2019 and security agencies preparedness
Last week, doubts over the neutrality of security operatives ahead of the 2019 general election were openly voiced by elder statesman, Edwin Clark, and Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state.
Both leaders bluntly excoriated security operatives as a threat to the February polls. Governor Nyisom Wike of Rivers State subsequently corroborated this position describing the Nigeria Army as “a political weapon against defenceless Nigerians,” remarks that were countered by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as “infantile.”
Barely 24 hours after the damning remarks, some personnel of the Nigerian Police were fingered in a shootout at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Uyo, in a botched attempt to impeach Governor Emmanuel Udom.
While many were still horrified by the involvement of policemen in attempts to remove a sitting governor, the military invaded Tai in Rivers State and whisked away over 100 trainees of the state Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency, NSCA, branding them ethnic militia.
Back in Abuja, the arrest and detention of a civil liberty activist and vocal critic of Buhari’s administration, Deji Adeyanju and two others on charges of defamation, criminal defamatory and derogatory conduct against constituted authority and others, smacks of an increasingly intolerant public agency.
With swelling allegations of targeting political opponents to the ruling party and what appears to be a clamp down on dissent, the antecedents of security operatives exude misgivings to anyone wishing to relish the conduct of a free, fair and credible election, going into 2019.
Except for the assurances at several fora by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and President Muhammadu Buhari, the public display of political leaning by Service Chiefs while attending the president’s declaration, leaves the opposition to the conclusion that there’s no hope of a level playing field.
Anyone genuinely interested in the survival of Nigeria’s democracy must interrogate a system that has encouraged the wanton display of impunity by security operatives and imposed on its citizens a shaky faith that is gradually building up over the 2019 polls.
Last elections conducted in Ekiti and Osun States, as well as bye elections in Kwara and Bauchi states are still fresh in our minds with allegations of voter intimidation, disenfranchisement, aiding and abetting vote buying, and intimidation of the press, which are averse to all known professional standards.
If security operatives were not lacking in the zeal to protect Nigeria’s democracy, the several bye elections should only serve to adequately prepare them for the 2019 general election, and correct errors committed in the process.
While authorities of the force have restated their preparedness for the polls, there’s need to be more professional and apolitical.
Without doubt, the centrality of security to the conduct of any election cannot be wished away as it represents a positive force to ensure sanity in the process.
But one disturbing trend in the build up to 2019 is the rate of turnover of commissioners of police in states administered by the opposition, which raises a lot of suspicion.
On one hand, there is heightened insecurity in some states like Borno which would require better security for elections to be conducted.
With a security budget of N53.2 billion approved by the Senate for the 2019 elections, and recent increase of police emoluments and allowances, it is imperative to ensure hitch-free funding of the operations of the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, the Department of State Services, DSS, the National Intelligence Service, NIS and all who are saddled with the duty of ensuring incident-free polls.
As we approach this election, security agencies must offer equal treatment to all Nigerians irrespective of party leanings; while politicians and their followers must imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship and play by the rules to forestall any confrontation with armed security personnel.