The Senator, who spoke in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State when Governor Seriake Dickson hosted him and other African lawmakers attending the 74th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region) Executive Committee to a dinner, maintained that his comments on the floor of the Senate, though “unambiguously in defence of democracy”, were either being twisted or misconstrued by some persons.
While reinstating his respect for the Nigerian Armed Forces, Ekweremadu, advised that comments made by lawmakers in the course of their duty should be situated within the proper context before any form of reaction.
He explained in Yenagoa that parliamentarians had a duty to continue to defend democracy in the country, hence he clearly cautioned fellow politicians against the mistakes of the past, which inevitably led to the abrupt end of the previous republics.
“We had one of our colleagues from Kogi, who was hosting a constituency briefing and empowerment. He alleged that the state government sponsored thugs to chase away people, disrupt the programme, and destroy the equipment he bought for his people.
“We condemned such acts, especially where in a particular case, the house of a parliamentarian was pulled down. We condemned a case whereby parliamentarians were stopped from holding meetings and where a parliamentarian was stopped from coming to a state where he was governor for eight years.
“We warned that it was such reckless abuse of power and impunity that scuttled our previous republics, especially the first republic and I cautioned politicians not take our democracy for granted.
“Of course, some people took it out of context and said I was calling for a military coup. I never called for a military coup. I never said the military was planning any coup. Even the military’s statement admitted that my statement was only cautionary and that we were sincere. But they went as far as saying that the international community should ignore my words of caution”, Ekweremadu said.
He added: “I hold the Nigerian Army and the Armed Forces in high regard. They have defended our democracy, our people and have acquitted themselves creditably. If they need anything now, it is encouragement because this is not the best of times for them.
“But we do hope that when parliamentarians make statements, they (the military) should be able to know exactly what they said before reacting so that we don’t overheat the system.
“Our debate is circulating on the internet, unedited, and I never said the army was planning a coup and I never invited them to plan any coup. But I strongly hold the view that our political leaders should ere on the side of caution by refraining from past mistakes and actions inimical to democratic practice”.
Recall that after Ekweremadu spoke on the floor of the Senate, the Defence Headquarters in a statement by its spokesman, JA AGIM a Brigadier General
gave a detailed response. Titled, RE – WHO SAYS THE MILITARY CAN’T TAKE OVER, it read in full:
1. The Defence Headquarters wish to respond to a comment by the Deputy President of the Senate, Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu on Wednesday 7 March 2018, regarding the Nigerian Military, while contributing to a debate on a motion sponsored by Senator Ahmed Ogembe, representing Kogi Central. In his comments among others, the Distinguished Deputy President of the Senate stated “The Problem in Nigeria is that our democracy is receding. Who says army cannot take over, let us not joke with our democracy that is the issue”.
2. This statement may appear cautionary and sincere in the atmosphere of discourse, it is however derogatory to the Army used in the expression and by extension to the Armed Forces of Nigeria. The statement in the true sense has the capacity to denigrate the Nigerian Military in every ramification including it’s loyalty to the President Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the confidence of the general public to defend Nigeria’s democracy. In the light of this; the Defence Headquarters wish to state clearly that, the Nigerian Military has come of age and is in tune with best international military practices of complete and total subordination to democratic governance.
3. In this regard, it is worthy to remind the general public about some key measures among others that guaranteed the present sustainable status of politically unambitious members of the Armed Forces:
a. Shortly, after the transition from a military to a democratically elected government in 1999, officers of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, who were quasi-political, were honourably eased out of service. This was done to avoid indoctrination of other officers in the Military in order to enable the democratic government commence a re-professionalisation process of the Armed Forces. The process commenced in collaboration with international organisations such as the United States Armed Forces and the British Military. By 2009, from the basic military training institutions through units and formation reorientation programmes to top management workshops and seminars for the military, it became clear that the Armed Forces of Nigeria has been re-professionalised to be totally subordinate to political leadership and democracy in the Country.
b. In addition, the Nigerian Military began to take the lead at ensuring that the West African Sub Region is stable democratically through military diplomacy and physical actions where it is highly desirable and supported by ECOWAS. The case of the Gambia last year is still fresh in our memories, where democracy was enforced by an ECOWAS Military Coalition led by the Armed Forces of Nigeria, under the focused and abled leadership of Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General AG Olonisakin (NAM).
c. Furthermore, the present crop of personnel in the Armed Forces of Nigeria right from the Service Chiefs to the men; are made up of the balance of re-professionalised officers and fresh intakes from 1999, who do not nurse political ambitions. They are fully committed to their oaths of allegiance to serve their fatherland Nigeria, with total submission to our democratic government.
4. Defence Headquarters hereby assures the international community, Nigeria’s democratic institutions and the general public, of its unalloyed loyalty to the President Commander in Chief, provision of all necessary support for the sustenance of our democracy and carrying out our constitutional roles. Therefore, the apprehension by the Deputy President of the Senate should be totally disregarded.
5. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.