By Sam Eyoboka
SPEAKING on the contentious issue of military involvement in the 2019 elections, former Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Sunday Ola Makinde said: “I have mixed feelings. They abused our electoral process in Nigeria, snatching of ballot boxes, killing, maiming and buying of votes. I know and I can tell you, we do not have enough police officers to police Nigeria.
“Therefore, a drastic challenge must be tackled in a drastic manner. Imagine if there were no policemen in our various polling units, the number of people that would have died and causalities would have been much more. If we behave normally and not abnormally, we do not need the presence of the military. The military is to protect Nigeria from external aggression but we have internal aggression ourselves.
“It will be very sad if we don’t ask them to come and complement the efforts of the police. Imagine the number of people that would be killed and maimed. Snatching of boxes and rigging, buying of votes will continue. Let Nigerians behave well during elections: election is not a do or die affair. Let’s allow God to choose our leaders for us by having orderly and godly elections.
Who are the voters, are they not Christians and Muslims? Are we godly? These snatchers of ballot boxes are they not Christians and Muslims? Let us do the needful. We should stop condemning the military. They should not be involved. Let us encourage government to employ more intelligent people from among the army of young graduates who are currently jobless and give them better work conditions. If we do these, the military will not come over. We should work towards next election and see how we can do better.
The military also should behave well and respect fundamental human rights of the masses. If we want to prevent soldiers from interfering in our elections, we must behave well during elections, obey the electoral laws and provide enough manpower for the police force.
We don’t have enough manpower to police the nation and the few that we have are guarding politicians and other personalities whereas we do not have enough police to protect the whole community well. Which one is greater, personality or the community? It is very sad.
What would you advise the government to do in such circumstance?
The government should have the courage to increase the manpower of the police and give them better pay and also employ good hands into the force. We have lots of graduates who are jobless; the police should be well paid. The presence of the soldiers is so intimidating and that is why most people did not come out to vote. Let the soldiers be in their barracks. I am 76 years now; I saw the first soldiers in 1955. They are supposed to remain in their barracks, their own is to kill and go.
They should go to their barracks and leave the police to maintain law and order. The government should make sure they increase the manpower of the police.
If I see the soldier during an election, I will not go out to vote because it is intimidating and abnormal. The soldiers should vote in their barracks. They should not come to the civil society because it is very irregular and abnormal to come and maintain law and order during election.
What’s your assessment of the 2019 elections?
To be sincere, we thank God! The election, to me, is good, free and fair. I thought that the casualties will be more than we had. We thank God and I want to thank Nigerians for behaving well, except in one or two areas. It is better than what I was expecting. To those who lost, it is not every time that you can win. In football, it is either you lose or win. It is not a do-or-die affair. If you see election as a do-or-die affair, such person is deceiving himself or herself.
Politicians are now naïve because Nigerians are now well educated politically and they know who they want. Where there are inconclusive elections, INEC should conduct free and fair re-runs. I want to give credit to INEC. They have done well too. Those that have been arrested for ballot box snatching, killing and the rest should be made to face the wrath of the law and this will serves as deterrent to others.