Ekhomu: When you bring military to police, there is bound to aberration
A Security Consultant, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, in this chat with GBENGA SALAU, rationalised why the military is seen to be corrupt when they come into the public space for civil duties.
The military is perceived as a highly disciplined unit, yet when they come into public space for civil duties, they put up acts of indiscipline, why is it so?
We need to look at the military as a complex organisation in a complex society. What do I mean by that, the military has many service members, and generally from time immemorial, they, as a body, have been subjected to discipline, because they have monopoly of coercive force. And if you have coercive force monopoly, you must be disciplined, so that the coercive force is not misused. And such force should only be used in furtherance of the interest of the state. Not as we had in the early 60s, where there were military takeovers of government, just because someone has command of troops, meanwhile, you do not know how to govern.
However, if we must talk about the discipline in the military, we must talk about the recent Nigeria history, where in the whole of Africa, especially, West Africa, became a rash where governments were overthrown on a daily basis by the military. And that was the height of military indiscipline. But after their foray into political governance, they have found that they really do not have what it takes to run a democratic state and thank God, activists like Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome-Kuti stood up against military rule and they decided to go back to the barrack.
The kind of indiscipline we see, BRT buses being vandalized, Military-Police clash like the one that happened in the IDP camp, those are the things that would normally come, because any time you have service members mixing with the civil populace, those things come along with it.
And that is why many years ago, I think 1865, the US passed a law that prohibits using the military for the policing of the civil populace. In other words, the use of military in a civil populace is an aberration; it is a no, no. This is, because the military is not a policing agency, but a force. It is the politicians that use diplomacy, just like the Police, which is why they are a civil organisation. But any time you bring the military to police the population, there is bound to be aberration. That is how we got the mad dog syndrome, when an Air force guy beats up Abiola, because he alleged that Abiola called him and his colleagues mad dogs. So, you will have those kinds of abuses.
How come corruption has also entered the military?
The looting of public fund like Abacha did is because, as the head of state, he had access to public fund. And you should not forget that the military are to conquer the enemy and when they conquer, they loot the enemy, they satisfy themselves with the spoils of war. So, after the war, they feel they are entitled to women, money, whatever goodies out there. Therefore, Abacha behaved that way because he was seeing Nigeria, as being conquered and as the president he had access to wealth. However, if he had not died, probably a lot of this would not have come out.
On the Dasukigate, he was not a military officer when he looted what he was alleged to have looted. He was a lowly retired colonel and I questioned his appointment, wondering why he was appointed with many great generals and private security persons in Nigeria, it is the knowledge they bring to the position that is important. He is only alleged, but as a scholar, I am to keep an open mind.
It is known everywhere that when you involve the military in governance, there are abuses and it is because of the way the military operates; their thinking and mindset. That is the way they are.
How do we curb these abuses?
The way to curb those abuses is to remove a situation where you have the military policing the general populace. It is a no, no, no. Yet, when those robbers and kidnappers come or just like the militants terrorising Ogun and Lagos now, it is only the military that can checkmate them because if you send the Police there, they will be used for pepper soup. And this is unfortunate, which implies that the capability of the Police must be boosted, to be able to take care of internal security. Right now, they cannot do that and it is unfortunate. That is where the real problem is. The military will continue to interface if the capacity of the Police is not built to take care of internal security.