Military and Assuaging Tension Ahead of 2023
By Abdulsalam Mahmud
2023 is one that many Nigerians eagerly await. It is the year another general election, in Nigeria, will be held, four years after the last one. But nothing is threatening the conduct of the polls as insecurity.
With wanton killings, and abductions of citizens not showing any sign of abating soon, prominent Nigerians and some critical stakeholders, have come out to express fear over the safe organization and conduct of the epic elections.
But their apprehension will not come close to that of Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd). Dambazau, a former Chief of Army Staff, COAS, like million Nigerians, fears the security challenges facing the country could pose a potential threat to the 2023 election.
Delivering a paper at the Blueprint Public Lecture and Impact Series/Awards themed: “2023 Politics: National Security And Nigeria’s Stability” in Abuja, recently, he called for total reform of the security sector to deal with the bandits, terrorists and other criminals terrorizing the populace.
Dambazau, a former Minister of Interior, fears terrorists will continue to attack soft targets, preventing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting elections in some communities.
The retired army chief said: “Would insecurity affect the 2023 elections? Surely it would, because some of the community would still be displaced and the terrorists would likely continue attacks on soft targets, INEC officials and ad hoc staff would be highly apprehensive despite the assurance by the government to protect them.
“Access to polling units in border communities may pose some difficulties. This is a more reason adequate security must be provided. As we also prepare for the election, we should also think of the possibility of an attack on the election process by violent groups.
“The security threats against the 2023 election are not limited to the activities of terror groups in the North, but also the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South East.”
Similarly, while addressing stakeholders at the Second Quarterly Meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in Abuja, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC said: “The general security situation in the country and its impact on the electoral process is a source of concern to the commission.
“The timetable for the election has also been released. Let us not wait until a few weeks before the election before we realise that time is not on our side and begin to seek extension of timelines.
“The time to act is now. We wish to reassure the security agencies that we will continue to work cooperatively with you to ensure the success of all forthcoming elections and electoral activities.”
The National Commissioner for Information and Voter Education (IVEC), Festus Okoye, recently raised the alarm, saying the security concern had limited the capacity of the agency to 811 locations out of 2,673 areas earmarked to carry out the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) nationwide.
He insisted that unless relevant security stakeholders rise to neutralise the brewing threat and assure the people of a peaceful atmosphere and elections in the troubled Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) areas in 2023, there might be problems.
There are a plethora of reasons INEC’s apprehension over the security situation cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Apart from being a snag in the prospect of a peaceful election, the rising spectre of violence across the country also constitutes a clear and present danger to the lives of the personnel involved in the conduct of the polls.
However, Lucky Irabor, a Lieutenant General and the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, have allayed fears of the possibility of the 2023 general elections not holding as scheduled on the back of heightening insecurity in the country.
Irabor assured that the armed forces have a covenant with the country’s democratic process and will do everything within its powers to ensure that the 2023 general elections hold, by creating the necessary conditions for a “free, safe and secure” conduct of the elections.
Irabor gave the assurance at a parley with editors and media executives at the defence headquarters in Abuja, where he acknowledged the spate of terrorist attacks in different parts of the country, and further assured that the security forces were equal to the task.
“We, as members of the armed forces, have a covenant with the democratic process and that covenant presupposes that we will do everything to create the conditions for a free, safe and secure conduct of the 2023 elections.
“All the operational engagements that we have had, and having, are tailored towards ensuring that the democratic process is not only nurtured but also made to become more solid. So, I join you to encourage Nigerians and to assure them that the 2023 elections will not only hold, we will do everything possible to ensure that nothing stops it,” he said.
But he charged the political class to undertake actions which would bring the needed peace to the system rather than on things that could become distractions to the democratic process, credible elections and a peaceful political transition.
“I want to assure you that we will do everything possible to ensure that every part of this country has the necessary safety guarantees that will enable all eligible voters to exercise their franchise,” Irabor reassured.
As the clock ticks to the 2023 elections, and aside the reassurance by Gen. Irabor, it is left to be seen whether the Federal Government will rise up to the challenge and come up with drastic measures rather than mere directives, not only to halt the rampaging divisive elements, but to ensure that Nigeria’s nascent democracy is no derailed.
Mahmud is the Deputy Editor of PRNigeria, and can be reached via, [email protected]
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