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Intimidation of voters and electoral officials in last elections by military unprecedented — Col Tony Nyiam

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By Chioma Gabriel, Editor, Special Features

Nigerians have continued to express dismay over the role of the military in the just-concluded elections, expressing disappointment that their presence, if anything, succeeded in intimidating and disenfranchising the electorate, even as some perceive their presence as a deliberate act by the powers that be to rig the elections.

The role of the Armed Forces in any elections is to support the police in providing security for voters to exercise their franchise. This role is contained in Section 271 of the 1999 Constitution which stipulates that the military can be deployed to “assist the police in maintenance of law and order during elections.

In carrying out this onerous task, the Armed Forces of Nigeria should be guided by the code of conduct and rules of engagement that have been provided for military personnel deployed to maintain security during elections.

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The military should complement and support the efforts of the Nigeria Police in ensuring that all abiding citizens and members of the international community go about their legitimate duties and obligations in an environment devoid of violence and insecurity. But that was not the case from what happened in the last elections. Reacting to the involvment of the military in the last elections, Col Tony Nyiam, retd, said the military overdid it. Excerpts:

MANY Nigerians think military involvement in the last elections did more harm than good to Nigeria’s democracy. Do you agree?

The domino effect of President Muhammadu Buhari’s body language and worse still, the unconstitutional commander-in-chief’s order to the Nigerian national security agencies is unmistakable in the undemocratic actions we have seen openly displayed. The 2019 Nigerian general election’s series of battles, the arming of men to intimidate the electorate and the electoral commission officials who stand on the way of politicians rigging election, is in the history of our nation building unprecedented.

It has simply been several activations of armed men’s coup d’etat by politicians who have the wherewithal of access to unprofessional army officers. In terms of intent or motive and intended beneficiary of the militarisation of what is supposed to be the civil conduct of free and fair elections, a number of the chief executives of governments or leaders of both the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stand clearly accused.

It’s most sad that this non-free and fair election was allowed to happen during this dispensation with its claim of promoting integrity. Only some politicians heeded the promptings of the silent still voice of their clear conscience.

Only these few political elites refused to descend to the lower animals level of their opponents. Thanks to the majority of the people of Akwa Ibom and Rivers states who rose to defend their human rights. It’s also unfortunate that we are beginning to experience a national security development where political leaders are losing control to thugs who openly boast of who they will kill.

Those of us who were military officers must always remember what makes an officer a gentleman. The upholding of honour in every condition he finds himself  marks him out amongst soldiers.The attribute “an officer and gentleman” implies that he’s an expert in the commanding of armed men and the restrained use of force under command. Thus, an officer and gentleman will find the uncouth language of the ruthless who resort to the use of national security assets, most strange. Where has all the training that if armed military force must be used, it must be minimum, gone? It needs to be remembered that soldier go, soldier come. You too will soon return to the ranks of the bloody civilians you readily intimidate.

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Who are you blaming for these electoral killings

First, the manner in which  the President and Commander-in-Chief gave instruction to the national security agents to deal ruthlessly with those who are accused of electoral  offences, including the alleged offenders being summarily  executed, is unbecoming of a President of a constitutional and liberal democratic country. The partisan platform from which the presidential executive order was given isn’t in conformity with the acceptable protocol and due legal process. President Buhari is a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

His statement to soldiers before elections clearly shows PMB as a ruler inclined to resorting to excessive use of force and too trigger-happy for the chief upholder of the rule of law and order.

The order makes PMB appear blood-thirsty and is it any wonder that PMB’s rule is the most bloody in Nigeria? The repetition of the intimidation of Nigerian citizens projects him more as a military dictator than a democrat. No leader transparently seeking the people’s votes would speak so intimidatingly to them. It’s most sad that this most non- transparent election can be allowed to happen during this dispensation.

Do you perceive any deliberate attempt by sections of the country to intimidate others using soldiers?

Certain politicians should forget their Ph.Ds, businesses, “abroad exposure”, “open-eye”, big-big grammar and social media sagacity. They should get their notes, go and beg the Hausa-Fulani to tutor them on how to play politics. The average Fulani man may look dirty, uneducated, unexposed, deprived or stupid but he possesses a knowledge of the importance of political power and how to use it. The Hausa-Fulani are not by any means stupid. In fact, they are masters of Nigerian politics.

