By Ifeanyi Izeze
The rhetoric is local but the message is global that there is an evolving pattern of behaviour of our top military commands (particularly Nigerian Army) that is becoming characteristic and needs an urgent attention to redress before it becomes the status quo.
Now it’s no longer just a domestic argument that the leadership of the Nigerian Army either because of perpetual gilts and other temptations needs some lessons on “back to basics,” as the international community has raised alarm on the force radical programme either by omission or outright design to militarise Nigeria’s democracy.
If the UK and EU governments that were invited by the federal government to monitor our elections criticised the direct involvement and misdemeanour of army officers during the election in Rivers state or any other part of the country, is it the duty of the Chief of Army Staff/Army spokesperson or the Minister of External Affairs/Presidency to reply to those governments?
It may look trivial but it’s not that the army under a democracy now talks directly to foreign governments on issues that borders on diplomatic relations between Nigeria and those countries.
How do explain that the Nigerian Army on its own went ahead to warn foreign governments against interfering in what it calls “Nigeria’s domestic issues”, describing a statement credited to United Kingdom, which accused the military of undue involvement in the governorship election in Rivers State as baseless, untrue and capable of misleading unsuspected members of the public?
The army in a statement entitled: “Re: UK expresses concern over military involvement in Rivers poll,” made available to the media, by its spokesman, the Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, warned that any allegation against the army by foreign governments must be confirmed from “appropriate quarters” before jumping to conclusions.
As said, “Foreign interests are, therefore, enjoined to be mindful of interfering in our national internal affairs, especially when there is no credible evidence.
“Any allegation against the Nigerian Army must be confirmed from appropriate quarters before jumping to conclusions. The Nigerian Army, as a responsible organisation, wishes to debunk such misrepresentation in order to set the record straight.”
The question to ask is: when some of these same foreign governments and observer missions pass their verdicts on the presidential election, did they require confirmation from “appropriate quarters”? And by the way, what does the army mean by appropriate quarters- army spokesperson, Chief of Army/Defence Staff or the Presidency?
Whether the army wants to hear this or not is immaterial, the actions of its personnel in breach of their conventional code of conduct in Rivers State were very widespread, loud and visible as recorded in videos and shared on several social and conventional media platforms. So which other evidence is the army high command looking for before accepting that its officers and men not only intimidated and harassed foreign observers but were caught on camera hijacking ballot boxes by themselves and also provided cover for some thugs that did the same during the election?
It is laughable that the Army could allege that intelligence available to it revealed political thugs wore military uniform to perpetrate crimes during both the Feb 23 presidential election and March 9 elections in Rivers state. This is a mere cover up of outright licentious behaviour which is now becoming characteristic of its officers and men taking orders from their command and control centres.
As alleged by the army, “Credible intelligence available to the army confirmed the kitting of political thugs with military uniform and arming of same to impersonate soldiers and perpetrate various crimes in the furtherance of the activities of their political bosses.
“These thugs were wrongly viewed as real military personnel on various social media channels thereby bringing the reputation of the Nigerian Army on several occasions to disrepute. The army understands that most civilians caught in the callous onslaught of these murderous thugs might not be able to distinguish between genuine soldiers from impersonators, especially when they were armed with military-type weapons.”
The military should tell us whether it is no longer an offence for civilians to wear full army uniforms, carry guns and ride in army number-plated trucks and pickups. Why did the genuine soldiers collaborate with (and not confront) the fake soldiers in their state wide escapades?
Is the army saying the thugs wore military uniform, carried well labelled Nigerian army AK-47 and K-2 rifles and were using well-numbered army trucks (Tata and Hilux) also provided by politicians? Was the GOC of the 6th Division that personally led the team that occupied the INEC office and harassed foreign and local observers in Port Harcourt, also a fake soldier?
The soldiers in vehicles numbering about 20 that stormed the palace of Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom, Ateke Tom, were they also fake soldiers? Five guests of the monarch were reportedly arrested and taken to Bori Camp, was that also done by fake army officers?
The team that went to Buguma to arrest Asari Dokubo in his family home, were they fake soldiers also armed and kitted by politicians? Haba!
It is curious that many Nigerians are not seeing what is unfolding. They deceive themselves by believing that it only happened in Rivers state and some other states in the South –south, without acknowledging that it is a well-crafted template that is going to spread across the country if not checked now. Mark my word!
All the observer missions, foreign and local cannot be accusing the military if they did not observe involvement of soldiers in what the military should not be involved in. We should not forget that The EU observer mission also accused the Nigerian Army of being at the “centre of voter fraud in the volatile Rivers state elections,” Saying “observers, including EU observers, were denied access to collation centres in Rivers, by military personnel. This lack of access for observers compromises transparency and trust in the process.”
The army top command is just insulting the intelligence of Nigerians. So we now need to ask for the identity card of a soldier before we recognize him/her as genuine? The Nigerian Army has become a huge joke under the Buratai and Buhari leadership and the earlier we insist they go for lessons on “back to basics”, the better for this country and its democracy. God bless Nigeria!!
IFEANYI IZEZE: [email protected]