Appraising Nigerian military’s respect for democracy, constitution

By Ifeanyi Aigbedion
Recent disturbing happenings across the vast landscape of our motherland, Nigeria, especially on the socio-economic, religious and political fronts, have every potential to trigger what can pass off for a revolution or even a military coup d’etat. 

It has happened in our land before, and it is still happening in other climes. So, it is not the first time. Neither, will it be the last. It will continue to happen, as much as certain prevailing conditions fester.

But since Nigerians, at the moment, may not be somewhat disposed to taking their destinies in their own hands, one Robert Clarke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is ‘callously’ prodding and goarding them on to threat on a familiar, but dangerous path–that can only lead to infamy if not perdition.

Clarke, while speaking on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, some days back, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to hand over the government to the military temporarily in order to solve the security and economic dilemma Nigeria is facing.

According to the Senior Advocate, the military should take over the government temporarily and get Nigeria back to six States.

In his opinion, Buhari has the powers under the 1999 Constitution to delegate all his powers to the military, who will now be charged with the task of getting the country back to six States.
“Now, I’m going to propose about this security. I don’t know whether I may be right or wrong …if anybody feels I’m right, thank God, if they feel I’m wrong, let them tell me.

“Now there’s no gainsaying that Nigeria is on the way to collapse. Nigeria has to be changed and the only way to change it is to create a state that will make the 1999 constitution ungovernable for its existence.

“We want a state of emergency to be created in Nigeria today. As it is today, the President, who is the Commander-in-Chief has the powers to delegate all his powers to the chief of defence staff.

“Let him now talk to the Senate, House of Reps, State Governors and House of Assembly Speakers that a state of emergency has been created in Nigeria next week which means that all Governors and legislators must go.

“Then the military will now set up what we call the six geographical zones. Let us start on that and allow a military governance over these states.

“Reduce Nigeria to six states and I can assure you the day Nigeria is reduced to six states and there’s a state of emergency, 80 percent of the money spent on governance will return to the treasury,” he said.

Indeed, Clarke’s submissions may appear ‘interesting’. But many, I am sure, would have loved to ask the learned fellow, how can Mr. President voluntarily cede his constitutional powers and authority to the military? 

Without the constitution itself been tinkered with? Does Clarke wants the military to deploy brute, lawlessness and impunity to reign in all the problems and architects of the woes plaguing the country, assuming Buhari heeds his ‘patriotic’ advice?

Are his advice, however genuine and sincere, not alarming and preposterous? Are some persons not already considering them to be recipes for needless chaos, if they are implemented? The questions, are truly, endless. 
It is however gratifying to see the potential benefactor of the senior lawyer’s proposition–the military–coming out to express her tacit and crass disapproval to the ‘flamboyant’ idea. The military authorities, rather, declared their unflinching loyalty to President Buhari and the Nigerian Constitution, after rejecting Clarke’s call.

They restated their commitment to democratic rule, while sternly warning their personnel contemplating any treasonable act to desist from doing so, saying the full wrath of the law would be brought upon them.

A statement issued by the Director, Defence Information (DDI), Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, said the loyalty of the military establishment was irrevocable.

“The Nigerian Military wishes to dissociate itself from such anti-democratic utterance and position. Let it be stated categorically that the Armed Forces of Nigeria remains fully committed to the present administration and all associated democratic institutions”, it said.

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) maintained that: “We shall continue to remain apolitical, subordinate to the civil authority, firmly loyal to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari and the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“We shall continue to discharge our constitutional responsibilities professionally, especially in protecting the country’s democracy, defence of the territorial integrity of the country as well as protection of lives and properties of citizens”.

“The military high command wishes to use this opportunity to warn misguided politicians who nurse the inordinate ambition to rule this country outside the ballot box to banish such thoughts as the military under the current leadership remain resolute in the defence of Nigeria’s Democracy and its growth”, it said.
The DHQ further stated that it amounted to treason for any military personnel to contemplate such act.

“We also wish to remind all military personnel that it is treasonable to even contemplate this illegality. The full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any personnel found to collude with people having such agenda.

“The current security challenges are not insurmountable. The Armed Forces of Nigeria in partnership with other security agencies are working assiduously to ameliorate the challenge. Nigeria will know peace again. Please be warned!”, it said.

Almost 22 years after the nation embraced democratic rule–for good–,enthroning a junta government, once again, is the last thing many Nigerians will desire, come what may. 

Hence, it will be patriotic if our opinion leaders, well-polished elites, learned fellows and even politicians with vested interests, tame their tongues. 

It should not be allowed to spew unguarded remarks, statements and utterances that can inflame the polity, aggravate tension in our volatile society, and then threaten the nation’s fragile unity and corporate existence.

Again, it needs not be said that great lessons abound for Nigeria to learn from other African countries like Mali, Sierra Leone, and Libya (among a few) who have perpetually remained unstable as a result of their military forces violently usurping power from democratically-elected civilian governments, at intermittent periods.

The Nigerian military, now under the leadership of General Leo Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), must be commended for pledging their absolute and resounding loyalty to the President, and our sacred constitution. 

But more importantly, we must eulogize them to high heavens for displaying uncommon capacity, sheer gut and excellent professionalism in tackling every criminal, secessionist and persons whose harmless utterances can do much more than only setting our dear nation on fire. 

Aigbedion, Convener, Unity Advocacy Group (UAG), wrote in from Abuja

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