Army vows to crush polls violence
• IBB warns against denigrating Armed Forces
• Police read riot act to quasi security operatives
• Ban vigilance group, others in Kano over elections
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen. Kenneth Minimah, yesterday, warned those plotting to scuttle Saturday’s presidential election to rethink or face a very hard response from the military.
In the same vein, former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd) yesterday frowned at what he called attempts by some persons working for one of the two leading candidates for the forthcoming elections to cast aspersions on former rulers of the country and denigrate the military as an institution.
In Abeokuta, Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun yesterday advised the electorate not to allow the on-going deployment of soldiers deter them from casting their votes. Amosun, in a statement in Abeokuta, said, although it was abnormal to deploy armed soldiers for supervision of civil acts like the voting process, the soldiers, like other security agents, were being deployed to ensure peaceful elections.
The newly-deployed Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Austin Evbakhavbokun, said his command would not recognise state-sponsored quasi or pseudo security operatives during the election.
In Kano State, the police also banned local security agencies from playing any role whatsoever in the elections. Security officers attached to public officers would also not be allowed to move around the units during elections.
At a press briefing yesterday in Abuja by the acting Director Army Public Relations (DAPR), Lt Col. Sani Usman, Minimah, who was at the event briefly, clarified the thorny issue of military participation in the elections, especially in relation to the ruling by a Lagos High Court that the Army do not have a role to play during the election.
Minimah said although he was not supposed to be part of the media briefing, the question of providing security during the polls calls for clarification its simple nature notwithstanding. Because soldiers have been participating in assisting other security agencies during previous elections in the country, they neither carry election materials nor are stationed at the poling booths.
The Army chief told journalists that he could “interpret it (court ruling) further, this is not your first elections; you have seen several elections in Nigeria. And you have seen soldiers providing security for the elections.
Have you seen soldiers at polling booths; have you seen soldiers counting ballots or carrying ballot material papers boxes or whatever. “I will appeal to law abiding Nigerians to come out en masse to vote for candiates of their choice without fear of intimidation, without fear for their safety.
It is their right to vote and whoever wants to provoke or invoke violence, will meet organised violence waiting for him. Citing the United States’ elections that polarised the country along partisan lines but never threatened its peaceful coexistence, Minimah advised politicians and their followers to maintain the peace in the country and ensure free elections.
He added: “l do not envisage any issues, because this is just an election and will come and go — though we know there are also elements within the political class that will not want a normal election process to come and be put behind us.” Usman maintained that the success of the Army in the current fight against insurgency in the Northeast could not be wished away by circulating falsehood.
“The Nigerian Army has continued to acquire new equipment to prosecute the ongoing campaign against Boko Haram terrorists and other criminal elements. Troops are now being trained locally and overseas in the handling of this equipment and to increase capacity.’’
In a statement in Minna, his spokesman, Kassim Afegbua, said Babangida was reacting to an hour documentary aired on one of the private television station on Tuesday, March 24, where he, along side his former military rulers such as Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari, the late Sani Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma were painted in bad light.
The statement noted in part: “In clear attempts to whip up support for President Goodluck Jonathan, certain persons, groups and individuals have embarked on several campaigns of calumny against former military Heads of State and presidents who have had the opportunity to govern this country.
“Of particular reference is a one-hour documentary aired on Silverbird Television on Tuesday night; March 24, 2015 that deliberately impugned the integrity of Obasanjo, Buhari, my humble self; Abacha, Abubakar, and Danjuma; all of whom have had the privilege of presiding over the affairs of this great country at various levels. It is either that those promoting the hate documentary are intellectually delinquent or they suffer memory loss; or a combination of both.
“I have my very strong reservations about the contents and thematic focus of the said documentary. Apart from promoting hate campaign, which clearly undermines the modest contributions of these former presidents, the commentaries in the documentary against the former presidents leave a sour taste in the mouth.
“While nobody is stopping anyone from campaigning for their preferred candidates contesting various positions in the elections, but to do that at the expense of the reputation, contributions, patriotism, loyalty and sacrifice of former presidents to the Nigerian state is, to say the least, immature.
“For record purposes, and without sounding immodest, the idea of a PDP that has now become the “largest party in Africa” started in my home, here in Minna. With the support of my fellow colleagues. We prepared the way for this democratic process that has now led us to where we are presently. We built the democratic infrastructure and architecture.
“Those who are parading themselves as democrats today all participated in military governments. As a deliberate principle of remaining unsung, or blowing my own trumpet, I have elected over the years to maintain dignified silence on so many issues concerning Nigeria while I cultivate my access to each sitting President to pass across my advice in whatever form.”
According to Babangida, the military was an integral part of the country and saw nothing wrong with retired military rulers venturing into politics to serve their motherland. Therefore, he said it was callous, wicked, out-of-sync, cynical and a show of crass ignorance for anyone to undermine the military institution by embarking on mudslinging campaigns against former presidents and leaders of military background.
He said: “The military is an institution that is so dear to my heart. It is an institution that nurtured my growing up and my achievements in life. I am not only sold to the military institution and, by extension, the Nigerian state, I am betrothed to it. As a profession, retirees are bound to participate in politics and democracy as an all-inclusive process, same way that doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, and civil servants get involved in it. It is the reason I ventured into politics in 2003 before I quit in 2010.
“It is the same reason General Obasanjo participated and got elected; and now General Buhari. It is therefore very curious that promoters of President Goodluck Jonathan’s aspiration would attempt to demonise and stigmatise former military leaders and cast aspersions on them in order to malign their reputation. This is very unfair.
“Fact is; the military fought a civil war to keep this country together. What I suffer today is a consequence of the injuries I sustained during the Nigeria Civil War. I am not sure there is any patriotism that is more than that. Some of us were prepared to die for the country.
The military is presently combating the dreaded Boko Haram sect to restore Nigeria’s territorial integrity. What law under a democracy forbids retired military personnel from participating in politics and presenting themselves for election? “While those campaigners are pointing their accusing fingers at us, they forget to recall that the present Director-General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation is actually a retired military officer,” he added.
Speaking with journalists after the state inter agency consultative committee on election security, the Kano State Commissioner of Police, Ibrahim Idris, said “men of Hisbah board, Kano Rroad Transport Agency, KAROTA Vigilante, Boys Scout or Man o War will not be allowed to dress in uniforms or be engaged on any activity during election.”
Idris insisted that security operatives authorised to participate in electoral activity include military, immigration, customs, Nigerian security and civil defense corps and the police.
Contrary to earlier statement of the IGP, Idris hinted that voters are permitted to stay about 300 meters away from the polling units if they so desire after voting. But the commissioner of Police maintained that no person aside the accredited party agents would be allowed to witness activity at the collation centres at the wards and state levels.
Evbakhavbokun, during his maiden press briefing in Owerri, yesterday, also warned all the state security outfits to steer clear from the various polling booths, adding that his officers and men would not spare any of them found to be parading themselves during the elections.
He said: “This command will not recognise any quasi security by any name. We are only going to work with security officers, Civil Defence Corps, NDLEA, SSS, FRSC and others recognised by law.”