11th August, 2014
Nigerians have continued to condemn the militarisation of elections. The condemnation followed the deployment of at least 73,000 security personnel to Osun State for the just concluded governorship election, which the incumbent Governor, Rauf Aregbesola won.
A similar mass deployment of soldiers, policemen, SSS operatives, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NDLEA, took place during the governorship election in Ekiti State on 21 June and since then Nigerians have expressed concerns that it was dangerous for the country’s democracy.
According to former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, “what happened in Osun was abominable. The massing of the military and over sixty thousand security men to intimidate and harass a peaceful people is the sign of an unsecured government and party. It is a pre-condition to manipulate and perpetrate electoral fraud. Under any democracy, there can be no moral or political justification for the security armada against our party leaders and followers in Osun. The implications for our democracy foretells of dire consequences.”
Lagos lawyer Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) who had earlier decried the mass deployment of security personnel for the Ekiti governorship election on 21 June, 2014, said it was illegal for President Goodluck Jonathan to deploy the armed forces to maintain law and order during elections.
According to Falana, sections 215 and 217 of the constitution clearly outline when the President could deploy armed forces and such duties when they border on internal security are limited to the suppression of insurrection, including insurgency and aiding the police to restore order when it has broken down.
Falana also said that rather than use soldiers during elections, the police should be properly equipped to perform the duty of ensuring internal security while the armed forces are restricted to the defence of the nation’s territorial integrity.
He said under the current constitutional arrangement, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces lacked the power to involve soldiers in maintaining law and order during elections.
“Even in the Northeast region, a state of emergency had to be declared by the President to justify the deployment of members of the armed forces as part of the extraordinary measures he was required to take to restore law and order pursuant to section 305 of the Constitution.
“Even then, the President had to seek and obtain the approval of the National Assembly for the said deployment for a specific period of time,” Falana stated.
Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) of Lagos State, while congratulating Aregbesola as well as all members, supporters and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress nationwide for the well-deserved victory, expressed the hope that election times in Nigeria would become periods of interaction and healthy exchange of ideas among contestants and their parties instead of periods of mudslinging, harassment and intimidation of the electorate and perceived political enemies.
The Election Day itself, he said, should then be carnival-like with people freely going out to cast their votes without excessive militarisation and harassment of perceived opponents as witnessed in recent elections.
Jiti Ogunye, a lawyer and public affairs analyst, also condemned the excessive deployment of security personnel for election duty.
Speaking on a TV programme monitored in Lagos on Sunday, Ogunye said there was no basis for the militarisation of elections in the country, adding that it did not augur well for the nation’s democracy.
Senator Bukola Saraki also called for the probe of the arrest of opposition leaders in Nigeria. The former Kwara State governor said the trend was disturbing and alarming.
The APC stalwart, who is presently representing Kwara Central at the Senate questioned the motive of security agents who illegally arrested opposition leaders during the Osun election.
“We must begin to investigate the new trend of arresting opposition leaders prior to elections. This is unconstitutional,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
. “What were the specific functions of the various armed agencies that were deployed in Osun State?” he further queried
Saraki said the intimidation and illegal detention must stop in Nigeria.
“Even though APC won Osun Gubernatorial election, we must ask questions on the illegal detention of party leaders and intimidation of members,” he tweeted.
In his reaction, National Publicity Secretary of APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said: “This is definitely not an ordinary election. It is the total hijack of the process and direct violation of the rights of the people. Osun State has been turned into a theatre of war. An ongoing state-sponsored political terror against the Osun people and the entire people of Nigeria has been unleashed by an elected President against his own people, against his own country, in an unprecedented act of political desperation.’’
He decried the arrest of over 250 APC members and leaders all over Osun State by the security task force on Saturday.
The party said: “President Jonathan, in an unparalleled desecration of national institutions, has simply turned the men and women in uniform against the people, as the entire security outfits now owe their allegiance to the President, rather than to the nation, and are at his beck and call.”