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Military must be committed to democracy

BY ADAMS OSHIOMHOLE
IT is important to devote time every year toremember our brothers and sisters in uniform who helped us to ensure the world is war-free and perhaps more importantly those who fought to ensure Nigeria remains one, indivisible nation.  We can never appreciate them enough because they paid with their lives to ensure we have one united country.

We also want to appreciate the sacrifices of those who gave their lives as well as those who suffered various disabilities in the cause of their struggle to keep Nigeria one.  This for me is important that every year we take time to reflect on the fact that the struggle to keep Nigeria one, a struggle to keep Nigeria as one indivisible country as the struggle that claimed the lives of many.

And that those of us who are alive, must not only on occasion like this appreciate the supreme sacrifices made by these people, but should also resolve on the idea and struggle of keeping Nigeria one, that we who are alive shall do nothing to weaken the foundations of that unity.

I think it is appropriate that we all use this occasion to remind us, particularly those of us who are active in politics that whereas Nigeria Armed Forces have continued to struggle to keep the country together, the evidence is everywhere that the political class or at least a good section of the political class often behave in ways that tend to weaken the foundations of Nigerian unity.

I think it is most appropriate that at this hour that we remind ourselves that people died to keep Nigeria together and therefore no one should be seen directly or indirectly, through action or pronouncement to exploit the situation that will threaten the unity of this country.

For some of us we don’t have another country.  I know there are some sections of the political class that have dual or even multiple citizenship.  And it doesn’t matter to them if Nigeria collapses, because they have foreign passports.
Some of us don’t have another passport and we have no intention to procure any foreign passport.  This is our country, we must work for it, and we must defend it.  We must protect it and we must ensure that the resources of the country, is used for the welfare of the people.

I also believe that Mr. Chairman of the Legion, and senior military officers here present would never know peace for as long as there is no justice.  Peace is a by-product of justice and fairness.

Today Nigeria is facing enormous challenges.  The system is producing fewer and fewer wealthy rich people and at the same time that same system is impoverishing more and more of our countrymen and women.  Unless something is done to restore the balance to ensure that the resources of the country is not cornered by a few, our search for peace will remain a challenging task.

For the Armed Forces, my advice is this.  The commitment of the Nigerian Armed Forces must be to the Nigerian nation.  It is important at this hour that we remind all of us, particularly as we are approaching the next general elections, the Nigeria Army, the Nigerian Armed Forces must stand on the side of democracy.

They must remind themselves that they are for the country and not for the ruling party. If there is conflict between the interest of the ruling party and the interest of the Nigeria nation, the interest of the nation is superior to the interest of any political party.

From what is happening on our continent, we have seen the recklessness of the political class.  As we speak ordinary men and women in Cote d’Ivoire, their lives are at risk and their economy is in shambles.  Two people want to be president at the same time.  And what is happening in Cote ‘d’Ivoire has happened in Kenya and a couple other African countries.

In Nigeria we are battling with a political system where people declare themselves leaders without being elected.  The Nigerian Military must stand on the side of democracy.  They must refuse to assist any political party to impose itself on Nigeria.  In fact any other party, including the party that I belong to.

And once we stand by the people and we stand to defend democracy, not defend individuals, defending the system, when Nigerian people can determine and elect their Commander-in-Chief, truly elected, that Commander-in-Chief will have the moral authority to preside over the affairs of Nigeria.

Therefore, the campaign of ‘one man, one vote’ must be carried even into the military barracks.  Officers are appointed and promoted on merit, but Commanders- in-Chiefs are elected by the ordinary people.  So, I believe this is an occasion that demands deep commitment to the nation because the greatest injustice that would be done to the memory of those officers who died to keep Nigeria one, is for us as we approach this election, to do something that will create conditions that can possibly weaken the country.

As you can see across the line, there were pockets of revolts, pockets of conflicts here and there.  We can assign any label.  Some may want to see them as ethnically motivated, some say they are religious, and others say they are political.

It is very clear to me that the Nigeria political elite are responsible for these crises, either by the fact of the poverty of ideas or resorting to the manipulation of ethnic differences in order to secure political advantage.

Or that they grossly mismanaged the natural resources such that many people are too hungry, that with the least provocation you have people ready and willing to get on one another’s throat.

It is the responsibility of everybody, myself inclusive, to ensure that the resources entrusted in our hands, is managed in such a way as to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging and therefore a basis for loyalty to the Nigerian nation.

There is no greater time than now, as we approach the next election for the Nigerian Armed Forces to make a statement that they are for the Nigerian nation and nobody else.  I have no doubt that you have done so in the past.

Only recently I believe, the Nigerian Military was summoned to duty in Delta State.  I am sure you will be summoned to such duties as we approach the April election. They must make the difference between the nation and the individual, regardless of the level of that individual.

For the Nigerian media, I want to assure you that as a person I appreciate the sacrifices that you are making and that you have made, and that we must continue to identify with you beyond rhetoric.  I have listened to the address of the Chairman of Oredo Local Government where he lamented the fact that pledges are made and not kept.

If the Nigerian Armed Forces have stood by the nation, and served their role obligation, including paying with their lives, promises made by any of us beneficiaries of the progress, must be kept.

And therefore, I will direct my Comrade Chairman of Oredo Local Government to take on board the liability of paying the promises made by your predecessor, as well as the one you have made. I am not sure how democratic it is.

But even democracy can benefit from some level of intervention.  So if the chairman is not able to pay the money directly, we will deduct it and pay it through the Commissioner for Local Government and give it to the Nigerian Legion.

I believe that promises are made and meant to be kept.  My only complaint is that while the chairman lamented, the fact that the Local Government didn’t pay, he did not acknowledge the fact that we paid our own.

Whenever we must complain against those who did keep their word, we must also salute those who kept theirs and I would like to ask you to give me a round of applause.

Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole delivered this speech at the launching of the peace emblem of the Nigerian Legion in Benin City, on Thursday, January 13, 2011

Being excerpts of a speech delivered by Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole at the launch of the emblem of the Nigerian Legion  in Benin recently.


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