By Kingsley Omonobi
As the 2011 General elections draw nearer, immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Abdurahman Bello Dambazau, yesterday advised the Nigeria Army to continue to maintain its neutrality, saying it was only by so doing that democracy would be allowed to naturally evolve at its own pace in Nigeria .
According to Dambazau, “it should always be borne in mind that the Army and by extension, the military, remains the main unifying force in a heterogeneous society such as ours.
“The more insulated from the political processes the Nigerian Army becomes, the better for its image.”
Speaking at the Pull-Out parade in his honour , weekend, the former COAS said: “By remaining neutral and allowing political processes to evolve naturally, the Army will continue to contribute meaningfully to the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria through aid to civil authorities, especially in the areas of internal security operations and disaster management.
“There is no doubt that we (Army) have maintained a track record of building bridges in peacemaking endeavour. We have also constantly assisted in responding to the need of security, even at the international level, where we have been participating in peacekeeping operations.
“We must, therefore, remain focused to these professional security demands. We must never allow any manner of distractions to our professional endeavour.”
Recalling some of the challenges during his two years tenure as Army Chief, Dambazau said “in the wake of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s last medical trip to Saudi Arabia in November 2009 and the resulting power vacuum, democracy and perhaps the political future of Nigeria hanged in the balance for several months.
“To worsen matters, ethno-religious conflict reared its ugly head in Plateau state, with a reverberating effect throughout the nation. It would be recalled that the Nigerian Army played a leading role in stabilizing the situation as well as containing the carnage in Plateau state, while providing conducive environment for the political leaders to resolve matter democratically”.
Emphasizing that there is no other option than the democracy we enjoy today, Dambazau said, “Democracy is about building consensus. Trade offs and compromise especially in a multi-cultural and multi-religious environment like ours. It is about balancing interests. It is also about the rule of law and equality”.
“There is no doubt that the best way to ensure survival of democracy is through the political process which provides in built checks and balances. Derivable benefits such as freedom of expression, freedom of choice and accountability in leadership are there for everyone to see. The concept of civil-military relations in a democracy calls for the subordination of the military to civilian control”.
“It is also a fact that through the oversight functions of the National Assembly, the Army stands to enjoy improved funding which translates into an Army that is well equipped, better trained and improved personnel welfare” he said adding,
“We have said that the subsisting democratic environment in the country, gives the military a lot of advantages in the pursuance of professionalism”
Present on the occasion were the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubbuike Ihejirika, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Umar, Prof. Rufai Alkali, Mohammed Abacha, former CNS, Vice Admiral I. I. Ibrahim, former minister of Defence, Chief Aguyi Ironsi, Perm Sec. ministry of Police Affairs, Alhaji Goni Aji and Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge Operations, DIG Audu Abubakar.