Jonas Ike, Abuja
It is only four days to the 2019 general elections. Already the polity as presently constituted is heated with all manner of campaign by various political parties that have fielded candidates for the election. Both the ruling All Progressives Congress APC and the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party PDP are seriously trying to woo and sway potential voters to their side.
The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC the nation’s electoral management body charged with the responsibly of conducting a free, fair and credible election is also not resting on its oars. In fact, the electoral body has been doing its best in terms of preparations for the smooth conduct of the elections.
The Security agencies particularly the Nigeria Police Force is also not taking its responsibility as the leading security agency saddled with the role of protecting the integrity of the electoral process with kid gloves. As a matter of fact, the Police authorities have engaged a number of stakeholders on strategic plans to be adopted for its operatives to be deployed for the forthcoming election.
The newly appointed Acting Inspector-General of Police IGP Mr. Mohammed Adamu has on a number of these engagements said that Police would deploy effectively its manpower in the 2019 general elections in order to ensure, free, fair and credible elections for the Presidential, National Assembly and Area Councils elections.
There is no gainsaying that the Nigeria Police has a huge task ahead in the upcoming election.
As the lead agency, it has the responsibility of deployment of Police personnel for election duty who are expected to act as safeguard to the ballot boxes at the polling units during and after the elections.
The Police has to be on led alert to provide maximum security for election management officials including INEC staff, the ad-hoc staff, the voters and the polling booths. In the past elections, the reported cases of snatching of ballot boxes during elections were primarily due to the failure of the Police and other security agents to do their job.
They are also to monitor the movement of election materials particularly the ballot papers, from one location to another both during and after the casting of votes and counting of same.
In the Second Republic, the National Electoral Commission NEC was able to organize free and credible elections because the Police and other security agents did not compromise on their responsibilities. The same feat was repeated during the botched Third Republic when the Social Democratic Party SDP defeated the National Republican Convention NRC candidate at the Presidential election.
The presidential candidate of the then SDP Chief MKO Abiola defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republic Convention NRC in that election due to the transparency of the political process supervised by the Federal Electoral Commission FEDECO at that time and the security agencies.
Moreover, the election that ushered in the Fourth Republic which came into effect on May 29 1999 after nearly two decades of military interregnum was also free, fair and credible to some extent because the security agents particularly the Police played a neutral role in the process that midwifed it.
At that time the then Inspector-General of Police IGP Mr Tafa Balogun was able to instill a high degree of discipline on officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force which led to the birth of the republic in that era. Other IGPs that were appointed subsequently after him also toed that same part of honour and it was a smooth sail for them during elections.
However, in the 2007, 2011 and 2015 general elections, the Police, the Army and other security agents were massively deployed in such a way that many voters were disenfranchised and they constituted a clog to the smooth conduct of these elections.
Even President Umar Musa Yar’adua who won the 2007 Presidential election on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP had admitted on a national television that the election that produced him as President was flawed. He however promised to reform the electoral process.
This same scenario which was replicated in the 2018 Ekiti and Osun States gubernatorial election won by candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC is now hunting the nation and hanging on its neck like an albatross.
The 2019 general elections is an acid test on the reforms so far enunciated in the nation’s electoral process. The newly appointed Inspector-General of Police Mr Mohammed Adamu has repeatedly assured the nation of his resolve to ensure that a free, fair and credible election is the hallmark of this 2019 elections.
Now that the ball is the court of the IGP, it is his responsibility to walk the talk by effectively deploying his officers and men for the smooth conduct of the election. Any attempt by the new Police boss to compromise in the onerous task ahead would make nonsense of all the reforms enunciated and carrier out by past leaders in the nation’s electoral umpire INEC in the last two decades.