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My fears about military involvement in elections – Mbazulike Amaechi

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Chief Mbazulike Amaechi is a foremost nationalist . He belongs to the class of the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who fought for Nigeria’s independence. The self-professed link between the old and current politicians was also the First Republic Aviation Minister. He spoke on the alleged militarisation of elections in Nigeria and the consequences for the country.

By Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Nnewi

OU witnessed the last Presidential and National Assembly elections and also the Governorship and State Assembly elections. How do you assess those elections in the light of the alleged involvement of the military in the course of providing security?

The military is set up to defend Nigeria against foreign or external aggression, not to defend Nigeria against internal insurrection. Internal security is supposed to be taken care of by the Nigeria Police. The military, that is the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are established to defend the country against external threats to the sovereignty and security of Nigeria. Anybody who is using the military for any purpose other than to check external threats is committing illegality, and illegality at that level is treasonable.

Mbazulike Amaechi

Now from what I read in the newspapers and what I see on the televisions about the military interfering with the elections in Rivers State, in Bayelsa State, Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State, shows the motive and the purpose of those presently in control of power in Nigeria.There can be no peaceful environment in Nigeria until justice is done and the main thing is this: the areas that produce the wealth of the country, the wealth of Nigeria which, at the moment, is based on oil and gas, are the South South, South East and some parts of the South West. The present administration in the country has taken away control of the production and management of this national wealth of the country from the people who produce the golden egg and so, the management of the production, handling, marketing and administration are taken away from the owners of the wealth; and peace will continue to elude the country if they continue in that direction.

However, in the election, Akwa Ibom is controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Rivers State is PDP; Bayelsa is PDP; but in the last election which was not properly and fairly conducted they snatched Ondo State from the Labour Party and gave it to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. So, the present administration at the federal level arranged it in such a way that of the 16 top executive posts in the oil and gas producing areas of the oil industry, NNPC and other oil and gas related industries, 12 are held by Northerners, two are held by Southerners and two are held by non-Nigerians; so that the people who produce the oil and gas have no say in the running of the industry.

What they want to do now is to take over these oil and gas states and the areas by force, not by election; and so they use the military to stop election in Rivers State because the APC made a mistake in their own primaries. They have no governorship candidate in Rivers State according to the decision of the Supreme Court; so they must stop election and possibly declare a state of emergency in Rivers State. They use the military to achieve that. It’s the same thing they are doing in Bayelsa, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states.

What is the business of the military in conducting election in Nigeria? The military has no business in conducting election in Nigeria; their interference in elections in Nigeria is a shame to the country and its leaders but the question is: who is ruling the country? Is it not a military man that is ruling the country? The man ruling the country now overthrew a democratic government in 1983 and took over the government until another military man overthrew him and took over the government. Then, he won election in 2015 and returned as a democratically elected President of the country; but what is the difference? The only difference is the dress he wears.

In 1983, he wore khaki uniform; from 2015 to date he has been wearing agbada, but it is the same man inside the agbada and khaki. There is no change at all, but they want to subjugate Nigeria by military force. How long can they continue in this regard? I do not know, but it does not make for peace, it does not make for tranquility and development. They have done the election the way they did in other places in the past with military intimidation, harassment and killings but in these areas, the people are crying and saying you cannot control us by foisting a government we have no hand in its enthronement. They have taken the oil, they have taken its management and they want to take our government and they are resisting it.

Militarisation  of election

It is unfortunate that the militants were at a time fighting for the people but at a stage, they got the militants and gave them money and they succumbed. They are sending so many of them, hundreds and thousands of them outside the country in different parts of the world to do one training or the other and they keep giving them money. It is the wealth of the people they are giving those few people to maintain peace so they can have their way towards securing the oil and gas to the detriment of the people of Nigeria.

They are giving some of them and the traditional rulers in the areas inducements that will make them keep quiet. The traditional rulers and some of them are taken to Abuja, lodged in the hotels and given money to keep quiet. They wear big beads and take photographs while their wealth are being taken away from them. They are yet to understand what is happening and what will happen to them in the nearest future. For peace to reign in this country, there must be equity and justice. I do not know how long the ordinary man in the exploited areas will continue to endure these injustices.

At a point, government, through the Army,  warned the international community, especially Britain, for condemning the alleged militarisation of elections in Nigeria, saying they should steer clear of the country’s internal matter. Are you worried by this?

Look,Britain was instrumental to the enthronement of the present administration in the country. Britain has never been honest in telling the same government the truth about its failure. Which Britain are you talking about? It is Britain that ruined this country ab initio from independence.

Nemesis catching  up with Britain

Britain manipulated the election in Nigeria in such a way that the NCNC, for example, which I belonged in the 1959 election that brought in independence which was conducted by Britain, NCNC won the election with 2.5 million votes to capture 193 seats, Action Group, AG won 1.6 million votes to capture 74 seats, Northern People’s Congress, NPC, won 144 seats with 1.7 million votes, and before anybody knew what was happening, the British Prime Minister had appointed a Northerner as the Prime Minister of Nigeria. So, every trouble that we have in this country was planted and caused by Britain.

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Thank God nemesis has started catching up with them in Britain; they are breaking up and their country will break into pieces as they cause Nigeria to break up. The God of Africa is destroying that country called Britain now. So, when they tell you anything do not believe them. They are the brain behind all the troubles and bad governance in Nigeria; they cannot be trusted. Is the present government in Nigeria not their installation, they installed this government. It is right from 1959 to 1960 they started causing problem in Nigeria, and up till now they are still helping in installing governments, bad ones for that matter in Nigeria.

You have witnessed so many elections in Nigeria, particularly the elections conducted from the Second Republic till date. How can you compare them with what we are having presently?

