Transparent election as panacea for peace

February 14, 2019 OPINION By Idada Ikponmwen

The day of reckoning is eventually here. By Saturday, February 16, Nigerians will be going to the polls to elect their president and members of the two houses of the National Assembly. That will be followed hopefully by elections of governors and members of state Houses of Assembly on March 2.
It is pertinent at this point to lend support to the voices of all well-meaning Nigerians and groups of varying kinds who have called for free, fair, credible and transparent elections.

As a retired senior military officer, lawyer, strategist, as well as defence and law enforcement professional, I use this medium, to further emphasise the patriotic messages that many others have sent out before now.

I wish to start by emphasizing few relevant points. The first one is, that the world and I mean the civilized nations of the world have since the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989, when the concept of democracy rose to a level of JUS-COGENS meaning the norm (rule) from which no departure is permissible. It is therefore true to say that at this time and age, any breach of the concept of democracy in any form is re-dressable and punishable at the instance of any individual state or country and without a doubt punishable at the instance of a global community.

Today, such is the level of importance placed on democracy that the error must be pointed out in the argument by some people that the question of how we conduct our elections is a matter only for Nigerians and the Nigerian Government only.

Therefore, without any ambiguity, any argument, in the direction, seeking to rely on the doctrine of non- intervention can no longer be invoked in favour of any government, authority, or persons acting irresponsibly and in abuse of the concept of democracy. Let it also be pointed out that the age long concept of NATIONAL

Sovereignty cannot provide a cover for any government or individual acting on abuse of the right the people to freely choose their leaders. It is therefore imperative to emphasize that there has been very fundamental shift in the erstwhile concept of the doctrine of non–intervention vis-à-vis that of national sovereignty.

In the new world, here the need for global security and mutual co-operation among nations has become most compelling. There is now less emphasis on the two above mentioned concepts.

Now to the main point, as a country under the rule of law, a country operating under the rule of law with a rigid and written constitution, we have a binding duty to comply with every well-conceived provision of our constitution which guarantees democracy and social justice along with other important provisions.

Among other things, our constitution spells out the role of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. The duty of law and order maintenance within the context of our constitution rests mainly with the Nigeria police together with other civil law enforcement bodies.

Ordinarily, therefore, the Armed Forces should have no business being involved in electoral processes except and only when the President with the approval of the National Assembly calls on the Armed Forces as an extraordinary measure to restore law and order as entrenched in the constitution.
Let’s now proceed to the necessary message of joining other well-meaning persons to say as follows: Every Nigerian must ensure proper and orderly conduct before, during and immediately after the impending elections.
Government at all levels must ensure that they create the right atmosphere for the elections, devoid of bias, partisanship and favouritism.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must ensure that it carries out its sacred responsibility of ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections where every vote must count.
Civil Security Agencies must carry out their law enforcement duties in a manner to sustain public trust and not favour one party against another.

Parents must be enjoined to warn their children and wards as leaders of tomorrow to stay clear of any politically motivated violence Young men and women must not allow themselves to be used by anybody to achieve undeserved political gains.
As a people, we must all bear in mind that we cannot afford to allow vain, selfish and ill-motivated individual ambitions to plunge this great country into violence and war which invariably may result in huge losses of lives and properties from abuse of undemocratic principles and practices.
Similarly, all government agencies must also bear in mind that unwarranted allegiance to unlawful practises and purposes that are inconsistent with our constitution amount to gross disloyalty which would indeed be tantamount to treasonable felony.

Many of us are sad witnesses to the civil war that ravaged Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 which claimed not less than 200, 000 lives and unquantifiable properties not to mention the grief and agony inflicted on parents and families of the war combatants and non-combatant victims of the war.
Nigerians cannot afford another civil war and this makes it imperative that we conduct a peaceful election; the alternative to which peace will be unattainable.

•Brigadier General Ikponmwen (rtd), a former Provost Marshal of the Nigeria Army, writes from Benin-City, Edo State