16th February, 2015
By Gabriel A. Ajayi
Shortly, serial elections will be conducted in Nigeria to select a President, Governors for some states, National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly members. What appears to be happening now erroneously portray Nigeria as a country in a state of warfare. The apprehension towards the conduct of the election was vividly captured in far away America where the Washington Post of January 6, 2015 commented that “The most immediate threats to the country (Nigeria) are not bullets from Islamic Militants but ballots”. What an irony.
Although this should not be so, unfortunately in Nigeria, exercises that are routine and taken for granted in other countries become warfare in our country with attendant loss of lives, properties and valuable time. This has remained a recurrent decimal in the political history of the nation. This is more evident in the cut-throat struggle for both deserved and undeserved advantages and supremacy by individuals and identifiable autonomous socio-political groups and individual contestants. Virtually, all political parties and individual actors resort to self-help in contests that should be free and fair. Politicians want us to vote for them under duress and this might not be possible hence, the possibility of post-election crisis.
It is trite that politics is often described as war by other means. Invariably, the first casualty in war is truth and what eventually becomes the truth is often decided by the victorious side. This could actually be true of politics in Nigeria. Our situation has been so compounded by the contested demands and bitter struggle for access to scarce resources especially in the political and economic fields. As winner takes all strategies continue to rule the waves so the spirit of do or die becomes the order of the day. Hence, the need for adequate, impeccable, and unimpeachable security arrangement is a necessity for the conduct of a truly free, fair and impartial elections. Failure to put in place the necessary security architecture will lead to disastrous consequences as had always happened in the past. For the purpose of elections in Nigeria, there is a need for integrated security infrastructure to be put in place. The Police and the DSS are constitutionally mandated to ensure peace, tranquility and internal security at all times. This is more so in times of national engagements.
In recent times, the military (Army, Navy, Air Force) have been drafted in support of the police and DSS in the maintenance of law and order. The basic problem is the lack of trust in the impartiality of the security forces in furtherance of their professional activities. This is not far from the fact that we as Nigerians hardly trust one another. The fundamental issue in the provision of security is trust. But the overt display of force by the security sends wrong signals. The deployment of the military for operational duties during elections has been variously challenged by stakeholders who believe that they could be used to intimidate, harass and frustrate political opponents of the ruling party.
The deployment of the military for protection during elections is given constitutional backing under the clause “Aid to Civil Power (Authority)”. It is neither wrong nor unconstitutional to deploy the military in support of the police for peaceful elections. However, the security to be provided by the military should be restricted to:
Outer Perimeter security; Cordon and search operations; Showing of flags – confidence boosting marches; Escorts and protection of critical infrastructure; Provision of Mobile patrols especially the use of Reconnaissance vehicles; Static Patrols, Road Blocks and Snap Vehicle Checkpoints (CVP); Providing a standby force to move in to any troubled area; Provision of communications and other logistic supports; Pre-Assessment of Electoral zones to map out areas of flash points requiring special attention; and Crowd control, protection of electoral officials and security of routes.
It is necessary for the purpose of this discussion to state that the forces available for the provision of security during the election include the military that is, the Army, Navy and Air Force. Other Security Agencies are the Police, the DSS, NIA, DIA, Strike Force and Ancillary/Para-Military agencies like the Civil Defence, Prisons, Immigration, Customs, EFCC, Federal Road Safety Corps and the NDLEA. All these are handy and could be mobilised for secured environment for peaceful conduct of elections.
Let me end this contribution by chipping in the controversial issue of whether to have or not to have state police across the nation. The 1999 Constitution makes the state governors the Chief Security Officers of their states but without adequate provisions for the forces to be used to accomplish the tasks. It is often stated that a central Police Force is established as against the decentralisation of the policing system. The reason advanced against the establishment of state police is the presumed abuse by the various local authorities. However, it is on record that the only authority abolishing the various strata of policing system in Nigeria was the inaugural speech of the first military Head of State, Maj. Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi on 16 January, 1966 that “…The Chief Justice and all holders of such judicial appointments within the federation shall continue in their appointments and to carry out duties in the normal way and that similarly the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Special Constabulary shall continue to exercise their functions in the normal way. That all local Government Police Forces and Native Authority Police Forces shall be placed under the overall command of the Inspector General of Police…”
However, it was the 1979 Constitution that expressively stated that “there shall be only one Police Force for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
In Conclusion, we seem to be in a sort of tempestuous weather and literarily sitting on a keg of gun powder. We have many warlords around who have created and are maintaining private armies. Election security matters are too serious and cannot be left solely in the hands of security agencies and INEC to manage. It is a national affair involving all stakeholders such as the print and electronic media, traditional, community and religious leaders and the political parties. All of them have significant roles to play in the success of the 2015 elections.
•Col. Ajayi (Retd.), president International Foundation for the Advancement of Social and Cultural Rights (IFASCR), delivered this speech at the 9th Beko Memorial Anniversary held at the Banquet Hall, Lagos Airport Hotel on 10th February, 2015.