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Military resurgence and Nigeria’s fledgling democracy


In what could pass as the most poetic expression of democracy, the renowned political scientist Professor John Keane made the following opening statement in his widely acclaimed book “The Life and Death of Democracy”, thus: 

“History is often said to be a catalogue of human sorrows, an unending story of bootlicking, a slaughterhouse of crimes. It is not always so.”

He went further:  “The mould of cruel servitude can be shattered, as happened 2600 years ago, when Greeks living on the south-eastern fringes of Europe laid claim to an invention that now ranks in historical importance with the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine and the cloning of stem cells.”

Dr Keane said democracy as it were was born of resistance to tyranny, just as he reasoned that Greeks’ claimed invention at first caused no great stir but that few spotted its novelty. 

His words: “Some condemned it for bringing chaos into the world. Nobody predicted its universal appeal. It seemed simply to be part of the great cycle of human affairs – yet one more example of power struggles among foes.”

Democracy represents for him as the invention which was soon to be seen differently. 

Democracy in the words of Professor John Keane was to magnetize millions and to arouse passions on a world scale, understandably so, since it required human beings to picture themselves afresh, to live as they had never before lived. 

The invention was a potent form of wishful thinking that is still with us today: the Greeks called it dêmokratia.

The above commentary from one of the global political thinkers  which at first sounded like the little book of lamentations could be compared to the inglorious roles played by the Nigerian Military and policy in the just ended Rivers State rerun parliamentary polls. 

The disturbing partisanship of the Nigerian armed forces is reminiscent of the 40 years that the Nigerian military took over power and ruled Nigeria in the most lawless form in such a way that the Constitution was in suspension not until overwhelming public pressures forced the military back to their barracks in 1999. 

The resurgence of the military in the political firmament of Nigeria is deeply troubling.  

This development ugly as it is must be arrested immediately because the long term damage it would inflict in the credibility and integrity of the Nigerian military as an institution.  

When President Muhammadu Buhari came on board last year, he made the Army Chief Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai to constitute a board of inquiry.

This investigated alleged partisanship of the military in some past elections and over three dozen military officers trained with billions of public fund were prematurely retired as a result even though many of these indicted officers are in courts challenging their sack. 

But to now witness a worst case scenario of the same military behaving like dogs that eat their vomits with the open and brazen partisanship as seen in the Rivers State rerun election is indeed traumatising.  

But before delving fully into these shows of shame put up by the officers and men of the Nigerian armed forces and police in these sets of elections, we need to properly anchor the electoral events from the prism of the nation’s political landscape on a national scale. 

Rivers State which obviously is Nigeria’s richest crude oil state, is also the nation’s hot bed of inter-party rivalries between the nation’s two significant political parties known as the People Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC).

The national ruling party is All Progressive Congress (APC) whilst the party controlling Rivers State is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) River State is the state of birth of the wife of the immediate past President Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan. 

Rivers state was ruled for eight years prior to 2015 by Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi the main financiers of President Buhari’s Presidential campaign, or so it seems. 

He was rewarded with a top level federal cabinet job as Transportation Ministry which is easily one of the juiciest posts in modern day Nigeria. 

The immediate past President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was the flag bearer of the PDP during last year’s presidential poll which he voluntarily conceded victory even as the then incumbent. 

His action would for a long time to come remain unprecedented on the African continent given that ruling parties in Most African nations usually manipulate the electoral system to remain perpetually in political offices.

The rerun parliamentary elections in Rivers State were occasioned by the legal cancellation of last year’s election in which the People’s Democratic Party swept virtually all of the parliamentary seats both within Rivers State House of Assembly and the Senate and House of Representatives seats to represent the State of Rivers at the National Assembly.

The party at the center saw the annulment as an opportunity of a life to gain entry into Rivers State. 

But The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) refused to reconduct the fresh election to fill up the gaps not until unbearable pressures were brought to bear on them. 

The electoral commission was said to be waiting for the green light of the party in control of power in Abuja before reconducting a sham election.

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