By Constance Athekame, Folasade Folarin and Yashim Katurak
The 2015 elections have come and gone; the nation is now experiencing a transition that will climax in the inauguration of a new federal administration on May 29.
Observers attribute the remarkable achievement to the collective efforts of INEC, the electorate and security agencies, among other stakeholders.
Even though some analysts have consistently expressed some reservations on the role of the military in the elections, others argued that the use of the military in the polls was justifiable.
They argued that the police have, over the years, exposed their inability to cope with the rigours of the electoral process in a pragmatic way.
However, during the recent elections, military personnel were not stationed at polling units but they were deployed to strategic places across the country to provide security and ensure peaceful and hitchfree elections.
In a nutshell, the soldiers patrolled major roads and mounted checkpoints in strategic locations nationwide.
Prior to the elections, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah, stressed in Abuja that the armed forces, police and other security agencies had made adequate arrangements to provide security before, during and after the elections.
He said that although the security agencies did not envisage any crisis or security breach, since elections were a process, there could be some elements within the political class that would not want a normal process.
“I appeal to politicians and their followers to maintain peace and ensure violence-free elections.
“I also appeal to law-abiding Nigerians to come out en-mass to vote for candidates of their choice without fear of intimidation or fear for their safety; as it is their right to vote.
“Whoever wants to invoke or provoke violence will meet organised violence waiting for him,’’ he warned.
“The elections should come and go peacefully. If you win, rule and if you lose, the remedies are there, go to court,’’ he added. Speaking in the same vein, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Badeh, said after the elections that “the era of military rule in the country has gone forever.
“We are the armed forces of Nigeria and not that of any political party; we will be subordinate to the constituted authorities.
“I remember when we were canvassing for some extension to allow us quell the insurgency in the North-East; there was so much misgiving but we did it with all sense of responsibility.
“As the Armed Forces of Nigeria, we thought we needed to give all Nigerians a fair chance to exercise their franchise of casting their vote for those that would govern them for the next four years.
“We didn’t achieve our aim 100 per cent but we reclaimed all the major towns and the few citizens, who were in the IDPs camps, were able to cast their vote,’’ Badeh said.
In a comment, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Head of State and Chairman of the National Peace Committee, also commended the armed forces for the way they conducted themselves, particularly during the presidential election.
He said: “We are also at the Defence Headquarters to congratulate the military for its achievements the combat against terrorists in the north-eastern part of the country.
“On behalf of the committee, I want to congratulate the armed forces on what they are doing to salvage this country from this Boko Haram menace,’’ he said.
A member of the committee, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, a former foreign affairs minister, said that the soldiers did an excellent job during the presidential/National Assembly elections.
He said that the committee was at the Defence Headquarters to urge the military to build on the successes it recorded in the presidential/ National Assembly elections and show the professionalism, which it was known for, in the coming elections.
“You have distinguished yourselves; build on the achievement and make Nigerians proud,’’ he said.
In addition, wives of military personnel also lent their voices to calls for peaceful elections in Nigeria.
At a National Prayer Day organised by Nigerian Army Officers’ Wives Association (NAOWA) in January, the women underscored the need for the citizens to pray for the nation.
Insisting that any calamity could be averted through prayers, the association prayed for the country’s unity, troops fighting the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East and the success of the 2015 elections.
NAOWA’s National President, Mrs Felly Minimah, prayed for God’s protection for Nigeria and advised all the citizens to eschew any act that could foment trouble and cause disunity in the country.
“Let us use this opportunity to pray for successful general elections and a peaceful transition in our dear country.
“I also urge you to pray fervently for the prevention of any national calamity or security challenges and for our vibrant armed forces,’’ she said.
In its efforts to ensure a peaceful conduct of the elections, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) vowed to intensify its surveillance on borders so as to prevent non-Nigerians from taking part in the elections.
Mr David Parradang, the Comptroller- General of the Service, who made the pledge in Abuja, said that the officers and men of NIS, among other security agents, were to be deployed to monitor polling units and ensure peace, order during the voting process.
He said that additional 30 border control posts had been created to complement the existing 72 posts, as part of designed efforts to ensure improved security at the borders.
To facilitate the fulfilment of these measures the Federal Government on March 25 announced the closure of the country’s land borders to control movement of persons into the country during the elections.
This move was also aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from taking part in the elections or fomenting trouble in the country.
The borders were closed from midnight on March 25 to noon on March 29. This was also replicated during the April 11 governorship/House of Assembly elections, as the Federal Government announced the closure of the country’s borders from the midnight of Thursday, April 9, to themidnight of Sunday, April 12. The border closure certainly facilitated the efforts of the NIS to control and monitor movements around the border areas in a better way, and no case of arrest of illegal immigrants were reported during the period.
In the lead-up to the elections, Parradang also convened a meeting with some embassy officials and leaders of ECOWAS communities resident in Nigeria.
The meeting in Abuja was one of the strategies put in place by the NIS to sensitise foreign nationals to their roles before, during and after the elections.
At the meeting, the comptroller- general urged the embassy staff and community leaders to advise their nationals to steer clear of the elections, warning that any non-Nigerian caught interfering in the electoral process would be made to face wrath of the law.
Parradang said that the warning became imperative so as to ensure that the cordial relationship existing between ECOWAS member states was not undermined by unwarranted meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of respective member states.
Besides, he urged the community leaders to advise their nationals, who were in possession of Nigeria’s Permanent Voter Card (PVC), National Identity Card or Passport, to surrender them immediately, as anyone caught with any of the documents would be apprehended and prosecuted.
The warning appears logical, as the NIS announced the seizure of at least 191 PVCs, 57 Temporary Voter Cards (TVCs), 367 old national identity cards and 11 old TVC slips from foreigners this year alone,.
It also seized over 68 new national identity cards, 10 birth certificates, three NIS registration certificates, six Gada Local Government Community Tax Cards and two driver licences, belonging to Nigerians, from some foreign nationals.
The items were recovered at several locations in states such as Sokoto, Jigawa and Zamfara, among others.
Observers insist that all these efforts were somewhat responsible for the free and fair 2015 elections.
They note that the achievements, among others, will also facilitate a smooth political transition, come Friday, May 29. (NANFeatures)