From L-R, Mark C. Orgu, Editor-in-chief, Afrikanwatch Media, Dr. Obiageli Modebelu, Col. Abayomi Dare retd, guest speaker, Barr. Malachy Ugwummadu, President, Committee for the defence of Human rights, (CDHR), ACP Alade Taiwo Opoola, retd, and Mr. Alfred Omenihu at panelist session.
“Lecture delivered by Col. (Barr) Abayomi Dare retd at the Post mid- year lecture of Afrikanwatch Media, an international online publishing firm run by a media expert, Mark Columbus Orgu (Editor-in-chief) was held last weekend at V.ginis Event centre, Yaba, Lagos. The event was chaired by a retired assistant director of the department of state security service, DSS, Mr.Dennis Amachree (MON), who on his address noted that security is a key to any successful election. Col. Dare’s lecture”:
Election can be defined as a formal and organized choice by vote of a person for a political office or other positions. It can also be further defined as the action of electing or the fact of being elected. Security is an essential part of the electoral process. It supports the credibility and overall success of an election. If not managed properly, it can discredit elections and make them meaningless. The basic definition of security is the state of being free from danger or threat. Security is more than the absence of physical threat or an armed conflict. It is an environment where individuals can thrive and exercise their rights freely. It requires access to education and health care, democracy and human rights, and economic development. It is a state where citizen’s rights are enforced and citizens are treated fairly by state institutions. Security means different things to different people and institutions. Governments often focus on what makes the state secure i.e., strong borders, a powerful military.
However, most people focus on day-to-day security for themselves and their families. In practical terms, election security can be defined as the process of protecting electoral stakeholders, information, facilities, and events. Security is a crucial condition in the context of elections. It assists in establishing an enabling environment that is conducive to holding a democratic poll. It is pertinent to note that, in order to have a seemingly free and fair election come 2019, we need to deal with the issue of corruption so that all efforts will not amount to an adventure in the wilderness. It is no gainsaying that corruption has a boomerang effect on the general psyche of our people. We must endeavor to change the narrative. It should not be business as usual. Corruption has become institutionalized across the spectrum of our private and public sectors, even in our personal lives. Corruption must be fought with all our might if we have to be worthy members of the international community.
ELECTIONS AND GENERAL SECURITY
Every election has different priorities and needs. We will try as much as possible to tailor fit this write up to the upcoming 2019 general elections in Nigeria. Electoral security has two fundamental (but distinct) dimensions which are: Personal Security: This involves the physical security of lives and properties. The safety and security of all stakeholders involved in the process; including voters, candidates, political party activists and officials, members of civil society and electoral officials must be guaranteed. Security and Integrity of the electoral process; this entails taking steps to prevent interference with ballot materials, or with the polling, counting and results compilation. Planning for a safe and secure electoral process can be grounded on particular qualities and ideals. These are most commonly expressed through the widely used concept of free and fair elections.
ROLES OF SECURITY AGENCIES AND STAKEHOLDER
There are several challenges that our security agencies will likely face during the preparation, conduct and post 2019 general elections. For instance, espoilersf or election losers, will sometimes want to actively seek a pretext to reject election results. They will therefore try to engage in all forms of manipulation and electoral fraud. Our security agencies need to anticipate these antics especially learning from history of Nigerian elections. Our security agencies need to be trained to be able to anticipate the following: voter manipulation, franchise manipulation, results manipulation and manipulation of political sphere with a view to be able to prevent or combat them effectively. This can also be achieved by analysing the context, identifying stakeholders, and seeking to understand their motives, means and opportunities.
The Nigerian government also needs to consider that sustainable electoral security ultimately requires not just force but a workable justice system within which their activities can be embedded. For effectiveness in their operations, the Nigerian security agencies need to fully understand the different electoral phases as contained in every electoral cycle. This is the most common concept used to operationalize, analyse or visualize electoral processes before, during and after elections. The electoral cycle can be broken down into eight electoral phases which are: legal and institutional electoral framework; planning and preparation for the implementation of electoral activities; training and education; registration of voters, political parties and election observers; electoral campaigning; voting operations; election results announcement; and the post-election phase.
