WE are deeply worried over the increasing frequency of accusations of the Nigerian military and security agencies meddling in the conduct of elections. Very few elections have been held without the Military and Police being accused by the parties in opposition, of being unlawfully used by the ruling party at the centre to compromise such elections.
For instance, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had elaborately circulated “evidence” that portrayed the Nigerian Army as having been used by the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to facilitate the victory of its candidate, Mr Ayo Peter Fayose, for the Ekiti State governorship election of June 2014.
And in the recently concluded Bayelsa State governorship poll which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared inconclusive, the PDP, which is now in the opposition, also accused the military of providing security cover in the alleged attempt by the APC to falsify the Southern Ijaw Local Government results to upstage Governor Seriake Dickson, the flag bearer of the PDP who is in the lead.
The military’s illegal involvement in elections is almost as old as independent Nigeria. It was accused of being widely used between 1962 and 1965 in parts of the North and West by the defunct Northern People’s Congress (NPC), the party in power at the centre, and this precipitated the crises and violence that culminated in the first military coup in January 1966 and the consequential Nigerian civil war.
Also in 1983, the military was accused by the opposition parties of being used by the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) federal government to “steal” votes from opposition strongholds. The government that was sworn in on October 1, 1983 lasted only three months before it was overthrown.
Nigeria, unfortunately, is a country where the leaders do not learn from the past, and for that reason, we are condemned to recycle the ugly chapters of our history. When Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999 after a sixteen-year long run of military dictatorship, the military’s meddlesome involvement in our elections was very minimal. However, with the existence of two dominant rival political parties, the tendency for ruling parties to turn to our security forces for help appears to be on the rise.
We condemn this trend without equivocation. Indeed, at this juncture of our history, it would be foolhardy to totally sideline the military from helping the INEC to deliver safe and credible polls. However, the military and other security agencies MUST restrict their involvement to ensuring the safety of the voters, electoral officials and election materials as the Electoral Act requires. They must only maintain the law and protect the vote. Anything more than that is unacceptable.