By Comfort Obi
Perhaps, exasperated by the thought of the usual snatching of ballot boxes, and the effect it could have on the general elections which begins February 23, with the rescheduled Presidential election, a livid PMB issued a death sentence on anybody who would be stupid enough to try that. It would be the person’s last adventure on earth, he thundered. To achieve that, he issued an order to the Military and the Police that such persons should be met with maximum force, an indirect way of asking them to shoot at sight.
The good thing is that the snatching of ballot boxes is not the exclusive of any political party. It is general in character. And, truth be told, even security agents are not innocent of it. So, who will shoot such security agents caught in the unwholesome business? PMB ought to have addressed that too.
Nigerians are nervous. Only his party people are happy. They even clapped for him as he issued those orders during his party’s emergency caucus meeting to discuss the re-scheduled elections.
Even though PMB did not mention any particular group, or party, many are convinced that the order, (a possible extra-judicial killing), is targeted at members of the opposition. There is the fear that PMB’s order could scare voters. They fear that the lives of innocent citizens could be in danger. Given our experiences in the hands of some overzealous security agents, the fears are genuine. In addition to that, nobody wants to be the recipient of a deliberate accidental discharge.
Both the Army and the Police are not about to disobey their Commander-in-Chief. They have said so. And, they are basking in it. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, has already declared would-be trouble makers and ballot box snatchers, enemies of the State. When one is declared an enemy of the state, one is finished However, I would like to remind the soldiers who will be on duty of a once powerful soldier called Sgt Barnabas Jabila, better known as Sgt Rogers. He is the man who murdered Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election, who also died in military detention.
Even though Sgt Rogers confessed to killing Kudirat, he said he did so on the orders of his superiors. As a soldier, he obeyed only the last order, he pleaded. But since then, his life has never been the same. Years in detention have taken a toll on him. He is allegedly crippled, and now, confined to a wheel chair, full of regrets and, allegedly begging for survival. His superiors, who gave the alleged order are free and, enjoying themselves, with their feet firmly on ground, and their hands in several pies.
For the Police, during my first tenure as Commissioner on the Police Service Commission, PSC, I used to argue with my Chairman then, the irrepressible Parry Osayande, DIG rtd, on why policemen should be disciplined – dismissed, prosecuted, reduced in rank, or severely disciplined – for obeying the orders given to them by their superiors. Osayande would have a good laugh, and then tell me: “Dame, you are correct. But they are not zombies. They are to obey only lawful orders, not unlawful orders. Once they shoot and kill anybody, they are liable”. In fact, to the extent that when a policeman is arresting an alleged criminal, he is not allowed to shoot and kill the person. It is called extra-judicial killing.
I tell these stories now because of the anger which the President’s order has generated in many circles. To those of the Military, the Police, and para-military agencies who will be on election duties, and, unfortunately, carrying their guns, caution and conscience and the laws of the land, I advice, should be your guide. May God bless Nigeria.