By Don Udeike
I am not one that partakes in mediocrity. I am also not one that encourages others to be mediocre. I say this because the general elections have come and gone and as usual words, merchants have begun to ply their trades on behalf of their principals that includes some of those that lost in their respective political bids.
In this article, I have decided to dwell on two critical institutions that made the headlines during the elections, and they are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigerian Army (NA). These two institutions if you would agree with me were on the front pages of the newspapers all through the election period.
For INEC, it is understandable because it was the electoral umpire and as such its activities were always scrutinized especially when it shifted the presidential polls by one week. It was, therefore, no surprise that in spite of the reforms it has implemented and is still implementing, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was taken to the cleaners for even shortcomings that are not of its making.
But for the Nigerian Army, its activities were viewed with suspicion before the elections with the commissioning of the Situation Room to monitor the security situation around the country during the polls online and real-time and also the commencement of Operation Python Dance nationwide to ensure that the elections were peaceful. It is therefore not surprising that the Nigerian Army was at the receiving end of hostile propaganda because troops were deployed for election duty.
The strange thing about the sceptical view of the involvement of the Nigerian Army in the elections stems from two things in my opinion. Our experience with the military during the military era. And two the mentality that the Nigerian army still does things the brute way not minding whose ox is gored.
Having stated this, I think Nigerians need a mind-set reorientation on the Nigerian Army in this dispensation. Nigerians need to know that just as times have changed, the Nigerian Army has also changed, especially within the last four years of this present administration and with such a seasoned officer like Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai as the Chief of Army Staff.
I recall that I was one of those that initially faulted the involvement of the Nigerian Army in the 2019 General election on the premise that the Nigerian Police and other civil authorities could handle whatever security challenges that would arise in the course of the elections. But I was wrong, and I quickly retraced my steps given the enormity of the task and the desperation exhibited by some politicians who felt that they had already won the elections.
And as usual, the opposition held unto just one part of the stick and forgot that a stick has two sides. They held on to the part that the Nigerian Army was involved in the election process and they refused to see the benefits of the involvement of the Nigerian Army in ensuring that the elections were credible, free and fair.
Today that the elections are over, what has now flooded the airwaves is the 2019 elections were militarised, and I wondered what they meant. The opposition party went to town with the propaganda to systematically rubbish the impact of the involvement of the Nigerian Army in the elections to give an impression that the polls were not credible, free and fair. But it didn’t fly. I say it didn’t fly because of the accolades that have poured in as regards the fact that but for the involvement of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria would have witnessed doomsday.
I stand to be corrected that we today live in peace even after a major election is indeed a testament of the invaluable role the Nigerian Army played in ensuring that the polls were indeed credible, free and fair. For example, in states likes Rivers, and Zamfara, the Nigerian Army were even victims, they were loathed by the government of these states and made life unbearable for officers and soldiers on election duty. But in all of these, it didn’t stop them from carrying out their duties in a most professional manner and concerning human rights. This is the new Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.
A new Nigerian Army that has repositioned for greater exploits in line with global best practices as exemplified during the just concluded general elections, and a Nigerian Army that embraces critical thinking in its operations. I recall that sometime in 2017, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai launched three books on Critical Thinking as part of efforts to enhance the capacity of Nigerian Army’s personnel in creativity and innovation in modern warfare.
In the words of the Chief of Army Staff, “it is now a fact that the adversaries being engaged by most militaries are becoming wiser and more unpredictable. Therefore, to be ahead of them, militaries must ensure they have an adaptive mind-set that is realistic, open and unassuming, which no doubt requires the need to be aware of biases, logical fallacies, and assumptions. Thus, the concept of Critical Thinking is a necessity for future leaders of which the Nigerian Army is poised to be in the vanguard of the learning.” If this is not brilliant, I wonder what else to say. In a way, it gives us a peep into the mind of the Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai and by extension how he has transformed the Nigerian Army into a better and more proactive organization poised to deliver on its core mandate of protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
The way and manner the Nigerian Army has transformed within four years leave much to be imagined on the capacity and leadership style of the Chief of Army Staff who has only demonstrated that indeed things can be done quite better in Africa. I think that other African countries should take a cue from the present day Nigerian Army in terms of operational effectiveness, civil-military relations, respect for the rule of law, respect for human rights and others too numerous to mention.
And only recently, the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria Mr Abhay Thakur in company of the Indian Defence Attaché to Nigeria, Colonel Derby Sachen paid a working visit to the Chief of Army Staff at the Army headquarters, where he described the role of the NA during the elections as professional and patriotic which is in line with global best practice and promised to sustain cooperation with the NA in the areas of training, defence procurement and sharing of intelligence that will assist Nigeria in the ongoing fight against terrorism.
Also, the newly appointed Commanding General United State Army Africa (USARAF), Major General Roger Cloutier paid a working visit to the Chief of Army Staff, where he commended the Nigerian Army's efforts in curbing contemporary security challenges especially the Boko Haram terrorism.
So in a way, the myth of militarization of the elections is uncharitable to say the least because but for the intervention of the Army, there would still not be a country given the fact that in some places, the military was called to the rescue of the police and they were able to save the day.
This much has been highlighted by scholars who have posited that every government prides itself with her military, and its ability to protect her democracy measures the strength of any government and that though the military is sometimes criticized for some of their extremism, democracy still depends on her for survival.
I cannot agree less with this position, because if one views the conduct of the military during the 2019 general elections, one will conclude that the Nigerian Army indeed saved the day and rose to the occasion of protecting our nascent democracy.
In my opinion, those that are propagating the militarization of the elections are out for mischief purposes because I cannot come to terms with the position. Instead, we must take out the positives from the involvement of the military during the elections and how it should serve as a reference point for other African countries. Just like I mentioned earlier, I am not one that partakes or encourages people to participate in mediocrity.
Instead of crying wolf where non exist, I think that the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai is highly commended for a job well done. We are all witness to the birth of a new Nigerian Army.
Udeike sent in this piece from Apo, Abuja.