By Richard Murphy
I trust Lt. Gen, TY Buratai, the Chief Of Army Staff and leader of Nigeria’s counter-insurgency operations. He is a man worth the trust. He first earned my trust when he punished scores of solders who played undemocratic roles in the 2014 governorship elections in Ekiti state. They were punished for professional misconduct and acts inimical to the striving of democracy in Nigeria. It is his mindset and expectations from the Army Personnel he is leading.
I know the strength he has put into reforming and repositioning the Army into a decent and respected institution. When the Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces,President Muhammadu Buhari issued an order, asking security agents or the Army particularly to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers or election riggers some professional election riggers panicked. They wailed loudly or are making distractive noise.
But it is needless for anybody to panic. The immutable truth can be gleaned from the antecedents of Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army, when it is brought into perspective. Under his watch the Army has remained apolitical, neutral and completely subordinated to civil authority. They obey every norm of civil community.
And preparatory to the first round of the coming ballot, I was impressed to know that Gen. Buratai has not deviated from his famed culture and reflection of a re-professionalized Army. He met with the Army’s principal staff officers, general officers commanding and brigade commanders and briefed or reminded them on what is expected of soldiers during the national elections.
And he issued unambiguous directives to soldiers who may want to become part of the herds of politicians in Nigeria to resign their membership of the Nigerian Army to become active partisans. I consider this as good tidings and what should console Nigerians interested in free, fair and credible elections.
We must understand that the task of repositioning Nigeria to the country of our dream is our collective responsibility. Everyone of us has a role to play. And the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Gen. Buratai is also doing its beat by safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and enforcing discipline or inculcating the mentality of respect to constituted civil authority in Army personnel.
I have no scintilla of doubt that the Army are discharging their obligation to the country loyally and patriotically. And it is anchored on two operational cardinal objectives. Every soldier now knows our democracy must survive and in the special assignments that are drafted to assist civil security, the human rights of the citizens must be held sacrosanct.
The Nigerian Army has not flinched even for a second in providing the needed support the Police, DSS, Civil Defence to effectively function in their duties of securing Nigeria. So, I think no one should have anything to fear if there is no ulterior motive. I am sure those gripped with a phobia of the Army are politicians who are sponsoring electoral thuggery. And for their agents; that is, the thugs, ballot snatchers and indeed, those who attempt to compromise security and the electoral process, it’s certainly a bad market for them. The Gen. Buratai I know will not give them breathing space.
We have living witnesses to what the Army did in the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states. The Army never spilled a blood. It only ensured scaremongers and electoral thieves are chained so that citizens freely exercised their franchise peacefully. In the elections too, I foresee nothing different. So, Nigerians deliberately de-marketing the Army or those who have indulged in smear campaigns against soldiers are just inherently evil. They are the terrorists and should not deserve our sympathy.
A terrorist is not only someone who finds himself in a place like Sambisa forest or the plains of the Northeast with bombs or other explosives alone. But our country has known and experienced electoral terrorists who torment the the people on election days; they are those who snatch ballot boxes at gun point. They have been the source of electoral apathy in Nigeria. These are characters who freely violate the constitution of Nigeria or debase or even disregard laws which guide public sanity. We are aware of elements like those in IPOB or the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN ). Their adherents are still armed and hired on election days to do odious jobs.
I don’t think any responsible government would watch and clap its hands for criminals who brag in public that they are not subject to the laws of the land; and that they will not obey Nigerian constitution. We must not allow this to continue. And Gen. Buratai has come to our rescue.
They have said many times that they do not believe in the authority of the Commander -in –Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces. They are the secret and overt warlords threatening our security, peace and unity. We see their shadows in Boko Haram insurgents. And sadly, we are beginning to also see their images in the desperate agents of PDP. They are hell-bent on frustrating or messing-up everything that President Buhari has achieved in building our democracy.
I cannot understand the desperation of PDP to rig the elections at all cost. This manifestation of PDP is worse than what Boko Haram and other insurrectionists have done to the Nigerian nation. The satanic quest of PDP led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and some Governors to return an Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to power is quite funny. So, it is this desperation that has compelled them to drag the military into their political permutations despite its apolitical nature. But they will not succeed. Nigerians are alert.
I want to say, the fear of ballot box snatching is real and every Nigerian looks up to the Army to be able to provide the needed security support for us to exercise our franchise. I therefore plead with the PDP and its apostates to allow the Nigerian Army focus on its role and responsibilities, as those who have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear.
I know Gen. Buratai as a professional soldier, a loyal officer, a patriotic country man and a refined promoter of human rights of all citizens. Millions of law abiding citizens can attest to his character. And he has done so much to redefine the pedigree and character of an average soldier in Nigeria today.
It is on record that our troops have not unlawfully engaged any citizen in any arms’ struggle. We know this much. Even in Rivers state sometime, in 2016 when militants opened fire on troops during a rerun election, the Army didn’t retaliate, but rather fished out the criminals and handed them over to the police for lawful prosecution. That is the quintessential Gen. Buratai any day you find him. In the next general elections commencing this Saturday, the Army will act in same manner.
Murphy is a security expert based in Calabar.