Security operatives must work within the law, writes Oludayo Tade
Post-colonial realities in Nigeria and the ascendancy and sustenance of political merchants in corridors of power have sustained the reproduction of similar faults and errors. In the area of election shifting, it has progressed from weeks’ to month and the latest one came like a thief in the night. It was similar to inviting people for wedding ceremonies with the bride and groom only sending text messages to inform guests who had arrived the venue that the wedding had been shifted because the officiating pastor cited unfulfilled rites. I won’t talk about the loss in investment of Nigerians who had planned to make some profits while selling for those who will come out to vote. The billions of naira spent by political parties on agents, accommodation and security had gone down the drain. Some university lecturers mobilised as collation and returning officers had left for their assigned locations on Friday to enable them have free movement because INEC could not get sufficient election duty pass to them. What about the future leaders—corps members who historically have been treated badly. Their own treatment merits ‘Now Your Suffering Continues’ (NYSC). How do you then expect a cohort of young people treated like slaves to first think about Nigeria and not themselves when they can see what Nigeria continue to offer them in terms of low quality education, zoo-like hostels in schools and NYSC camps and even on election duty? What about those who have had to postpone their weddings because of February 16 and March 2 and have had to shift to February 23 and March 9? Consider migration costs and losses; think about the implication of a shut-down Saturday economy in Nigeria. As usual, no one is guilty, no one is punished. The worthless treatment of Nigeria and Nigerians is to continue.
As the ‘maradonic’ INEC chairman battles to fix his ‘logistic’ problems within a week, the converted democrat and President of our Federal Republic at the APC caucus meeting reportedly ordered security agencies to be ruthless with ballot box snatchers. He would also extend the ruthlessness to ‘local champions’ who think they can lead thugs to disrupt elections. Rather than impress it on law enforcement agents to ensure that the treatment of electoral offenders must follow the provisions contained in the electoral act, Mr President would prefer to borrow the caustic tongue of the man in Khaki. Consulting thesaurus, ‘ruthless’ also means ‘cold-blooded’, ‘merciless’, brutal, cruel, callous, pitiless, unfeeling, hard-nosed to mention but a few. It is not only the order of Mr President that is scary, what is troubling in this season of elections is the ability of the security to properly interpret and/or convert this order in dealing with the ‘saints’ and ‘sinners’. Perceived enemies of the incumbent may face ruthless treatments. Areas where the incumbent party are unpopular may witness hardnosed security men designed to unleash cruel treatment to law-abiding civil populace. I recall the ruthless treatments in Ekiti and Osun in 2018. Experience with this 20-year old democracy has shown that ex-military men and their relatives in power are unlikely to reference constitution in their dealings with the people. During the Obasanjo era came the ‘do-or-die’ politics with untoward consequences on hapless Nigerians who became victims of ruthless ideological state apparatuses. In 2015, the national leader of the ruling broom party in the southwest was most popular with his ‘rig and roast’ threat. There is another who feels no one should question him. He is the constituted authority. He treats people without reference to law but wants people to reverence him in relation to what constitution bestowed in him. Recall the ‘go and die’ pronouncement of a former labour, Governor in faraway Edo State and now Chairman of the 4+4=8 party to that poor woman on the street.
Mr President needs to know that such pronouncement further emboldens the already dreaded security agencies in Nigeria. Our security men are daily accused of human rights abuses. Trigger happy police, army, customs, immigration kill for pittance let alone with executive backing order. Furthermore, the directive paves way for the extortion and exploitation of voters at the slightest opportunity by the security men during coming polls. Snatching ballot boxes is a criminal offence and there is administration of criminal justice that must be followed.
We have languished too much in the wilderness of slavery that those in power see their pronouncements only from their point of view without deep introspect of the spiral and multiple interpretations to which it can be reconstructed. Did the President order ruthless treatment to the thugs who unleashed terror during the declaration of Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos state? Political parties undertake their campaigns with contracted political thugs with law enforcement agencies but they never get arrested. These principalities are allowed to live with us because they are useful for the parasitic elites in power. Local warriors and intimidators are contracted by politicians to terrorise under the watchful eyes of law enforcers. Even when they are arrested, a phone call gets them back to the streets where they continue to unleash terror. Mr President must learn to talk with the constitution and not outside of it.
To sum up, I strongly feel that the postponement of the polls has affected both the ruling and main opposition parties in their calculations of being victorious. They are now more desperate than before and will continue to utter accusation and counter accusation. These are signs that both are not certain of victory. All actors must therefore watch their tongues. While INEC must ensure that the processes leading to the outcome remain clean, free and fair, the security agents must not do the bidding of candidates. They must protect Nigerians who come out to legitimately cast their votes. We must treat all persons mobilised to participate in the elections as humans and not slaves. This is how they will be shielded from being compromised. If Mr President wins, the next level is to use the constitution which he is finding difficult to work with. If it is Atiku, Nigeria must work again by upholding the rule of law, and fundamental human rights of citizens. Both leading parties must jettison do-or-die politics or snatch-and-die directive. All Nigerians want is a peaceful atmosphere for them to speak with their votes.
Dr Tade, a sociologist sent this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org