1st November, 2010
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INECâ€™s, plan to enlist the support of the military to conduct next yearâ€™s general elections is a welcome consideration but we must be careful that it does not work against the electorate.
The military, as most of us know, are trained to defend the territorial integrity of the nation, not to police the populace. The Nigerian armed forces have excelled in several operations even in other parts of Africa and in the Middle East. We are sure they can also keep the peace in Nigeria…but at what cost?
Last Thursday, at the end of a two-day workshop on â€˜Security Challenges of Election Managementâ€™ organised by INEC in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stifftung, FES, foundation in Abuja, a communiquÃ© was issued in which it was stated that the decision became necessary having noted that the challenges facing INEC are multidimensional and the need to garner support for tactical internal security awareness.
The communiquÃ© also stated that INEC needs to develop a special electoral security strategy and plans that will delineate roles for different agencies based on their competence profile and capacity.
All very well, but we also think the military personnel to be used should also be specially trained and made to realise they are not dealing with enemy forces. INEC is considering employing this group of Nigerians because it says in the distribution of materials there are some difficult terrains that you cannot navigate ordinarily unless you get some logistics support from security agencies.The Chairman, Board of INEC Electoral Institute, Professor Lai Olurode in his presentation at the workshop stated that kidnapping and abduction would not necessarily pose a threat to the military engaged in the distribution of materials in such areas. Very true, but the good Professor should also remember how evil some politicians are and they could corrupt just about anybody.
The success of the task ahead cannot be left to INEC alone, Nigerians must be ready to do everything to make the 2011 elections free and fair. We should be ready to deal with ballot box snatchers and stuffing of ballot boxes, including the announcement of falsified results.
The workshop which drew some 50 participants from the academia, security services, civil society groups, the media and electoral management bodies from Lesotho, Kenya, Togo and Senegal recommended for INEC to create a platform for inter-agency collaboration on security matters at all levels as a matter of urgency.
In several parts of the world where security during election is an issue, the military has been employed to provide security.
Yet, not a few Nigerians are apprehensive of turning the Nigerian military into an internal security outfit. Retired Major General Ishola Williams, Chairman, Transparency International, a few months ago condemned the use of military men for security purposes as witnessed during the re-run of Ekiti governorship election. He stated that the army ought not be involved in elections security because they were not trained for internal security. He also condemned the idea by some states of the federation in using military men to pursue armed robbers on the highways.
We can argue endlessly why military men should be employed to provide security during next yearâ€™s election but the fact remains that Nigeria is right now on the brink of another explosive election if we allow it to be so. The treasonable remarks by some of our so-called elder statesmen are not helping matters. Besides, the large importation of arms into the country ahead of the elections is worrisome. Our belief is that security should be beefed up during the elections to discourage electoral thieves and fraudsters but the concerned authorities must weigh the pros and cons of the move. Let INEC think well and deep. Let INEC remember the Joint Task Force deployed in the Niger Delta and the stories we heard about the bad eggs among them.
Letâ€™s look at the implication before making the move. Would the military men do only what they have been assigned? What if some money could be made on the side? Would these military men not be used for some other ulterior motive?