Nigeria’s democracy is passing through a very trying time. The Times
are indeed tough and practically in all spheres of human endeavors,
Nigeria that prides itself as the giant of Africa has been stretched
beyond human imagination.  Apart from not having a robust political
engagements through which the economy of the millions of Nigerians can
be improved significantly, Nigeria’s human rights sector is facing
tumultuous challenges just at the relationship between the military
and the civilians have never been this sour to an extent that a lot of
the media products that millions of Nigerians receive on a daily basis
are substantially and increasingly looking like there is a war between
the military and the rest of the citizens.

As the lead facilitator at the Human Rights Writers Association of
Nigeria (HURIWA), I took a lot of time and energy to understudy the
media contents around the issues of the waning relationship between
the military and the civilians. From most of the reports, it would
seem that there is the urgency of the now for both the heads of the
military and stakeholders in the organized civil society community in
Nigeria to begin and deepen the process of conversations about how
best to ensure that the Nigerian Army and the entire military
completely and totally become professional because by so doing, the
complaints of the multiple issues of human rights violations committed
by some soldiers against the citizens will be minimized. This is
because organizationally, the military is subordinate to elected civil
authorities and these persons exercising authority as civil
authorities cannot possibly do so without the mandate of the people of
Nigeria and it is this popular mandate of the civilians and indeed all
of Nigerians that confer the legitimacy for them to exercise these
essential authorities to shape the wellness and wellbeing of the

I think it was the realization of the indubitable fact that the
the military is subordinate to the civilian authority that motivated the
Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai to
consolidate and strengthen the conversations between the military and
the civil society which culminated in the establishment of the
department for Civil and Military Relations which is normally headed
by a Senior General to underscore the excellent and phenomenal respect
that the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army holds for the constitutional
rights of the citizens especially given the overwhelming knowledge
within the circles of the hierarchies of the military that
constitutional democracy has come to stay. Constitutional democracy is
unrealistic without respect for the fundamental human rights of the
citizens. This salient message was also reiterated by the Chief of
Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur when he decorated some three dozen
newly promoted military Generals.  The Army Chief by emphasizing the
the primacy of constitutional democracy has also by extension adumbrated
on the essence and necessity of mainstreaming respect for the
fundamental human rights of Citizens in all internal security
operations and this point needs to be constantly repeated to the
hearing of the other ranks who are the people that do come in close
contacts with the masses and they are the persons fingered for
violating the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms of the

The Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur emphasized the
strategic place of constitutional democracy thus: “Democracy has come
to stay. We will not tolerate any agent of destabilization. The years
of military misadventure in politics have never carried us anywhere.
It is over,”.

“Do not hobnob with politicians. At this rank of two-star generals, do
not lobby for the appointment. If you want to lobby for an appointment, lobby
the Chief of Army Staff and you can only do this through hard work,
discipline, and loyalty. The crop of officers (39 Major Generals)
decorated yesterday will never be dragged into any interest that is
contrary to the sustenance of democracy in our nation.”

“All our eyes are on you. We know there are several moves to get your
attention. You must make sure that whatever you are doing, and when
some persons approach you, you must act within the confines of the

The reference being made to the Constitution by the Chief of Army
Staff Lieutenant General Tukur shows the relevance of respect for the
fundamental human rights of Citizens because Chapter 4 of the
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria remains the fulcrum
and the barometer for measuring the democratic viability or otherwise
of a Sovereign State. Constitutional democracy without the dominant
thematic areas of adherence to the sanctity of human rights are
the autocratic regime and not a democracy.  The North Atlantic Treaty
the organization is one of the greatest coalition of military powers from
democratic nations.

Major General H. Kujat wrote a seminal work that was published by NATO
on its Website on “The Role of the Military in a Democracy”. His piece
was powerfully articulate and conveys all of the things that we need
to stress in our conversations about the place of the Nigerian Army
and constitutional democracy vis- a -vis the watchdog roles of the
media which should vigorously monitor the democratic  institutions to
ensure that the respect for the fundamental human rights of Citizens
is not jeopardized or compromised or diluted.

He wrote as follows: “First, I would like to say that I am pleased to
have this opportunity to speak to you today. Your country is still in
a difficult state of transition, which poses new and different
challenges every day. It is, therefore, important that people like
yourselves have a positive attitude and the dedication to shaping events
in the years ahead. This is an indispensable prerequisite to help your
country normalize its relations with the rest of Europe and beyond and
to become a functioning member of the family of nations that make up
the Euro-Atlantic community.

With my presentation on “The Role of the Military in a Democracy” I
want to offer you some ideas and food for thought which might be of
use to you.”

