Soldiers deployed to quell civil unrest in certain part of the country
Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, recently led other speakers to redefine the role of the military in a democracy at the annual celebration of the Press Week of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Oyo State chapter. Coming at a time the military has also reasserted its stand as a professional institution, both politicians and military appear to be on the same page for the collective good of all, writes Tunde Sanni
The nation’s return to participatory democracy has equally seen the military return to the barracks. All military officers that took active roles in the military enslavement of the nation were retired while a fresh lease of life was offered to junior officers who were all made to grow within the system and prove their mettle; subsume their loyalties to the civil authorities and content with their roles as the watchdog of the nation against external aggression.
But following the upsurge of heated political activities, violence and supposed politically sponsored bloodbaths, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people, the military was again called to task. But this time to return normalcy and sanity to those troubled areas and in collaboration with their related agencies as combined team.
However, the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and many other Nigerians do not appear pleased with the new roles assigned the military for purely civil matters and feared that such tendency has the factor of tempting the military to be power crazy.
But the outgoing Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Olusheyi Pitirin, recently allayed any such fears when he warned officials of the Nigerian armed forces to resist every temptation to go into politics. Petirin, who was among pull out of the armed forces at a ceremony in Abuja, the Nigeria’s capital, urged military officers to be steadfast in ensuring that recent security challenges confronting the nation is completely brought to a stop.
“Great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government: Whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing indulged in too long, by Federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be.
“These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution…Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory, that if you lose, the Nation will be destroyed, that the very obsession of your public service must be duty, honour, country. My colleagues leave governance to the politicians,” he added.
Petirin also noted that the Nigerian army experienced an inglorious period during military rule but that the advent of democracy has helped to return the institution to its place of pride.
“The Armed Forces I joined in July 1974 was comparable to the best in the world. However, it suffered a decline from about mid-1988, suffering a host of sustenance challenges up until the restoration of democracy in 1999. Since then, our military has experienced a steady growth from the depths it had hit, developing into the great force that serves our nation today. It hasn’t reached the peak yet, but along with the sustenance of the democratic system, it will surely get there.
“Whether we like it or not, the Armed Forces of Nigeria is the element of national power of choice available to the National Command Authorities in their effort at maintaining our nation’s primary national interest; the Unity and Cohesion of Nigeria. Looking back, the resurrection of our military was nothing short of remarkable. Determined leaders transformed what was described as ‘a pedestrian and demoralized and exhausted armed forces’ to a virile, strong and capable armed forces.”
The former CDS however pledged his continued support for the military whenever called upon and expressed confidence that the military will improve beyond where he has left it
But at the one week activities of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), to mark its 2012 press week themed “Military Involvement in Democratic Process” various speakers expressed their displeasure on the harrowing experiences of Nigerians during the reigns of the military and how they could be completely restricted to their barracks.
In a paper entitled, “The Role of The Military in Strengthening Democratic Process”, Amosun through his commissioner for Information, Yusuph Olaniyonu, noted that though military intervention in democratic process is no longer fashionable and has become a sacrilegious act in both national and international communities, the institution has great roles to play in the survival and growth of democracy in the nation’s polity.
The governor pointed out that the military as an institution is a major component of what constitutes a nation-state adding that a country that has no strong military is not worth being called a nation. He stressed that the military institution is sine qua non to the thriving of democratic system in any nation and identified its constitutional roles as strictly the defence of the territorial integrity of a country.
He observed that other roles the military could effectively play for the nation include; defending the nation’s unity, provision of leadership training, best force that can be used to instill patriotism, ensuring that the country is well governed by constantly contributing ideas on internal security, economic development, foreign affairs and political intelligence, fostering of inter-agency relationship, serving as an agent of strengthening democracy by taking stern measures to deter some of its men who are found of breaking the laws of the country, serve as vital agent of development by engaging in activities that can bring progress to the society like investing in research and development and contributing to the growth of democracy by continuing to improve on the professionalism of its members through constant training.
Amosun, however, said the only way the military could play such noble roles like their counterparts in developed societies is by subjecting themselves to the dictate of the constitution which embodies the sovereignty of the nation as well as democratic institutions and democratically elected authorities.
