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There are only 72 hours before Nigeria’s most historic Presidential and National Assembly elections but the key national conversations are about the legitimacy or otherwise of the decision of the nation’s high military command to deploy soldiers to augment the national security roles of other affiliate armed forces and police.

The Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf has on numerous occasions responded robustly to the allegations that the deployment of the military in election security support role was meant to undermine the transparent; free, fair and peaceful conduct of the General elections. Leading opposition leaders who nevertheless are great patriots have however tasked the military to be faithful only to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to conduct themselves without let, hindrance or biasness. The members of the organized civil society community in Nigeria are as concerned as most other persons that the military must never be used to influence the manipulation of the electoral process to favour the incumbent. Looking at how the military did not in any way influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential election in which an incumbent Commander in chief of the armed forces of the federal republic if Nigeria as he then was Dr Goodluck Jonathan suffered an electoral defeat by the leading opposition party, it is safe to concede to the military that under the current dispensation the Army will not deviate  from the time tested and time honoured professional code of conduct, adherence to best global practices and respect for rule of law to do things that may undermine the integrity of the electoral process and destroy the credibility of the military institution.  

Even as the national debate around the issues of the rightness or otherwise of deployment of the military for election, this writer observes with monumental disappointments some of the statements coming from some office holders with regards to the election which is summed up as hate speeches. 

It must be regrettably noted that the threat to kill off foreign observers as made by the Kaduna governor and the unconditional backing of this despicable, reprehensible and hate filled language of Governor Nassir Elrufai by President Muhammadu Buhari is to put it mildly uncalled for.  All right thinking Nigerians have totally condemn these statements calling for bloodbath during the election targeting foreigners as made by Elruffai and the support of this satanic statement by President Muhammadu Buhari.  

This writer wishes to ask Nigerians to reject violence and we ask the Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai to view Gov. Nassir Elrufai as a terror suspect and keep him under surveillance.  Secondly, we are aware of the call for election boycott by the Indigenous people of Biafra.  This writer acknowledge that as citizens individuals have the human right to take part or withdraw or boycott an election. But the right to boycott election must not be enforced by extra legal means and nobody must be stopped from participation in the coming election. Any attempt to use crude tactics to stop the electorate from voting is hereby totally and absolutely condemned. I urge all Nigerians who are tired of the poverty situations that afflict millions of Nigerians to stand up and be counted in the historical decision to elect a new set of political leaders to deliver good governance; restructure the unworkable federation that Nigeria represents at the moment and deliver rapid economic growth.  All Nigerians who boycott election are public enemies because their action will foist on us a choice of leadership that will keep us as slaves in perpetuity. 

We will return to this boycott issue and to show all Nigerians that it is futile to stay away from participation in the electoral process that will bring about the emergence of a crop of leaders that would pilot the affairs of the federation after the February polls and possibly restore hope to all Nigerians who are going through political, economic and security uncertainties caused by poor governance.

First, we support the pro-active roles of the Army as adopted by the COAS to stave off electoral violence. 

The Nigerian Army is a professional outfit and the Army chief is aware of the significance of his operatives working under the legal frameworks of adherence to rules of engagement and in ABSOLUTE COMPLIANCE TO THE PROVISIONS OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION. 

To that extent we support him and urge him to always maintain professional decorum and check any excesses on the part of his operatives that will soil his illustrious career.  WE APPEAL TO THE COAS TO ALSO DEPLOY OPERATIVES FROM THE HUMAN RIGHTS DESKS OF THE VARIOUS DIVISIONS OF THE ARMY AND TO EMBED HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS ALONGSIDE HIS OPERATIVES SO PROPER MONITORING OF HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANCE IS ACHIEVED. WE WILL SEND HIM A LETTER IN THIS REGARD. 

The Nigerian constitution authorizes the military to play these roles and the provisions as enshrined in section 217 (1) of the 1999 constitution goes thus: “There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an army, a navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.”

