By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Some Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, yesterday, urged the Nigerian Army not to get involved in the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections slated for November 16, 2019.
This was contained in a letter addressed to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Tukur Yusuf Burutai, and signed by the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, CN, Prince Deji Adeyanju; Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye; and Convener, Free Nigeria Movement, FNM, Adebayo Raphael.
The CSOs stated that the Nigerian Police Force is adequately prepared to deploy officers for the elections as they did during the general elections and if the police could adequately deploy its officers to 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, during the elections, “it won’t have any challenges in just two states – Kogi and Bayelsa.”
The letter reads in part, “The murky water of Nigerian politics has continued to undermine the deployment of our gallant soldiers for elections and has in no small measure tainted the solid professional reputation of the Nigerian Army, built over the decades with enormous sacrifices, pains, sweats, tears, and blood, while serving national, regional and global interests.
“You will recall that for this singular reason, you once set up a panel to investigate the conduct of soldiers during the 2014 governorship election in which some officers were found wanting and sanctioned. We had expected that that singular action was going to stop the use of the Army for elections. But it is never too late for our Army to fully return to the path of professionalism and regain the trust of Nigerians.
“As we approach the Kogi and Bayelsa States gubernatorial elections, we believe it is paramount to remind the Nigerian Army that its involvement in the 2019 general elections left indelible scars and traumas in the hearts of most Nigerians. Reports by local and international observers documented how the deployment and involvement of the Nigerian Army in the elections led to widespread voter intimidation, voter apathy, and electoral violence.
“It is equally important to remind the Nigerian Army that it has been helped to ward off pressure being mounted by politicians to get involved in our elections, with several court judgments, which between 2003 and 2015 emphatically declared the deployment of soldiers during elections in Nigeria as completely unconstitutional and illegal.
“It is against this background that we wish to strongly urge the Nigerian Army to jettison all plans to deploy soldiers for the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa States governorship elections. This should mark a turning point for the Army to regain the trust of Nigerians.
“We believe that history will look favourably on the Nigerian Army if it chooses to honour the Nigerian constitution by refusing to be a tool in the hands of politicians and refusing to deploy our gallant troops during the forthcoming governorship elections. The Army is already overstretched with several internal operations and it should be saved from political distractions.
“The Police are adequately prepared to deploy officers for this election as they did during the general elections. If the police could adequately deploy its officers to 36 States during the elections, it won’t have any challenges in just two states – Kogi and Bayelsa.”
They also expressed optimism that the army will take their advice, and also prayed God to continue strengthening the gallant troops to faithfully and courageously serve Nigerians, and defend the country.
“And we hope that you will consider our urgent appeal as the concerns of Nigerians who want the Nigerian Army to return to the path of global reckoning. This is possible”, it added.