The electoral actors i.e., citizens (in the capacity of registrants, voters, candidates and participants in campaigns), political parties, journalists and media, and electoral officials and bodies all play different roles in the electoral cycle. Each electoral actor’s position in, or towards elections may help security agencies understand their incentives for resorting to violent tactics including: seeking electoral advantages, disrupting elections, and manipulating elections. Electoral violence can take the form of physical violence (killing, causing physical injuries, (etc.) or psychological violence (threats, blackmail, coercion). There is a strong relationship between elections, security and human rights.
Elections are mechanisms that reflect the political voice and will of the people involved as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Security is also a right with international and regional treaties. These rights provides for the individual’s right to personal security, which includes protection from arbitrary arrest, detention, and exile. The engagement of security agencies in the electoral process entails the controversies of power, neutrality and civil control relating to the broader debate of democratic control of the armed forces. Nigerian Security agencies especially the military need to engage on very strong PR especially ahead of the incoming 2019 general elections to effectively disabuse any existing negative public perception of Nigerian security agencies.
The security agencies need to deal with every existing tendency to abuse power that might lead to: a self-serving security actor pursuing its own interests and objectives or (2) a situation in which security forces are an apparatus of the incumbent government or elements thereof. In undertaking their responsibilities in securing an election process, security agencies also need to understand the connection between the media and security. In order to ensure that the entire election process is credible, security agencies need to: allow Freedom of speech as guaranteed under the Constitution. This should not however be taken as the liberty or guarantee for hate speech which could also have serious security implications. The establishment of Community Police will also aid the effectiveness of law enforcement especially during the 2019 general elections. Security agencies need to sensitise and work with the media on how the media can make a positive impact on security by providing relevant and accurate information to the public (which promotes security). They need to educate the media on the responsibility to air information responsibly so as not to heat up the polity unnecessarily. There should also be a fair accreditation of journalists for coverage of the electoral process. This has become imperative because journalist without the required skills may engage in inaccurate and unfair coverage of the electoral process, proliferation of hate speech and the incitement of violence. Also, election monitoring teams (local or international) must be allowed free access to information without any form of encumbrance. This will further protect the integrity of the electoral process.
In enforcing the above, security agencies have to also maintain a balance so as not to create unequal media access which will also lead to unfair and unbalanced coverage of parties and candidates; this can also threaten electoral security. Skewed media access can result in public frustration, the spread of misinformation and low levels of public confidence. The security agencies need to work with reputable media organisations and outfit to establish a media centre to facilitate communication with the media and provide a trusted space for the media to gather, ask questions and witness the administration of the election first-hand. This media center can be run together or parallel or maintained by INEC.
However, they must ensure a synergy and unity of purpose so as not to cause confusion. I therefore recommended that: The 2019 general elections should be administered impartially. Only qualified and registered voters should be allowed to vote, indirect primary elections should be jettisoned in order to create a fair playing ground for all candidates, votes should not be bought nor sold; government should create a polling system where voters can cast a secret ballot without fear of any adverse consequences; INEC and the security agencies should ensure that everyone votes only once, there should be prompt arrest and prosecution of all electoral offenders to serve as a deterrent to would be offenders; The government should allow Community Policing, the security agencies need to be trained to be able to anticipate voter manipulation, franchise manipulation, results manipulation and manipulation of political sphere; Security agencies should not be used as an apparatus of the incumbent government or elements thereof.
It is pertinent that security agencies should (before, during and after elections) maintain neutrality and non-interference in domestic politics. Assure equal treatment and non-discrimination to all citizens. Respect and obey the rule of law. Employ non-violent means first, and use force only when strictly necessary. Remain accountable to the civilian government and the people. The Judiciary should also facilitate a credible and workable justice system where electoral offenders and petitions will be timeously handled; CCTV should be provided at all polling booths, JEOC should conduct a fair accreditation of journalists that will be involved in the coverage of the electoral process; Votes should be counted and tabulated accurately, without any fraudulent interference.
Conclusively, the need for all stakeholders to work harmoniously cannot be over-emphasised. The security agencies and INEC need to jointly develop a media code of conduct, social media strategy, training sessions on the electoral law and how the election will work. They need to jointly map out what kinds of materials each institution will produce and who will disseminate them, etc. There is need for a consensus on how mode of reporting of results, when results will be released, who will have access to them and who will report them. As pointed out earlier, corruption must be dealt with and eliminated in our Country for the success of the 2019 general elections. This will help create an enabling environment for the success of the said elections.