By Ebele Orakpo
Professor Kyari Mohammed is the Vice-Chancellor of Modibbo Adama University of Technology, MAUTECH, Yola and chair of MAUTECH’s Centre for Peace and Security Studies. Like a lone voice in the midst of those who have raised a chorus against military involvement in the 2019 election, he argues that the military acted within the law. Reminded that the job of the military is to protect the territorial integrity of the nation from external aggression, he asked why soldiers are being used in internal fight against herdsmen, Boko Haram, bandits in Zamfara, IPOB, etc.
YOU can take Boko Haram out of internal security because it is terrorism. But what about the herdsmen/farmers crises, what about the banditry in Zamfara, IPOB in the South-East etc.? These are all areas the military is engaged in. In fact, they are engaged in 32 or 33 operations in the federation. The constitutional role of the military is not only to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state, they are also to help the civil security and the police within the provisions of the constitution, to keep law and order.
So that is also part of the role of the military. As for their part in the elections, INEC clearly stated that the military will not be engaged anywhere near polling stations or polling booths; and in fact, unlike in previous elections, they did not even use the national assets of the military, including military aircraft, marine services, or even for escort; they left that to the police.
However, we also heard the President saying that ‘look, we are going to take serious action against people who would want to scuttle our democracy by ballot box-snatching and others. Now, if it will take the military to ensure that hoodlums and thugs do not disrupt the election, will that be in order?
Yes, but couldn’t the police have done that?
I’ll come to that. Have you read the previous reports on Nigeria Police and elections? Go back to 2007 elections and what they said was that policemen were seen thumb-printing ballot papers. So for all the complaints about the military, I have not heard a report or seen one anywhere that soldiers were seen thumb-printing ballot papers. So, the fact that police should do it does not even make it right and you know the image of the Nigeria Police.
I am not into police bashing but you know the general image of the Nigeria Police.
So, what I will say is that if the military is partisan, they support this political party or that political party, then you can now say yes, the military has abandoned its constitutional role to become partisan. But by deploying them in restive areas to ensure that voters go out to vote and ensure their security, I don’t think it should be a cause for concern.
I have seen a lot of reports of civil society organisations, both local and international, talking about militarisation, it is a cliché. If they were not going to snatch ballot boxes or take part in electoral malpractice, what is their problem with the military? You go from Point A to Point B, you have a valid voter’s card, I don’t think you will have any issue. But you also know that the military arrested several people, I think in Rivers State; people with guns, ballot papers; they also arrested thugs in military uniforms. So I am just giving you my opinion as a Nigerian.