Starting from my time I have seen elections, including the one that took me and many people to the parliament, on December 29, 1959. I saw election in 1964, which I also contested; I saw the election of 1979 and I saw the election of 1999, and the last thing that was near election apart from the ones of 1959 and 1964,was the election during the Obasanjo government. Thereafter, in the 1999 election the military played a prominent role because it was the military generals who held a meeting and brought Obasanjo into the PDP; and that was when the military started having indirect interest in Nigeria’s elections.

They were retired military officers who have a right to participate. In the great countries of the world, retired military generals are highly respected because they are people who have offered their lives in the defense of the nation. So, I will not say the retired generals have done anything wrong in contesting elections; but the situation where the government is now using the military to conduct election is not acceptable.

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Contesting  elections

This is the only time I am seeing such in my life time, in such a brazen and open manner, in such a scandalous manner, in such a devil- may-care manner, without listening to the international community and well respected international bodies; it is terrible and only God knows where it will lead the country.

How do you react to the insinuation that  the military are more involved in the electoral process in states controlled by the opposition PDP or those that are about to be taken over by the PDP?

Yes, they are, especially the South-South states, the oil producing areas and some parts of the North controlled by the party or about to be taken over by PDP due to bad administration of the APC. In the South-South, they are the states producing the wealth of the country and the ruling party in the country wants to take them over by force.

The present dictatorship in the country wants to have the control of the government of those states after taking over the management of the oil and gas in those states. They have taken over the sources of wealth of those states, now they want to control their government to accomplish their colonisation. One ethnic group in the country, very insignificant, wants to colonise the rest of the country, and they are using the military now to conquer and colonise them; that is what is happening in Nigeria now.

Some observers have linked this colonisation and control you are talking about to the laying of oil and gas pipelines from South South to the North.

Can I ask you this question: How many times has your paper written an editorial on this issue of laying pipelines from South-South to the North and building of refinery in Kaduna and non-oil and gas producing areas in the North? Why do you want me to say that, that injustice they are doing now is right or wrong? Okay, if what they are doing is justifiable, though they can lay their pipes anywhere, and oil and gas can be intercontinental, the question is: why will they deny the producers of the oil and gas, say the management of the mineral resources, and now they want to deny them a say even in the government of their own area? The youths of this era should fight this injustice because in my own time, we had enslavement from Britain and I fought; I was one of those who fought to liberate Nigeria; it caused me my freedom on two occasions and on those two occasions, I was imprisoned. I was imprisoned at the age of 21 and at the age of 23, but we fought and we conquered them; so it is for the people of your age to fight these injustices. You should fight, stop keeping quiet and being afraid; people of your age should say no to these injustices. The people that are denied the control of their mineral resources should stop keeping quiet, they should fight the injustice, not for me to fight for them.

Elder statesmen such as Chief Edwin Clark are not keeping quiet. They are agitating against some of these ills you have pointed out, but are you not afraid of renewed  militancy     in the South South if the alleged humiliation of their people continues?

I’m not a prophet but all I can tell you is that a ground is being prepared for something that will not be pleasant for this country. If they do not take care those who want to take this country as their personal property will destroy it, and if they destroy this country, I will be pained. I am the last of the people who fought for independence of this country; I am the last of the people who fought for the government of Nigeria at independence as a Minister; all the others have died and I am the only link between the old and the new, and the only voice that will say this is not good and that is what I am saying now.

You say some elder statesmen, though younger than you, are keeping quiet while these alleged ills are going on. What then is your advice to them?                                       What are you telling them and the government of the day?

Whom do you want me to advise, the government or some elders who have turned blind and dumb?

Well, what I must say about the government, is that you do not whisper information to a deaf man. As for the elders, the past administrations and the 38 years of military dictatorship in this country have corrupted the country to the extent that money influences everything. These so-called elders see things, evil being committed, they threaten to say something or make a move to say something, they shake their hands in dollars and the next thing you see is they change, they don’t talk again. So, how many of them are so courageous enough to say this is bad and risk being denied certain things.

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People like me are not bothered about what you will deny us; there is nothing you can deny me again. I am already on the ground, therefore, I fear no fall. I am already comfortable, therefore, you cannot give me more comfort than I have now. I am not rich but I’m not poor; I’m contented here and am used to telling the truth all these years and with the few years remaining now, I cannot stop telling the truth; I see the truth I don’t waste time in telling it, because if I don’t say it nobody will say it the way it is. So I do not know how useful it is: to advise or encourage the elders to say the truth and damn the consequences.

Helmsmen  in power

Yes, I agree that Edwin Clark speaks out, but how many people listen to him; and again are you sure that what he said yesterday he will say it tomorrow? However, the battle is more for your age; In our own time, it was the young men in the newspapers, the trade union movements, the young men in private employment that led the struggle for the independence of the country. The men of the pen, the newspapers: Daily Service, West African Pilot, The Comet Newspapers, fought the battle for independence with their pens. However, you are trying but your senior editors should take up the fight against the injustices and give light to them on their editorials and make the ordinary man know what is happening. But how many newspapers are writing editorials that are not praising the helmsmen in power?

How do you assess the last presidential election?

From what I saw, there was no election in some places; and two, before the election, any sensible man should have known what will be the result. Any sensible man would have known that when the intimidation, the muscling, the reorganisation and the threat to the judiciary took place, should have known where the country was going. You should have known that it was all in preparation for the election. So, even if Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had been declared winner, are you sure the incumbent would have agreed to step down? Did you not hear what the Chief of Army Staff said? That they have every duty to obey the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and President of Nigeria?

Supposing the president was declared defeated, how are sure that the military will not back him to continue to stay in the office or the judiciary will not support him, when the judiciary has been so intimidated and terrorised and reorganised. So how else do you want me to assess the election? In your own assessment, did your vote count? Tell me, did your count?

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