Dangers of militarisation of polity

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jul 23rd, 2014
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In Nigeria, politics is taking a dangerous turn, following the militarisation of the polity. In this piece, Kunle Famoriyo highlights the ominous signs of a return to the dark days of dictatorship.

It is incredible, yet it is true. Needless repeating the obvious that Nigeria’s polity is becoming endangered by the day as the country moves towards the much-talked-about 2015 general elections. From all indications, democracy, as a political lexicon is gradually but steadily being re-written in Nigeria by no other person than the Commander-in-Chief, President Goodluck Jonathan. Alas! Democracy and its attendant attributes have been altered to become militocracy.

Apart from deploying heavily-armed soldiers and stern-looking policemen with security sniffer dogs at elections, as witnessed in the recent governorship election in Ekiti, impeachment threats on ‘unfriendly’ governors is hanging in the air and threatening the country’s political landscape. Aside from former Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako, who has already been axed, four other All Progressives Congress (APC) governors have been penciled down by the powers that be for a similar unsavoury music. They include: Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano State.

An elementary schoolboy will readily define democracy as ‘the government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ Democracy cannot be said to be a government put in place by the force of gun, or under any duress whatsoever. Democracy is a system that enthrones the rule of law, which protects the rights of citizens, maintains order, and limits the power of government.

Under a democratic dispensation, all citizens are equal under the law.  No one may be discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic group, or gender. No one may be arrested, imprisoned or exiled arbitrarily. Citizens who are detained have the right to know the charges against them, and are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Anyone charged with a crime has the right to a fair, speedy and public trial by an impartial court. No one may be taxed or prosecuted, except by a law established in advance. No one is above the law, not even a king or an elected president. The rule of law places limits on the power of government.

Suffice to say that all that transpired prior to and during the recently concluded Ekiti election, where security forces virtually laid siege on the state, have become of great concern to well-meaning Nigerians. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has defined roles for the military under any circumstance. It is doubtful if election supervision or monitoring comes under the purview of the armed forces.

Worried by the unfolding ugly phenomena in the polity, particularly the impeachment of former Governor Nyako, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has cried out, saying the development would needlessly build up tension in the country. Speaking in the same vein, former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh declared pointedly that it spells danger for Nigeria’s democracy. He fingered President Goodluck Jonathan as the brain behind the incident.  Momoh noted that it was the same script that played out in Ekiti State, all with a view to undermine and emasculate the opposition parties, so as to remain in power beyond 2015.

He however maintained that such action will constitute a stumbling block and spell doom for Nigeria’s democracy, if allowed to continue.  Another opinion leader, the President of Nigeria Voters Assembly, Comrade Mashood Erubami, also described Nyako’s impeachment as an ominous sign that the electoral path that would not allow stable and fair election in 2015 had been laid.  According to Erubami, the trend will set a new template for vindictive politics in Nigeria. “It could have catastrophic consequences, if not challenged early enough,” he added.

Ironically, all these are coming up at a time when accusing fingers are pointing at President Jonathan for allegedly bribing members of the Adamawa State House of Assembly with $300,000 each for the impeachment of Nyako. It is also at the period when the same President is creating an impression that the nation is cash-strapped; he is requesting for the approval of the National Assembly for a $1 billion loan to strenthen the prosecution of the Boko Haram insurgency war. Nigerians should ask the President to explain what he has been doing with the budgets made for defence in the past few years. At least, under the Appropriation Bill signed into law on May 23 this year, 20 per cent of the entire federal budget, that is, the sum of N968.127 billion out of N4.962 trillion was earmarked for defence.

Against this backdrop, right-thinking Nigerians will surely commend the decision taken recently by the APC in Osun State, which approached a Federal High Court for an injunction to restrain President Jonathan from deploying the military during the forthcoming August 9 governorship election in the state.

In the suit filed on behalf of the party by Dr. Muiz A. Banire and supported by a 15-paragraph affidavit deposed to by an APC member, Kufisile Olufemi Michael, the party is seeking for the determination of the following question on whether, having regard to the supremacy of the Constitution and the clear provisions of section 217(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), it is not unlawful for the President to deploy  the army to Osun State for the purpose of supervision, monitoring or regulation the conduct of the election scheduled to hold on August 9, 2014 or for any other purpose whatsoever.

Prior to this, it has been widely acknowledged that the militarization of the June 21 governorship election in Ekiti was one of the reasons why the APC lost that election to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the party at the centre, which controls both the police and the military. Security analysts are of the view that election need not be militarized.  They insist that President Jonathan’s assignment of key Yoruba ministers in his cabinet to man the sensitive portfolios of Defence and Police Affairs are not for nothing. It was actually claimed that Musiliu Obanikoro and Jelili Adesiyan’s assignments to these Ministries were deliberate and pre-meditated, for reasons best known to the duo and their sponsors.  Little wonder, therefore, the call from Chief John Oyegun, the APC National Chairman on President Jonathan to call those (his ministers) displaying arbitrary powers to order.

Meanwhile, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Osun State, Mr. Segun Agbaje, has said that the state will not be less militarized during the forthcoming governorship election as it was the case during the June 21 election in Ekiti State. He said such heavy deployment of security men might be needed in Osun due to the heightening security situation allegedly being caused by inflammatory utterances of politicians in the state.  Agbaje had raised an alarm that politicians in the state saw election as a do-or-die affair.

While maintaining that no registered voter would be allowed to vote on the day of the election without having his or her permanent voter card (PVC), the Osun REC disclosed that a total of 1,407,222 voters were registered in the state and that about 63 per cent of the registered voters had as of last week Friday, collected their PVC.

However, one thing is certain. For elections to be free and fair, all parties and candidates must have the right to campaign freely, to present their proposals to the voters both directly and through the mass media. Voters must be able to vote in secret, free of intimidation and violence.  Independent observers must be able to observe the voting and the vote counting to ensure that the process is free of corruption, intimidation, and fraud. In a democracy, participation in civic groups should be voluntary.  No one should be forced to join an organization against their will.

Political parties are vital organizations in a democracy, but no one should be pressurized or threatened by others to support a political party against the other, as citizens are free  to choose the party to support. Citizens are free to move about the country, and if they so wish, to leave the country. They have the right to assemble freely, and to protest government actions.  However, everyone has an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others. True democracy depends on citizen participation in all these ways, but participation must be peaceful, respectful of the law, and tolerant of the different views of other groups and individuals. It is only thus that a nation attains deserved greatness.

 

Famoriyo was the Liaison/Political Assistant to late Chief Bola Ige (SAN). He is now the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG).

 

 


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