The Defence Headquarters, yesterday, said the involvement of the Armed Forces in the electoral process was to serve as deterrence to all those who might have other motives oustide ensuring the successful conduct of elections in the country.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin, opened up on the involvement of the Nigerian Armed Forces in electoral matters during the ‘National Dialogue on the Challenge of Vote Buying’ organised by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Abuja.
Represented by the Chief of Defence, Civil-Military Affairs, Rear Admiral Peter Onaji, Olonisakin said the Armed Forces was established primarily to defend the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against all forms of threats from sea, land, and air as well as from all other sources that would threaten the corporate existence of the country.
He added that looking at the constitutional task of the Armed Forces, vis a vis, the issue of vote buying, one wondered why the Armed Forces should be actively involved in the event.
“What we are talking about today concerns the electoral process; the process of selecting political leadership of our country at all levels. And we know that where there is a contest between contenders, there will definitely be threats; conflicts will emerge.
“So, because the military is there to ensure that nothing threatens the peace and security of our country, we show presence just to serve as deterrence to all those who may have other motives than ensuring the successful conduct of whatever event that is taking place. In this case, the electoral process which will usher in the leadership of our political structure from 2019 to 2023,” Olonisakin said.
The CDS further said the Armed Forces would remain committed and cannot be deterred from performing that which will ensure the provision of an enabling environment for Nigerians to exercise their civic responsibility to the state.
In his remarks, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu expressed regret that the theme of the event had very critical stakeholders who could not be found at the event.
Shittu said when you talk of vote buying, you are talking about politicians. He added that the first most critical stakeholders; people who are likely to engage in the infamous job of buying votes are politicians and political party leadership.
“Unfortunately, I can hardly find our party leaders across virtually all the political parties. I can’t see them here. And this is a matter for regret because I have been assured by the DG that all of them were invited,” Shittu bemoaned.
Still bemoaning the absence of politicians at the event, Shittu further said: “You cannot barb the hair of a person in his absence. It is not the ordinary citizens who seek for their votes to be bought, but the political parties and their officers who look after and get people whose votes will be bought.
“So, they are really the ones we have to meet here and talk to and appeal to them to see the morality in the act of seeking to buy votes.”
Speaking earlier, the Director-General of NOA, Garba Abari, said the accusations and counter accusations of vote buying and selling that characterised the first stanza of the two pronged general election, had been traced by some analysts to the arrogance of the Nigerian elite, especially the politicians, who seemed not to have properly analysed the growth and development patterns of the Nigerian voter who had matured with every election circle.
Abari added that in putting an end to the issue of vote buying, traditional rulers across the country had a role to play in restoring the nation back to the path of positive values.