By Emmanuel Onwubiko
As a leader in the organized Civil Rights community with a special interest on ways and means of mainstreaming respect of the fundamental human rights of the citizenry in all internal military operations, I have been naturally inclined to following up on the information that filtered out about a nationwide internal military operation that would be the last of 2019. The information flow from the army is unmistakably professionally powered. That we must concede to the media management team selected by the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai who himself is unmistakably media savvy.
The many years of positive and constructive engagements we have enjoyed with the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army stimulated in me the deeper inclination to find out what the military operations would mean especially because of the groundswell of divergent positions about the previous exercises viz-a-viz the human rights implications.
One of the new trends that was somehow communicated to the public as an integral aspect of the ongoing phase of the holistic internal military operation that would be enforced all over the country was identified as positive identification exercise by Nigerians during the periods of these exercises which as announced would be simultaneously inaugurated to cover the entire nation. This positive identification component as expected and as announced would be intelligence driven and not meant to undermine the enjoyment of the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the relevant provisions that are found in both chapter 4 and to Some extent chapter 2 which is the fundamental principles of state policy.
However, from the word go, I suspected that it is possible that certain reactionary forces may decide to play up this aspect of the exercise and by doing so create a deeply entrenched negative perception about the real intent, import, essence and significance of that aspect of the larger body of the internal military operations.
As the head of the team from the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) that organized a six-hour-interface and seminar with the organized civil Rights community and media in the South East of Nigeria, the bulk of the questions thrown up at the forum bordered on the poisoned perception already generated and unleashed on the public space concerning that aspect of the military exercise in which certain suspected individuals would be tasked to show that they are not as bad as the intelligence linking them to belonging to any terrorist acts which are in the possession of the Military authority.
My team and I composed of tested and trusted media contents’ analysts got back to our hotel rooms in Owerri, Imo state and spent the better part of the night after that brainstorming sessions with selected leaders of the mass media and the organized civil society community in the South East, to pour through the essential characters, ingredients and essential elements of the information that we got during the day.
Our decision was to recommend to the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army to modify the element of positive identification to bring it in harmony with extant provisions of the fundamental human rights provision which are constitutionally guaranteed given the groundswell of misconceptions.
However, it would seem that the negative forces who may be working in connivance with some reactionary elements have successfully marred that component of the internal military exercise with the mistaken identity of a sinister plot to criminalize and demonize all and every Nigerian citizen.
In the context of the above evidence that mischief makers have successfully poisoned the public perception about the positive identification component of the exercise by the military we then have every reason to also reflect on the issues raised about the internal military exercise with specific reference to the public caution that was issued to journalists to help douse the tensions generated by the misperception and negative perception about military operations which has been made to look like an exercise targeting the wanton violations of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution which the citizens are entitled to as of Rights.
For a start, it was reported that the chief of army staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, had pleaded with journalists to stop portraying the personnel of the Nigerian Army in bad light. Buratai spoke at a two-day civil-media-military relations summit organized for journalists in the South-east.
The COAS accused print and broadcast media journalists of painting the Nigerian Armed Forces negatively than positively to their audiences.
Buratai, who was represented by the Chief Training and Operations Officer, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Eno Obong Udoh, noted that an organization like the Nigerian Army cannot rule out bad eggs among its personnel.
The Army chief accused the media of demoralizing the military personnel who he said stake their lives to keep the nation safe. How can you be vilifying the same people that are staking their lives and their troops every day and actually paying the supreme price for you? How can you be vilifying them every day?
“Some people will just sit down on television, holding discussions only about the Nigerian Army, thinking that they will win awards for doing so.
“This (summit) is a great and historic occasion that will hopefully create the awareness of what the Nigerian Armed Forces and all the security agencies are doing in this country to curb the mirage of security threats that is facing this nation so that there can be development in our great nation; so that Nigeria can be as great as it is supposed to be.
In 2007-2008, our oil production level was only 700 barrels per day. Who has forgotten that? Today, people are saying: why should Nigerian Army defend pipeline? Is it because we are not producing? Is it because we are not producing 2.2 million barrels and above per day? Or should we go back to 700 barrels per day?
“The media is the one who is emphasizing on the casualties of Nigerian Army as against the casualties of Boko Haram insurgents, bandits and so on. You are the one writing and supporting them unwittingly through your publications. By so doing, you demoralize the troops.
“The media forget that they should be the one raising the morale of the troops who have put their lives on the line. The media is the greatest offender and this historic event is not just for Atilogwu Udo; it is to correct the wrong impression or perception that we spread in our media that the Nigerian Army is against the people.”
I owe it however to posterity as a stakeholder with a professional working knowledge of what the Laws says on the military in Nigeria in the area of the continuous dialogue on ways and mainstreaming respect for human rights during internal operations, to state that the current Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai is a fine officer imbued with the requisite and vast knowledge of ways and means of administering a law based internal military operations and there are abundance of empirical evidence to so demonstrate.
The Army Chief had previously authored a guide book on internal military operations specifically directing operatives and officers to abide by extant rules of engagement in internal military operations which are deeply rooted on the sanctity of the Nigerian Constitution and importantly on the NECESSITY OF RESPECTING FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS OF CITIZENS.
Permit me to state that information concerning that aspect of positive identification component of the military exercise could have been better managed and appropriately communicated to stop the tension generated by the initial negative perception so the divisive plots of the negative forces are decisively dealt with and effectively rubbished.
