This letter, dedicated to security officers in Nigeria, is the fourth in a series of letters aimed at critical stakeholders involved in the electoral process in Nigeria. It will be recalled that we started with the letter to politicians (See my column in the Daily Sun of January 6, 2022 “Letter to Nigerian Politicians https://www.sunnewsonline.com/letter-to-nigerian-politicians-1/” ), followed by the letter to the electorate (See my column in the Daily Sun of February 3, 2022 (“Letter to the Nigerian electorate https://www.sunnewsonline.com/letter-to-nigerian-electorate-1/ ” ), then the letter to the electoral umpire (See my column in the Daily Sun of March 17, 2022, (“Letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission, https://www.sunnewsonline.com/letter-to-independent-national- electoral-commission-1/”) and now, to the security agencies.
The series must end with the letter to the magistrates who are the electoral arbiters. However, before diving into the heart of our discussion, it is crucial that we expose ourselves to the essence of elections in a democracy and the different roles of security agents. To this end, there is no doubt that elections are the soul of democracy. Without elections, the whole democratic process will certainly come to naught. In this respect, when elections are held in an atmosphere that does not guarantee openness and fairness in elections, and every vote does not really count, the goal is in vain. A free and fair election can hardly be achieved where the system is corrupt and where those involved in the electoral process have imposed on themselves the unfortunate task of reducing the election to a mere wacky process. It is not uncommon to see cases where elections have been used for the sole purpose of seeking to legitimize an otherwise illegitimate process of filling political positions.
In this regard, the authors bring innumerable flawed elements into play to ensure that the elections have only the name. It is for this reason that Nigeria has a vibrant but unenviable history of failed elections. When conducting elections, the effectiveness of politicians’ manipulative tendencies comes to the fore. In Africa, election-related violence turned into conflagrating cyclones that threatened to destroy national security. The failure of the electoral process is generally attributable to the absence of an effective mechanism for safeguarding the elections. The absence of credible oversight and security protection provides the unhealthy platform for the manifestation of malfeasance in an election. The results of the elections produced in this corrupt electoral context make these elections a mere sham. Where the electoral process is a sham, the so-called democracy that results from it is also a sham.
The system of government practiced in such a society becomes anything but democratic. As one of the greatest jurists of all time, Lord Denning, rightly put it, “You can’t put something on nothing and expect it to be maintained. He will collapse. So our view is that in such situations what is achieved can only be called civil rule, not democracy. For conceptual clarity, elections go beyond simply voting on Election Day and announcing the results. Rather, it is a process that includes all stages of the conduct of the elections, from the registration of voters to the return of the winners after the proclamation of the results. The above process cannot be carried out in an atmosphere controlled by insecurity and therefore security in an electoral process is paramount. Safety, on the other hand, adopting Webster’s dictionary, is “the absence of danger or anxiety”. In the context of elections, it involves protecting voters against damages in the exercise of their right to vote. Thus, holding credible elections requires that voters be free from danger, apprehension, harm, disruption or injury in exercising their right to vote.
For the purposes of this discourse, we will therefore adopt a functional noun expression of “security officer” to refer to agents of the state employed to ensure the security of the nation and to maintain law and order. Broadly speaking, these security officers in question fall into four broad categories, namely: Nigerian police men; men from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps; men of the armed forces, including army, navy and air force; and men from the State Security Service. Although election monitoring is primarily the responsibility of officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), election observation by other organizations is the domain of independent entities that travel to ensure compliance with international standards. and best practices. Therefore, security officers appear to have no active role in the electoral process other than maintaining security, law and order; ensure or guarantee an atmosphere conducive to the conduct of the elections.
This should be the primary responsibility of security officers in the conduct of elections in Nigeria. Unfortunately, however, experience has shown over time in our past electoral circles that our security officers cross that line by actually participating in electoral processes not just by voting as members of society, but by manipulating the electoral process. . For politicians, security guards are part of the election-rigging infrastructure that must be provided and supported in the preparation of elections. They are often essential tools in the manipulation of election results. In addition to being used to coerce the electorate into voting in a particular direction, they are used to terrorize political opponents and potential opposition voters during the course of elections. In other cases, they are actually involved in the taking of multiple fingerprints on the ballots, the modification of the results and the transport of the ballot boxes. Examples also abound where they provide security cover for their bosses’ political thugs. Security agents are also recruited to arrest opposition stalwarts and influencers and detain them for the duration of the election to reduce their influence in favor of their sponsors.
Thus, in the manipulation of the electoral results, the antics of the security agents know no bounds. This evil of security agents is often perpetrated under the guise of securing election materials and maintaining public order. Before the last electoral law, the roles of security officers were not clearly defined in our laws. This explains why security guards are taking advantage of the fluid situation to perpetrate all sorts of election evils. Military personnel have been deployed to strike fear and jitters in the minds of opposition supporters and the electorate, by extension. When dissenting voices have been raised against this, the response has always been that the President/Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces can still deploy them at will, where deemed necessary. It must be said quickly that this “terrorism” of the military in the name of securing electoral material also contributes to the apathy experienced by our elections. No member of the electorate is ready and willing to be harassed by these security guards, hence the decision to stay indoors during the election. This discrepancy constitutes a real ground for rigging, multiple voting being done by illegitimate proxy.
Ordinarily, according to the division of responsibilities in Nigeria, it is the police who are responsible for the prevention and detection of crimes; the arrest of offenders; protection of life and property, etc. In these circumstances, the police inevitably form an integral part of the electoral process in Nigeria because of the expected role in peacekeeping. Apart from the Nigerian Police, another security agency tasked with maintaining peace and security is the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, which is a paramilitary organization. However, under the Armed Forces Act, the military is supposed to be limited to the defense of external aggression against the country, except when occasionally called upon by the President/Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to assist. to civil authorities.