Insulating Security Agencies from Partisan Politics

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The involvement of security agencies in politics is an ill wind that blows no one any good

From the questionable attempt to retain a controversial Inspector -General of Police whose tenure has ended to the arrest and detention of some opposition figures over cases that had long been concluded with acquittal to the curious postings of some compromised officials by the State Security Services (SSS), and the freezing of accounts of states that are governed by the main opposition political party, Nigerians are concerned about the increasing involvement of the security agencies in partisan politics. If this trend continues unchecked, it poses a huge threat to both the effectiveness of these institutions and the future of our democracy.

The moment the military, DSS, police, the anti-corruption agencies and other institutions with responsibility for national security are seen as acting in promotion of one political party or another, the principle of equality before the law is eroded and so does their credibility. As the distrust of these institutions grow, citizens usually turn to gangs, vigilance groups and militias to protect themselves as it is increasingly becoming common across the country. With time, these national security agencies are then viewed as protecting friends and punishing enemies rather than upholding the laws of the nation. When that happens, anarchy is not too far away.

In Nigeria today, there are far too numerous cases of arbitrary exercise of power by the security agencies in pursuit of partisan political objectives, especially as we move towards the general elections. The recent decision by the DSS to quiz the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, over the conduct of the party primaries is a case in point. The primaries of a political party cannot be a matter for the DSS since the option for seeking redress by the aggrieved members of any political party was to go to court. Dabbling into what amounts to the internal affairs of the ruling party is an unjustifiable act of partisanship by a security outfit that should stay out of the fray.

Unfortunately, the police authorities are more brazen in this regard. Whatever may be the allegation against Senator Dino Melaye, it is not too difficult to read petty partisan politics to the disproportionate force deployed by the police against him. Similarly, the deployment of policemen to the residences of Senate President Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, with the aim of stopping them from entering the National Assembly in July last year was an act of political desperation since it coincided with the day some APC members in the National Assembly were to cross over to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Perhaps more worrisome is the multiplicity of anti-graft agencies of dubious agenda. For instance, the arrest last November in Abuja of the APC governorship candidate in Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma by the Okoi Obono-Obla led-committee over allegations of corruption beggars belief. That a mere committee would be effecting the arrest of citizens is an aberration in a society where the rule of law prevails.

Against the background of the growing apprehension that the security agencies might not be neutral during the coming general elections, the Civil Society Election Situation Room, represented by Mr Clement Nwankwo, recently raised concerns: “We are worried about the very prominent role that the security services are playing on our elections in a way that sometimes truncate INEC’s own arrangement and operational handling of the elections…the credibility of the 2019 elections will be determined largely by the activities of the security services, if they don’t pull back from partisanship,” Nwankwo said.

Given the foregoing, we hope President Muhammadu Buhari who has promised to bequeath credible polls will call to order heads of these security agencies who are acting like card-carrying members of the ruling party. The earlier they realise the damage they are doing to the system and retrace their steps, the better for all of us.