The negative perception which generated general mistrust about that aspect of POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION was the erroneous belief that every Nigerian citizen would be required to carry with him or her, a positive means of identification.
As an activist who has been in this human rights field for over two decades, I refused to share the impression no matter how so beautifully presented that a time would come when as a citizen, I would be required to have in my possession a means of identification all the time.
This is because this line of understanding was not debunked so millions of Nigerians started nursing the fear that their constitutionally guaranteed rights as clearly spelt out in chapter four could be rendered a nullity.
This impression gave rise to the human right enforcement procedure instituted by the respected constitutional lawyer Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) that culminated in the injunction halting the enforcement of the positive identification exercise by the military.
A Federal High Court, Lagos division reportedly ordered the Nigerian Army and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, to suspend the ongoing operation positive identification campaign by the military.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa directed parties to the suit to maintain the status quo ante pending the determination of the suit filed by Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) on October 25 and marked FHC/L/CS/1939/2019 on October 25.
He is seeking, among others, an order stopping the operation.
The COAS, the army and the Attorney-General of the Federation are first to third respondents in the suit.
When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, none of the respondents were in court.
Falana informed the judge that the respondents had been served the processes and that the proof of service was in the court’s file, which was confirmed.
But a principal state counsel from the Ministry of Justice prayed the judge to grant an adjournment to enable the Solicitor-General, Mr. Dayo Apata, to handle the matter personally.
He added that the adjournment would enable the respondents have more time to harmonize their positions.
Justice Aikawa granted his application when the applicant didn’t oppose him.
“In view of the agreement between counsel, I hereby order the first and second defendants to maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the case,” the judge ruled and adjourned further proceedings till November 18.
In the suit, Falana argued that the nationwide operation, which runs from November 1 to December 23, 2019 and by which Nigerian citizens would be required to move about with means of identification, was unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
He argued that the exercise violates his rights and those of other Nigerian citizens to liberty, “as encapsulated in Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, (Cap A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
The senior lawyer filed along with the suit an order seeking an interim injunction restraining the three respondents from going on with the exercise pending the hearing of the substantive matter.
In a supporting affidavit sworn to by a lawyer in his team, Mr. Taiwo Olawanle, the plaintiff recalled that on October 8, 2019, Gen. Buratai disclosed that the operation positive identification, said to be ongoing in the North East Theatre of Boko Haram insurgency, would be extended to the entire nation.
But the POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION IS ONLY BUT A COMPONENT OF THE LARGER EXERCISE OF THE MILITARY. Military exercises are protected by the law because no nation can administer a combat ready force without creating the enabling environment for such internal military operations which must comply with best global practices and must be done to capture the sanctity of the Fundamental Rights provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.
What this court’s decision shows is that the large volume of activities organized under the auspices of the civil military relations department of the Army must be further expanded to cover more grounds and to strategically engage constantly with media and civil Rights influencers in Nigeria to keep Nigerians abreast of all the positive changes taking place in the Nigerian Army. It calls for better strategic information dissemination.
Richard Templar conveyed this same impression on how to conquer negative perception about proposed events of activities in his latest book titled “The Rules of People.”
“We all have a backstory. It explains why we behave as we do. OK, it doesn’t always justify it, but at least it’s a reason for our behavior. Of course, no one else ever knows all the details and complexities of your backstory like you do, but lots of people get the gist.”
“There’ll be a reason why certain things make you feel more anxious, stressed, excited, cynical, depressed, relaxed, angry, and confident than other people do. It might be genetic; it might be because of bad past experiences, or according to Freud it might all be down to your parents. Friends might say that you shouldn’t stress so much about this, or be so suspicious about that, or be too laid back, or shout so much. But they don’t understand – if they’d been to the same school as you, or lived through the poverty you have, or had siblings like yours, or worked for your last boss, they’d realize why you behave that way.”
“Listen, this is true of everyone. There’s no one on the planet who isn’t shaped by their personal experiences. So when your colleague snaps at you, or your friend lets you down, or your partner forgets your birthday, just remember there’s always a reason. It might be a rubbish reason, but there’s a reason.”
“And I’m telling you this because if you can understand the reason, it makes it easier to deal with other people’s negative behavior. Even if you can’t change the way they act, you’ll find it slightly easier to take if you get the reasons behind it. And often simply because you’re prepared to understand, they can let go of being defensive and decide to change their behavior.”
Writing in his book “Soldiers of fortune: Nigerian politics from Buhari to Babangida”, Max Siollun offered some reasons for the growing cynicisms about internal military operations, as it were, especially since the inception of constitutional democracy. But he got it all screwed up because under the current dispensation the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai has taken steps to carry Nigerians along by way of up to date informations on internal military operations and as I write I have in my possession over a dozen top quality books on the military and particularly about the subordination of the military to the provisions of the constitution and the Laws.
He wrote that: “Nigeria is a country of great diversity and contradiction…it has world class wealth, yet is full of poor people…yet through all the contradiction, diversity and linguistic confusion, there has been one constant in Nigerian life: military interference in politics.”
“In 2010 Nigeria celebrated 50 years as an independent nation. As it passed this milestone there is renewed interest in its history. Although modern Nigeria cannot be understood without reference to its era of military rule, there is little objective literature on the fifteen years of military rule (1984-1999) that preceded the current civilian government. The small body of literature on the era of military rule consists largely of hagiographic biographies by, or about, some of the key personalities of the era.”
I conclude by calling for further and better strategic and constructive engagement with the military to enhance quality crises communications in times like these.