The top General states thus: “Let me start by mentioning that the Role
of the Military in a Democracy is an ever-relevant concern which was
already raised by Plato 2500 years.

The principle of political control of armed forces as we know it today
is rooted in the concept of representative democracy. It refers to
the supremacy of civilian institutions, based on popular sovereignty,
over the defense and security policy-making apparatus, including the
military leadership.”

Democratic control, he said, should always be a two-way process
between armed forces and society. In a democracy, firm constitutional
guarantees should protect the state – including the armed forces –
from two types of potential dangers: from politicians, who have
military ambitions, and from the military with political ambitions.

He wrote also: “There is no common model of how to establish
armed forces in a democratic society and how to exercise control over
the military, says General Kujat.

There is, however, a number of shared principles. They include
indispensable prerequisites to organize and to guarantee a proper
civilian direction and control of armed forces. These are essentially

the existence of a clear legal and constitutional framework, defining
the basic relationship between the state and the armed forces. A
significant role of parliament in legislating on defense and security
matters, in influencing the formulation of national strategy, in
contributing transparency to decisions concerning defense and security
policy, in giving budget approval and in controlling spending – using
“the power of the purse” in issues related to “the power of the sword”

The General submitted that those models also include the hierarchical
responsibility of the military to the government through a civilian
the organ of public administration – a ministry or department of defense –
that is charged, as a general rule, with the direction and supervision
of its activity. Other aspects of the place of the military in
promoting constitutional democracy is: “the presence of a well
trained and experienced military corps that is respected and funded by
a civilian authority. It acknowledges the principle of civilian
control, including the principle of political neutrality and
non-partisanship of the armed forces; The existence of a developed
civil society, with a clear understanding of democratic institutions
and values, and, as a part of the political culture, a nationwide
consensus on the role and mission of their military; the presence of a
reasonable non-governmental component within the defense community
capable of participating in the public debate on defense and security
policy, presenting alternative views and programs.

He then summed them up thus: “I assume that this is a solid and
a comprehensive yardstick for the measurement of armed forces in a
democracy and their political control, which allows us to turn from
theoretical considerations to reality taking my own country as a first

The relevant articles of the constitution foresee in summary the
following missions and roles for the Armed Forces: They defend their own
country and participate in the collective defense of the Alliance;
they provide humanitarian aid; they perform search and rescue
missions; they provide assistance in disasters; they provide
assistance in accidents; they participate in maintaining public order,
with and without arms, by  providing administrative assistance
performing protective functions assisting the police in emergencies

To avoid any misunderstanding – in the latter case, armed forces are
the ultima ratio when police and border guard forces are not able to
handle the situation in a common effort.”
The Constitution, he says, explicitly prohibits any action, which
could disturb the peaceful togetherness of nations or which supports
the preparation of any aggression. Worth mentioning is also that the
rules of the International Law predominate over the Basic Law. This
results in specific responsibilities and obligations for the
government, the citizens, and especially the soldiers. These models he
listed out for member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty
organization fully applies to the Nigerian Army.

Last weekend, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA,
organized a townhall meeting for the South East of Nigeria in Enugu
whereby the civil society community in Nigeria and the media met and
brainstormed on what needed to be done with the Military.  The theme
of the meeting addressed by two top Mass communications and political
Science scholars of the Enugu State University of Technology and the
Institute of Management and Technology,  Doctors Chidiebere Ezinwa and
Nwanze Emeka was also attended by Youths and Students from South East
of Nigeria. Chidiebere Ezinwa, LLB, BL. Ph.D., listed out the following
roles for the media so as to ensure that the Nigerian Army remains
thoroughly and comprehensively professional.

On the social responsibility theory, he wrote thus: “This is a product
of the United States of America’s response to the abuse of free press by
sensationalism and commercialism which threatened the stability of the
country with the setting up of the Hutchins commission in 1947. The
emphasis in this theory is that press freedom should be exercised with
a sense of obligation to society. It holds that the press has the
right to criticize the government and institutions but also has
certain basic responsibilities to maintain the stability of society.
The press should not be used to destabilize the society but rather
serve as an instrument for the recognition and promotion of public
interest. The Commission after observing the frequent failings of the
press recommended the following journalistic standard that the press
should seek to maintain: ‘a responsible press should ‘provide a full,
a truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day’s event in
a context which gives them meaning; it should serve as a forum for the
exchange of comments and criticism’ and be a common carrier of public
expression; the press should give a ‘representative picture of
constituent groups in society’ and also present and clarify the goals
and values of society’

The commission frowned at the limited access granted to voices outside
the circle of a privileged and powerful minority; sensationalism of
the press and the mixing of news with editorial opinion.

…Comrade Onwubiko is the National Coordinator of Human Rights
Writers Association of Nigeria


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