Though largely not unexpected, the ruling on Monday by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos restraining the Federal Government from deploying soldiers for the general election flagging off on Saturday has raised the question: Who actually is afraid of soldiers playing limited roles during polls?
Before Monday’s ruling, the Court of Appeal Abuja had on February 16, 2015 made a similar pronouncement.
While the ruling is yet to fully be digested, it is pertinent to note that soldiers have always assisted during elections in Nigeria, albeit minimally. They have always been deployed to patrol major highways, city centres, flashpoints as well as assisted the police and others para-military personnel to provide security during elections.
At no time, at least from 1983 to date, have soldiers been deployed to polling units or asked to take over the counting of votes or collation of results.
This is the reason many Nigerians are at a loss at the noise being made about deployment of soldiers during elections. If the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) approves soldiers assisting the commission and the police, then those who insist that soldiers should be holed in their barracks during polls, must have something they are hiding. It is either that such persons are afraid that with soldiers in the picture, they may not be able to perpetrate their evil plans, including ballot box snatching, doctoring of results, among others or that they will be caught in the act.
Beyond the court rulings, those who are opposed to soldiers assisting INEC and the police during elections should let Nigerians know what they are afraid of. Do they want us to return to the days of old when ballot box stuffing and snatching, outright manipulation of results, violence among others reigned supreme?