ACN REJECTS PLAN TO DEPLOY SOLDIERS
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has rejected the Federal Government's plan to deploy soldiers for the 2011 general elections due to start on Saturday, saying it is an anomaly to use the military for elections in a democracy.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Wednesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party also said the planned deployment is a continuation of the intimidation tactics of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP)-ruled Federal Government, wondering why soldiers, who were trained to fight wars, were being drafted to a purely civil matter like elections.
'The deployment of troops creates an atmosphere of warfare, which in turn heats up the polity. That's why it is not a common occurrence in other climes during elections. Ours should not be different. 'In Nigeria, the reason the PDP-controlled Federal Government will want to deploy the military is not to stem the rising cases of violence, which, in any case, are caused by the intolerance of the incumbent PDP governors in the various states where the party holds sway. The simple reason is to use the military to intimidate the opposition and pave the way for rigging.
'We are, therefore, astonished that the National Council of States could rubber stamp this PDP-orchestrated decision to deploy the military for the forthcoming polls,' ACN said. The party said it would also be difficult for the soldiers to checkmate the PDP in its devilish rigging plan because the leader of the party, President Goodluck Jonathan, is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, which pre-supposes that their (soldiers) loyalty will be to him.
'Also of great concern to us as a party is the effect the deployment of troops will have on the polity. Already, a certain senior officer in a paramilitary institution, who has been harassing and intimidating the opposition in the Irepodun area of Kwara State, is said to have started sewing army uniforms for his party's thugs, as part of his campaign of terror in the area.
'We have also heard that PDP chieftains in several states are sewing military uniforms for their thugs. Once these thugs are adorned with these military uniforms, who can challenge them to know whether they are fake or genuine? Who can confront them when they engaged in their rigging antics, especially in the countryside? This is part of the danger of deploying troops for elections,' it said.
ACN called on local and international observers to pay a very close attention to the role the soldiers would play at the polls, saying elections could only be declared free and fair if they were held in an atmosphere conducive for voters to exercise their constitutional rights. The party also warned against the continued use of the military for mundane internal matters, saying over-exposure of the military in a democracy has its inherent dangers.