There is no gainsaying the fact that the threats of insecurity is real, genuine and frightening because even those who hold positions of authority like governor of Kaduna state has issued death threat against foreign observers.

The Nigeria police force has spectacularly failed to carry out its obligation thereby compelling the military to step in. But doing so, the Nigerian Army being a professional institution created by the constitution must not breach the fundamental rights of Nigerians as enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution and must REMAIN POLITICALLY UNTAINTED AND ABSOLUTELY UNBIASED. 

All rational Nigerians  ought to acknowledge that democracy has also been explained in the Black’s Law Dictionary as that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy or oligarchy. It is also argued that it is a form of government usually representative, in which the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of minorities the enjoyment of certain individual or collective rights, such as freedom of speech and religion known as liberty or constitutional democracy (see Military law in Nigeria under Democratic Rule, authored by Brigadier General T.E.C. Chief (rtd), Ph.D). 

“The New Standard Encyclopedia on its part states that democracy has three different but related meanings. Firstly, it is a form of government in which those who control the government are elected by the people and are responsible or answerable for their actions to the people. Secondly, it is a form of government in which there is no privileged class and in which individuals may rise by ability to positions of power and influence. Thirdly, it is an ideal way of life that stresses equality, liberty, individual rights, tolerance, freedom of discussion and compromise. In addition, democracy has been described by the Chambers English Dictionary as a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively, and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them. It is a state of society characterized by recognition of equality of rights and privileges, namely political, social and legal equality.”

With the benefit of hindsight I’m ceased of the information that the Army hierarchy know these facts and have shown their determination to abide by the law. 

I do also Know that The doctrine of compact was further explained by Justice Willes in Dawkins v. Lord Rokeby when he said “But with respect to persons who enter into the military state, who take His Majesty’s pay, and who consent to act under his commission, although they do not cease to be citizens in respect of responsible, yet they do by a compact which is intelligible and which requires only the statement of it to the consideration of any one of common sense, become subject to military rule and discipline.” THE ARMY OF NIGERIA OPERATES IN A TWENTY FIRST CENTURY WORLD AND HAS STATED THAT IT WILL ALWAYS OPERATE IN TOTAL COMPLIANCE TO GLOBAL BEST PRACTICES AND WITH THE GREATEST RESPECT TO THE CONSTITUTION. THE MILITARY MUST DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION BY PLAYING A NATIONALISTIC AND PATRIOTIC ROLE OF NON POLITICAL INTERFERENCE IN THE COMING ELECTION. THE WORLD IS WATCHING US AND THE TIME OF RECKONING INTERNATIONALLY IS SWIFT AND DECISIVE. 

In the same vein, may I SAY NO TO ELECTION BOYCOTT BECAUSE: An election boycott is the boycotting of an election by a group of voters, each of whom abstains from voting.

In general elections, individuals and parties will often boycott in order to protest the ruling party’s policies with the hope that when voters do not show up the elections will be deemed illegitimate by outside observers. This tactic, however, can prove disastrous for the boycotting parties.

This tactic, however, can prove disastrous for the boycotting parties. Lack of participation rarely nullifies election results and the distorted voting is likely to further detach boycotting groups from the organs of power, leaving them susceptible to political irrelevance.

Election boycotts have no place in a functioning democracy; participation being at the heart of democratic process. However, boycotts could have a role to play in a democracy that is not functioning as it could be and where fair competition is impossible.

The problem lies in determining at what point conditions for a fair election are being violated to such an extent that a boycott is justifiable. Even if justifiable, it should be considered as a last resort. In most cases opposition parties have concluded that participation in the electoral process- even if unequal. It is more beneficial than boycotting it.

Choosing to be outside the electoral process is a highly risky political tactic and can come with high costs.