The governor maintained that the military remains a training ground for modern leaders in some of the oldest democracies, pointing out that in England, members of the English Royal Family must traditionally serve in the military. “That is why the possible heir to the English throne, Prince Williams is presently serving in the Royal Military Corps.”
He said until the emergence of President Bill Clinton, all post World War presidents of the United States of America served in the military.
Amosun therefore noted that the military was able to play the leadership role in advanced democracies “because they have subjected themselves to the dictates of the constitution which embodies the sovereignty of the nation. The military in advanced democracies remains relevant and respected by subordinating themselves to democratic institutions, democratically elected authorities and they operate only within constitutional frameworks and boundaries.
“This is the one way that the Nigerian military can continue to help in strengthening democracy. Our military must therefore return to their constitutional roles as the sentry for sustaining the sanctity of our territory. They must work to defend the constitution and the institutions created by our ground norm.
“Our military should take stern measures to deter some of its men who are fond of breaking the laws of our country. The military should move against those of its men who are fond of using their vantage position to terrorise and harass innocent citizens,” he said.
He sounded a note of caution that the nation should refrain from frequently deploying the military on assignments that are routine police duties emphasizing that the military should be a last resort in terms of quelling disturbances.
“The civil authorities should not use the military in situations where it will be obvious they are being abused or that the aim is merely to suppress political opponents or to perpetrate illegalities. This is not the best to positively engage the military and make them agents for strengthening democracy in our country,” he said.
While declaring open the event, host governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, in his key note address urged Nigerian journalists to be investigation conscious, stressing that without the members of the fourth estate of the realm holding Nigerian citizens accountable for their deeds as well as bringing all issues to the fore of the nation’s residents, the nation would not move forward. The governor who was represented by the state Commissioner for Information, Bosun Oladele added: “Where is investigative journalism? Where is objectivity in reporting? How does a nation progress without articulate and virile press? I leave you with this message as I declare the week opened.”
Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Honourable Monsurat Sumonu, on his part, pointed out that the military is not needed for anything especially in the monitoring of election process but that the nation might not be able to sideline them if civilians are not disciplined and committed to making things work within the ambit of the laws.
Senator Babajide Omoworare representing Osun East Senatorial District spoke on the theme: “The Military and Democracy in Nigeria, any synergy?” Coming two days later, Omoworare who aligned with Amosun’s position lamented the 28 years of rude and devastating military incursion into the nation’s politics and explained that the worse of democracy is far better than the best of Military, adding that the military regime no matter how “welfaristic” and people focused it may be is traditionally a jackboot authoritarian dictatorship with outright disconnect from the peoples.
According to him, no matter how pious and relaxed a military regime is, it remains a monster and the worse nightmare any human society can experience, adding that Nigerians are still licking the wounds and the devastation of the past even from those regimes that claim uprightness and doctrine of necessity to save the country from imminent collapse.
“Shall we begin a recount of several human right abuses with impunity, untamed embezzlement, wasteful spending, political and economic devastation among others? May this gone ugly past never rear its ugly heads again. One may ask, what is the relationship between light and darkness? Or assert that the military have no business in democracy, their place is the barrack,” he said.
Omoworare urged that to permanently keep the military in the barrack, the Federal Government must address all national questions including the alarming rate of violence and uprising and ensure that democratic institutions and political class concentrate on good governance.
“In my opinion, a general overhaul of the political mechanism of the federation is necessary. Over concentration of power at the centre makes governance and penetration of democratic dividends difficult. We must imbibe culture of best practices ideal to federalism through a comprehensive constitution review. As long as the centre holds the monopoly of control over fiscal and genuine federalism, we will always have crisis.”
Chairman, Ido Local Government, Professor Joseph Adeniyi Olowofela, a physicist, who spoke on “Community Involvement in Grassroots Politics”, held the people responsible for the ills in the society, pointing out that if everyone does what is expected of them as good citizens of the country, Nigeria will be a better place for all and sundry.
He, however, called for creations of more local governments which according to him would be the catalysts for developing the grassroots.
Soldiers deployed to quell civil unrest in certain part of the country