Politics deals with the state and its citizenry, whereby the citizens freely entrust to some others the responsibility of organising them. Therefore, in a democratic society, electoral process is the means through which this objective is achieved. This is because in a democratic system of government, it is the citizens that choose their leaders, and disenfranchising the citizens by whatever means, leads to political instability.
Recent developments in the Nigerian political setting may have fuelled beliefs that there is an increasing militarisation of governance that not only stifles opposition, but disenfranchise the citizens from exercising their rights.
The Federal Government in its bid to neutralise threats of violence, before, during and after election, deployed soldiers in recent gubernatorial elections in Anambra, Ekiti, and lately Osun States. Some analysts argue that the deployment of the army is due to their no-nonsense approach to issues that has to do with lawlessness, as well as being better positioned to deal with any form of political thuggery, and forestall any appearance of rigging and other electoral malpractices, thus leading to a free and fair election.
Similarly, some experts are in agreement that the role of the military in an electoral process should be used sparingly; limited to security issues and not interfere in the electoral process. According to them, it is important that voters and other stakeholders have sufficient trust in the military if their role is to be seen as legitimate. They also stressed that where the military is employed in an electoral process, it is imperative that it falls under the command of the electoral management body (EMB)
However, some political observers have criticised what they described as the indiscriminate and illegal deployment of the police and the military in the electoral process, stressing that the development, may spell doom for the country, as the Nigerian military has no business with policing elections. Besides, they also posit that the military by the nature of their orientation, are not cut out for dealing with issues bordering on civil liberty, and, as such, might not respect people’s Fundamental Human Rights, as far as elections are concerned. It is further argued that it would somehow intimidate the voters, thus preventing them from coming out to express their democratic right of casting their votes for a candidate of their choice.
In addition, making use of the army, in an election that should ordinarily have been handled by the police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), in the face of gross shortage of manpower, as reported by the media arm of the force, falls a little bit short of logic.
Given the volatile nature of politics in Nigeria, the importance of providing adequate security during the period of elections in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasised. However, legal experts opine that it is illegal to deploy the armed forces to maintain law and order during elections
According to the experts, sections 215 and 217 of the constitution clearly outline when the President could deploy armed forces and such duties when they border on internal security are limited to the suppression of insurrection, including insurgency and aiding the police to restore order when it has broken down.
As we prepare towards 2015, the police should be properly equipped to perform the duty of ensuring internal security while the armed forces are restricted to the defence of the nation’s territorial integrity. We concur that the best antidote to electoral malfeasance is the vigilance of the citizens.