  1. Both degree of sympathy and interest in any boycott by the wider electorate is a crucial factor in determining the impact of any boycott
  2. Boycott is accompanied by other measures which hinder ability to govern or there is a minimum voter participation required. Boycotts there often impact legitimacy but not the final result.
  1. There is also a very danger that resorting to boycott can have a long- term and damaging effect on the democratic process.
  2. The situation is mostly like to affect international organizations and civil society groups, as election authorities may be legally bound to provide to provide voter education despite the circumstances.

5 elections poses an existential crisis for opposition parties–not the ruling ones– whether the people are ready to vote or not.

For example in South Africa, the African National Congress party was favored to win, which posed a challenge for the opposition party head of Inkathah, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. He wanted more autonomy for his province, so Buthelezi used the boycott threat to leverage its position to ultimately participate in elections. The gains in boycotting elections were recognized before the election because it was the threat, rather than the Inkatha/opposition party actually carrying out the boycott, that facilitated their goal: beating the ANC party in the province, KwaZulu-Natal, the province that had lobbied for more autonomy. Inkatha leveraged its negotiating role because of threatening not implementing the boycott.

Since 2010, election boycotts continue to fare poorly. Algeria’s and Libya’s 2014 elections witnessed both a voter and party boycott.

  • Algeria: Six parties boycotted because they feared vote tampering would occur to guarantee the incumbent’s win. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, the incumbent (Abdel Aziz Bouteflika) won with even less opposition. 
  • Libya: In March 2014, Libya’s ethnic Amazigh decided to boycott Libya’s Constituent Assembly. Consequently,2 out of the 6 seats designated for the Amazigh remain empty and without a voice. 
  • Elections boycott does not achieve the goal of getting the contested party out of power. Unlike South Africa’s example where the threat of — not the actual boycott — proved successful.

When the opposition and voters boycott, they forget that elections are not just a one-time effort. There is always the next election cycle. So why sit on the sideline and relegate the party voice to “non-participant”?

In addition the danger on boycotting Elections are resorted to too easily and become less than exceptional events, thereby undermining the Constitutional process.

Concluding that boycott strategies tend to derail rather than promote democratization.

It bears repeating that the office of Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari was misled for saying that the death threat issued to members of the international community by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai was in the interest of the country.

El-Rufai had threatened that foreigners that look to intervene in Nigeria’s forthcoming election will leave in “body bags” while speaking on National Television Authority’s Tuesday Live.

“Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in body bags,” the Kaduna state governor said.

However, in defense of El-Rufai’s comments that has sparked reactions from the European Union (EU) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the office of the president said the Kaduna State governor spoke in defence of national security.

“There is nothing more to sneeze at. The Governor spoke strongly in defense of national interest. It is clear that El-Rufa’i, our party the APC and all its candidates have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.

It is the opinion of most observers that this statement from the President is a blanket call for violence. 

Already many groups have dispatched petitions to the World leaders to urge them to place travel bans on Elruffai and President Muhammadu Buhari and to hold the duo responsible should there be violence during the election.  

The platform has openly petitioned the Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai through the media to keep the Kaduna state governor under security watch because he is a war monger and for now a terror suspect. 

I will conclude by reminding Nigerians to look at the USA as we write whereby the Army has been deployed to protect the borders to stop the inflow of illegal aliens from Mexico. The US Army is also part of the Engineering corps that are setting up fences across the international borders of America. So there is nothing bad or sinister about deployment of the Nigerian Military for election security related roles and not to interfere directly in the actual conduct of the elections.  We must note that elections are also going to take place in high risk areas and such places that the armed boko haram terrorists are threatening to infiltrate the territory of Nigeria. We need to support the Army even as we watch them closely as they carry out the assignments during election to check any possible breach of the clear rules of engagements which bans the military from interfering directly with the conduct of the polls. Nigerians must be allowed to record proceedings during the polls so operatives who violate these legal precepts of non-interference in election are brought to trial as criminals and punished by the competent courts of law because no citizen is above the law. 

Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of Human rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.huriwanigeria.comwww.huriwa.blogspot.comwww.thenigerianinsidernews.com

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