Nigeria’s transition to democracy in 1999 was heralded as a new dawn for a brighter future. In preparation to enthrone himself as a civilian President, the late General Sani Abacha created Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Nassarawa, Zamfara, Gombe and Ekiti states, now making 36 in total. The South had absolutely no idea that by this, the balance of power would forever tilt towards the North even in a democratic setting.

Only on this premise did Abacha agree to an eventual transition to democracy which General Abdusalam would see through. The 1999 Constitution, the one supervised and crafted by the Caliphate, put paid to the aspirations of the South and set the stage for its perpetual subservience to the North. Our politicians didn’t think much about it. We were happy Obasanjo was made President.

Perpetual subservience

In today’s Nigeria, Northern Nigeria dominates virtually every aspect of the nation’s political dynamics. Democracy is a game of numbers and with this fact, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, will continue to play significant roles in who becomes President of Nigeria, their members in the national assembly will continue to constitute the majority without which key bills would falter if not in their interests-Petroleum Industry Bill, NNPC sale, oil blocks licensing, electoral reforms, restructuring, and so on.

No matter your wealth, the real power lies with who calls the shots in politics. By fiat, your billions could be frozen by the President whimsically. The average Southerner is not politically conscious. He doesn’t understand politics nor does he think beyond an election cycle.

The Hausa-Fulani plan across generational lines. They think ahead. You often see the shoemaker, sugarcane seller, herdsman, suya man and others glued to their transistor radio. They don’t bother about Davido, Tuface or Teniola. They are focused on what’s going on in the polity- propaganda, religious directives, strategies and policy.

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Their places of worship are centers for religious, political and social engineering. In every election, they vote en bloc for a particular candidate regardless of performance. Once their leaders direct, they follow. Some may call this foolishness but I beg to differ. It is exactly why Buhari was so confident going into the 2019 elections, having performed disastrously. Southern Nigeria’s churches focus on tithes, wealth and bogus spiritual promises of a “better life”.

You don’t find Hausa-Fulani killing themselves during elections. But the supposedly “educated” South is always a war zone at every election cycle. While Southerners target Shell, Mobil, Total, Chevron, Zenith Bank, travelling abroad, bagging degrees, etc, the average Northerner’s focus is the NDA, military, CBN, NNPC, DPR, NAPIMS, Police, DSS and other organisations that have considerable strategic influence in the affairs of the country, even elections.

Northern Nigeria is smarter, united, politically mature and coherent than the South. Kwankwaso may disagree with Buhari but he would never get into a war of words with him like Amaechi did with Jonathan in 2015.

Kwankwaso and Ganduje may be political enemies but you would never see their supporters shelling themselves with bullets like those of Amaechi and Wike. Buhari and Atiku (both Fulani men) contested the 2019 elections, not a single bullet was fired in the North but over 50 persons were killed in Rivers State alone due to the feud between Amaechi and Wike.

Political maturity and coherence

We need to come down from our high horse, go on our knees to beg them to lecture us for we are but babies in this game.

So, you accept that elections were rigged…

The margin between Buhari and Atiku is 3.5 million votes and the cancellation is 5.5 million votes, but Buhari was declared winner. This was effected by the clowns of INEC and Buhari supporters. It’s very easy to give us inconclusive results in places where there were more cancellations than difference of leading candidates when it suits them.

What happened in the presidential election? Difference of 3.5m and cancellations of 5.5m, excluding where elections didn’t take place but INEC deemed it fit to declare Buhari of APC winner. Very interesting and very pathetic. In same election, different rules apply to different people. What a catastrophic failure of trust.

What’s the way out of these election problems?

The South should put its acts together. Unfortunately, the two major Southern tribes can’t stand each other. They are waxing strong criticising and highlighting each other’s problems.

They have kept themselves so busy in the intra-South enmity that they ignore their real and more deadly common enemy, and oppressive parasite, thereby making it easy for their joint predator to routinely eat any of them for dinner! Or is there a better analogy for Yoruba-Igbo implacable enmity?

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