By Robinson T. Sibe
In Rivers State, there were widespread protests, over the use of the military in subverting the electoral process. From Bodo to Buguma, Oyigbo to Okrika, it’s the same complaints.
I have participated in most elections of the 4th Republic. I have seen and heard complaints of rigging, over the years. However, most of these were perpetrated and executed using thugs. I have never seen such widespread complaints by the citizenry, on direct military involvement in the rigging process. Tune to the radio,and you’ll hear the torrent of complaints. Check the social media, and you’ll see videos of men in military fatigues, barging into homes and arresting opposition politicians. At some point yesterday, the British High Commission had to tweet about the unfortunate role of the military in Rivers State.
Make no mistake, rigging, whether by a civilian or military, is a crime and must be roundly condemned. However, I’d rather be rigged by a thug, than men of the armed forces, who you should ordinarily run to for protection. When a thug rigs in an election, you have the option of running to the Police and other law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute the thief; you have hope. When the military is the one doing the rigging or involved in manipulating electoral outcomes, who do you run to? It’s a hopeless situation. Therein lies the danger: the dangerous option of self-help.
Rivers State is already in a fragile state. We do not need further deterioration. We cannot afford to have a state where the citizens lose trust and confidence in the law enforcement agents. We cannot afford to allow things degenerate to a situation where citizens will resort to self help; that would portend grave danger.
It’s time for all responsible citizens to stand up and call these actors to order. Elections should not be war. The military should stay out of politics. The only civilian that can give orders to the military should be the Commander in Chief, and not some Politician. The military used to be a respected institution; it’s demeaning and debasing to the institution to condescend to the murky theatre of petty politics. The political arena is not a military turf. The thought of a military man hijacking voting materials is deeply traumatizing; it can scar a citizen for life. Let’s not radicalize otherwise peaceful citizens by exposing them to these traumatic sights. This needs to stop.
Robinson T. Sibe, a geospatial and software engineer, is also a political commentator and strategist who writes from Port Harcourt.