us as a nation for you not to stand on your feet to ensure the safety of our lives, the lives of INEC officers as well as the safety and sanctity of the ballot boxes. Indeed, you of the forces and security services, more than anybody else, should be more concerned to deliver a hitch-free electoral process to Nigerians, given the challenges you are facing now as a result of corruption and ineptitude in the political leadership of the country at all levels. If you, who hold the power of arms cannot think Nigeria, how could you expect the politician to do so? Your role in bringing about the new beginning is very critical.

That is why all Service Chiefs and heads of other Security Services must take the path that the Chief of Army Staff has taken; begin to preach the message of ensuring that the laws of the land are upheld and appropriately carried out when and where it is necessary.

Johnson is a lecturer at Bingham University, Karu


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