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Security agencies and rescheduled elections

It is now an understatement to say as a country, that we need the neutrality of our Armed Forces, soldiers and officers of the Nigerian Army in particular at this trying moment of our history than ever before. This is because recent accusations linking the army to plots to cause mayhem at the elections on Saturday, February 23 and March 9 are not palatable even though we know the allegation may not be substantiated. Neutrality of the security agencies has become very essential following these controversies trailing the shift of elections to February 23, and March 9, 2019. The Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olorinsakin, at various fora had reaffirmed the neutrality of the armed forces in the ongoing election campaigns. In fact, as recent as February 9, General Olorinsakin had read the riot act to personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces restricting them from polling centres or attending political rallies. Specifically, he had ordered that military personnel would exercise their voting right in mufti, devoid of any military accouterment, so that no eligible electorate can claim that he or her was intimidated. Happily, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) did not assign any specific electoral role to the military. It specifically empowered it to maintain the territorial integrity of the country and to render assistance to civil authorities in the event of breakdown of law and order. We agree with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Buratai, that there are needs to put proactive measures in place to prevent crisis that may lead invitation of the army. However, we are concerned that Gen. Buratai’s response to critics of President Buhari directive on the military to put ballot snatchers lives at risk will draw the military into the political arena which ought not to be. To be able to remain in a position to maintain peace and order, the military must distance itself from political controversies which are the brick blocks of the political class in their struggle for political power. Exchanges of words between the army and politicians will only give negative hopes and jeopardise the very peaceful atmosphere the country has been striving to create for the election to be free, fair and successful. Like Buratai stated, the army must be apolitical to ensure that no negative aspersion is cast on the Nigerian Army before, during or after the elections. This way it would maintain its public respect and honour as a Nigerian Army whose loyalty is to the state and constituted authorities.

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