2019 polls: Saluting Nigerian Military’s show of professionalism

By Chukwuemeka Nzeh
The first lap of the 2019 general elections may have come and gone, with stories of events that characterized the exercise occupying the already saturated Nigerian media space. The umpire of this exercise has pronounced the incumbent president, President Muhammadu Buhari, as the winner of the presidential election and went further to issue a certificate of return to him and his running mate in the said election, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has gone to town with various critical narratives on the conduct of the said election, and in some cases, accusing the security agencies of bias.
The above, is however not unexpected. In a contest, where the political actors from various sides of the divide, had shown a high level of desperation, through highly inflammatory hate speeches, provocative conducts, grooming hoodlums for the intimidation of the electorate, etc. The active participation of the military in this respect becomes a necessary ‘evil’ in order to put these political actors under check.
History has shown that the average Nigerian politician approaches an election with a do or die mentality, a situation, where some political party leaders were known to have insisted that no report from any constituency was good enough, except you win the election in your constituency. This spurs every zonal, state and LGA party leaders into advancing a win at all cost mentality in the process of their political struggle through elections.
The above having been established, the count down to the 2019 elections did not present anything different situation, as usual, the politicians were talking tough and heating up the polity. A month to the elections, it had become obvious that if the leadership of the country, treats the issue of security with kids glove, the level of violent attacks, ballot box snatchings, killings and general intimidation of the electorate would get to an astronomic proportion, hence any serious minded government would have to step up his game during the elections, which in this case would require the introduction of the military, who has proven to be a veritable antidote for the taming of the desperate Nigerian politician, his untoward ‘win at all cost’ activity and that of his ballot box snatching thugs.
Despite the presidential directive on security agencies to apply force against election riggers and ballot box snatchers, the Nigerian military as led by Lt General Tukur Buratai, had approached their last responsibility with a high level of professionalism, hence their presence during the elections was able to achieve the much anticipated aim of forestalling miscreants and hoodlums, whose activities had dented the integrity of past elections in Nigeria.
Without doubt, there were few cases of violence in the last election, with few cases in the South South and an isolated case that was established in Lagos state, making the security challenges experienced in last election a child’s play, compared to previous elections.
However, it is instructive to note, as reported by independent election observers and the media that the presence of the military in the last elections did not in any way invoke voter apathy among the electorate, rather, it served as a major motivator that inspired the Nigerians to troop out in their thousands to observe this all important civic responsibility.
The presence of these highly professional military men will serve as the tonic that will spur the electorate into confidently participating in future elections, knowing that their security was guaranteed. The call for the removal of the military from the streets during elections are mostly emanating from desperate politicians whose ulterior motive is being ruined by the presence of these military men.
According to a renowned Ijaw leader, Chief Festus Soriwei, Leader Ijaw Emancipation Congress, in a recent statement, he encouraged the COAS to ensure that his men were part of the next State Governorship and Assemblies election, in his words “The directive by Mr President, that soldiers be used for elections is a welcome development. We saw what happened in Ijaw land during the last election, perhaps, more people would have lost their lives in the hands of desperate politicians who engage the services of political thugs to unleash mayhem in Ijaw land, if they could go to this extent even with the presence of soldiers, imagine what would have happened without the presence of these soldiers. One unique thing that happened during the last elections, was that soldiers restricted themselves to the rules of engagement, without embarking on mindless clampdown on hapless civilians. It is our hope that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai would continue on this part of honour by also deploying his men in the next State Gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections”
As the country warms up for the 2019 State Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections, considering that the stakes are higher for these political actors in the next contest, history has shown that the Nigerian military serve the interest of the electorate and not the politicians who are desperate to win elections at all cost. It will therefore serve the collective interest of the electorate and Nigerians at large, for the military to participate in the process of securing the states where election would hold to forestall any ugly incidents that could be brewing in some of these states..
Chukwuemeka Nzeh is a Public Affairs Analyst.