Why troops should be deployed for polls By Robert Obioha

Soldiers mount a roadblock along an highway in Ikeja district, during parliamentary elections in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos


If there is one issue that has generated undue controversy on the 2015 general elections in the country, it is the deployment of troops to provide security during the elections. Those, who opposed the deployment of soldiers for elections, especially the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) are against the idea simply because as they allege, it would lead to compromising the electoral process. Their main thesis is that since the federal government is in control of all security agencies in the country including the military, that troops’ deployment would the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) an advantage during the polls. In simple language, their argument is that the PDP would rig the polls using the soldiers. The party has cited the rumoured election rigging tape in respect of the recently conducted Ekiti gubernatorial poll won on a landslide by Governor Ayo Fayose.

While this allegation is still at the level of conjecture, it has not been proven to be correct hence Fayose challenged the opposition to go to the courts to prove it. Besides, the APC should not forget in a hurry that troops have been deployed in some of the polls that took place recently including those they won. They include the Edo, Anambra, Osun and Ekiti. APC won in Osun and Edo states even when troops were deployed and did not complain. Their complaint over that of Ekiti is not understandable. Election is a game that must be won and lost. There is no point for the loser to be alleging rigging only to adjudge a poll free only if it wins. That is the characteristic of a bad loser. In Nigeria, we have so many bad losers. They are found in almost all the parties. But if someone strongly feels that he was rigged out, definitely, the person has every right to approach the courts for redress. Nobody should resort to self-help or destruction of lives and property on account of losing an election. It is not part of the democratic culture.

Beyond the opposition’s argument for not accepting troops’ deployment, every right thinking Nigerian cannot wish away the imperative of troops’ deployment for our forthcoming elections. Apart from the insurgency we have at our hands in the North-East, the polity is so charged that a little disagreement can equally ignite violence. Our elections have been excessively violence-prone. We witnessed the killing of some Nigerians in the North including members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and other Nigerians who have no hand in what was at stake.

This article is in full support of deploying troops for the polls. One point is that troops will protect the electoral materials and the lives of Nigerians that will troop out to vote. Another point is that the present police strength of about 350,000 personnel will not be adequate enough for a general election like ours where the political space has been somewhat militarized. The presence of soldiers before, during and after the polls will prevent miscarriage of justice and undue violence that has characterized our polls in recent times. Non-deployment of troops will make the polls witness voter apathy, ballot snatching, rigging and other ills. Although, the constitution has no provision for deployment of troops for election purposes, Section 217 (1) (c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states clearly that the armed forces can be deployed in duties including “suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.” Maybe providing security duties during elections is one of such instances that the president can deploy troops to ensure peace and security. While the recent Appeal Court ruling by Justice Abdul Aboki in Abuja was against deployment of troops in election matters as it violates Section 217 (2) (c) of the Constitution, the 2015 polls will not be conducted effectively and clearly without deployment of adequate number of troops if our recent experiences in gubernatorial elections in some states are anything to go by. The President has the right to deploy troops if he feels that there will be breach of peace and security in any part of the country. Let him explore all legal means to ensure that troops are deployed for the polls. Already, there are such fears of possible breach of peace over the polls. However, the government and the military authorities should allay the fears of the opposition and assure them that troops’ deployment is for security and not for election rigging. After all, one of the major reasons for shifting the polls was for the military to be able to ensure security during the polls, especially in the troubled North-East region. This is one Nigerian election that should not be bungled. To ensure that it is free, clean and credible, all security agents including soldiers should be deployed to ensure adequate security. Anything less is an invitation to anarchy.

Let Peter Obi be

The defection of former Anambra State governor, Chief Peter Obi, to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is indeed within his right to do so. He has taken time to explain why he left the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and his reasons are explanatory enough.

Therefore, it is hard to place why the same Obi is being vilified in a documentary early in the week on some local television stations over his vow not to defect to another political party but later did.

As the only APGA governor in the country even before Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State came on board and later went to All Progressives Congress (APC), Obi has maintained a cordial relationship with Aso Rock that eventually led to his being appointed into the federal economic council. At times, there is no clear line of demarcation between APGA and PDP.

In 2011, APGA did not field a presidential candidate, but supported Jonathan. Even after Obi left APGA for PDP over some irreconcilable differences between him and APGA leadership, the party still roots for GEJ. And there is nothing wrong in that.Therefore, there is no basis whatsoever for the said unwarranted documentary.

Truly, defection is allowed in Nigeria provided there is a crisis in the party that would warrant one to cross-carpet. Therefore, Obi did not commit a sin or betray anyone simply because he defected. There is even no point making an issue over it. Defection is normal in Nigerian politics and is indeed part of its peculiarities.

Obi should not be demonized over defection and his support for GEJ as the documentary suggests. Nobody should begrudge him. Politics is about choices. Obi has made his choice and it should be respected.

Interestingly, the APGA government he left behind in Anambra is equally doing well under Governor Willy Obiano, so there is no cause for alarm.