The use of the military in election jobs has become a major issue in the nation’s polity. During this year’s elections troops were deployed in parts of the country. They were seen along the streets and major roads where they mounted checkpoints. However, while some political parties and stakeholders welcomed the development, other saw it as a trick by the Al Progressives Congress (APC) controlled Federal Government to manipulate and rig the elections in its favour.
Elections are considered to be a civil event. Thus it is expected that the Police and the Civil DEfence should ensure security during the exercise. But, in Nigeria, may be because of the history of military rule and the fact that some of the major actors are former top military officers, there has always been the tendency to call out the military, especially the soldiers each time there is an election.
But, in this year’s elections, the use of the military has become most controversial. In some places like Rivers State, people claimed that the soldiers were shooting indiscriminately, thereby leading to high casually figures in the state during the elections. The involvement of the soldiers, it was observed, created fears among the people, leading to several voters preferring to remain at hom for fear of their lives.
There were also some indications that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shifted the dates earlier fixed for the elections on the advice of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
The earlier date for the elections were February 14 and 28 respectively, but they were allegedly shifted because of the observation and advice from National Security Adviser (NSA) and the military top hierarchy that soldiers would not be on ground to provide security during the poll as a result of the security challenges in the North East part of the country, hence the elections were postponed to March 28 and April 11 respectively.
Thus, the question among Nigerians is how necessary and unique was the role played by the military in the elections?
INEC Defends Use Of Military
However, INEC defended the involvement of Nigerian Army in elections, saying their presence would make voters feel secured.
The Ondo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Segun Agbaje while speaking at a town hall meeting in Akure, the Ondo state capital , maintained that “a good number of people come out to vote when military personnel are used on election days because people feel a sense of security if they are sure of their security in any election.”
He added that “the military personnel do not go to polling booths, but are only stationed in different locations during elections to enforce the no-movement order of the government during elections.”
The INEC boss recalled that the deployment of soldiers to Osun and Ekiti states during the last Governorship elections thee contributed to the success of the elections in the states.
PDP To Petitions UN Over Use Of Military
But, arising from its Expanded Caucus meeting recently, the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) resolved to petition the United Nations (UN) over the role the military allegedly played in the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Kola Ologbondiyan, the party’s spokesman, who spoke to newsmen, said: “The caucus noted the role of the military in the February 23 election and resolved that we will report the action of the military through a petition to UN as well as other global democratic institutions on the role of our military in the Feb 23 election.
According to him, the party’s caucus also “commended Nigerians for refusing the harassment, intimidation and militarisation of the electoral process and participating in the election.” The party further decried the “militarisation of the South-South,” even as it accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of having plotted to rig through the use of the military.
It Shows That Govt Has No Confidence In The Police – Don
Dr. Isaac Imodanefe Edela, a Benin-based Political Science lecturer, said: “A country where the government in power has no confidence in its police force has declared itself a failed government because the military have no place in the conduct of election.
“It is only a government that no longer has credibility or commands the respect of the populace that goes into the military barrack and call out the soldiers to conduct kangaroo elections in order to remain in power against the wish of the people.
“The military participation in this year’s elections is a vote of no confidence on the administration and to save its face, let INEC declare the remaining results of these states where elections were declared inconclusive. Without that, the administration will continue to suffer from credibility problem in the next four years.”
Military Involvement Led To Several Deaths – Rights Promoter
Dr Tunde Elebute, a Lagos-based human rights promoter and public affairs commentator, maintained that the use of the military during this year’s elections was bad. He said: “What happened was terrible. Government should not interfere in our elections. In this coming re-run, the soldiers should remain in their barracks. Involvement of the Army has led to the death of many people.
“We do not want military on March 23 during the re-run elections. During the elections, I saw the soldiers on television shooting anyhow and some slapping people. We do not want military in our elections. The Police and Civil Defence are okay to handle our elections. It was the military that ruined the elections in Rivers.”
Genuine Soldiers Did Their Best, Fake Did Dirty Jobs – DA Scribe
Chief Ihearu Iwenta Njoku, Secretary, Democratic Alternative (DA), Nkwerre Council Area, Imo State, said: “The military did their best, but the problem was the issue of some people who are not soldiers, but who criminally wore military uniforms to cause confusion. I believe that genuine soldiers did their best, but the fake ones rubbished the genuine ones by colliding with politicians to do a dirty job.”
Soldiers Intimidated People, Aided Ballot Box Snatching – AGA Chief
Desmond Obidimkpa Igwe, Chairman, All Grassroots Alliance (AGA), Owerri North, Imo State, stated: “Our soldiers disappointed us. They did not live up to my expectation because they allowed politicians to use them. The military intimidated some people and even aided and abetted snatching of ballot boxes. I felt highly disappointed with the military as far as the our 2019 election is concerned.”
Military Helped To Stabilise Electoral Process – Activist
Sunday Ojutalayo, a social critic and human right activist, lauded the military and other security agencies for the roles played. He however single out the military for his commendation, stressing that without the military, things would have been worse than what was witnessed.
He said except in some few cases where military over did things, without the military, the spate of violence and crisis would have been worse and uncontrollable by only the Police and other security agencies.
According to him, ballot snatching and other associated violence and crisis would not be only managed by the police and other security agencies, but would have escalated beyond what was experienced and marred the credibility of elections.
He said it was the military that helped in the maintenance of orderliness, adding, “If you snatch ballot box here and before you reach another point, you will see the military checkpoints who will conduct check on your car and ask for your mission before you are allowed to go.”
Ojutalayo noted that the military helped to stabilise the process. They did not come close to polling unit but only patrol and mounted check points which is necessary and okay for us. Nigeria has not reached a stage and level where an election will be 100% peaceful without the military, just because of the nature of our politicians.
He added: “The behaviour and attitude of our politicians called for it because they would always look for ways to either disrupt things to favour them and have an edge over others. So, the presence of military around is necessary and needed for peaceful polls.”
Military Should Provide Only Peripheral Security During Polls – Politician
Chief Martin Onovo, a Lagos-based petroleum Engineer and politician is a chieftain of the Movement for Fundamental Change (MFC). According to him, “The military ought to provide only peripheral security during elections and not interfere in the process of elections. The Police is the lead internal security agency. The Nigeria Army has never been abused and debased like this before. Many, including INEC officials and the international community, have accused the Nigeria Army of interfering and disrupting the electoral process.