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Ensuring Democratic Balance: Insights for Nigeria’s Military Leadership from Global Democracies

Feature Article Ensuring Democratic Balance: Insights for Nigeria’s Military Leadership from Global Democracies
SUN, 16 JUN 2024 LISTEN

Recently, during Eid-el-Kabir and Nigeria’s Democracy Day, Chief of Defence Staff General Christopher Musa reiterated the military’s commitment to national security. Just four days ago, he assured Nigerians of victory against the enemies of the state during Democracy Day celebrations. His frequent public statements, intended to reassure the public of the military's dedication, often coincide with presidential addresses. While well-meaning, this pattern raises concerns about the overlap between military and civilian roles in public discourse.

General Musa has been vocal about the military’s dedication to national security, frequently using public platforms to communicate this commitment. For instance, during Eid-el-Kabir, he highlighted the sacrifices and dedication of the troops, drawing parallels to the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim as a symbol of loyalty and dedication. Similarly, during Nigeria's Democracy Day celebrations, he emphasized the armed forces' adherence to democratic tenets and their unwavering loyalty to constituted authority. These statements, while intended to reassure the public, often mirror the timing and content of presidential addresses.

This frequent overlap in public statements can inadvertently create a perception of competition between military and civilian leadership. Nigerians are aware of the military’s role and do not need constant reminders. Each time the president addresses the nation, and General Musa follows with his own statement, it inadvertently creates a sense of competition, which can blur the lines between their distinct roles.

In examining the Nigerian military's public role, it is instructive to compare it with the United States, whose constitutional system Nigeria adopted but has not fully emulated in practice. In Western democracies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, the military operates under a clear separation of powers and adheres strictly to the principle of civilian control. Military leaders in these countries rarely make public statements that could be perceived as overlapping with the responsibilities of civilian leaders. When the military does communicate publicly, it is primarily focused on matters directly related to national defense and security. These communications are often coordinated with civilian leadership to ensure a unified message, thus preserving the distinction between military and civilian roles.

For example, in the United States, the military’s public involvement is typically confined to strictly military matters, and even then, it is often in coordination with the President or Congress. This practice ensures that the military’s role remains distinct from that of civilian governance, maintaining a clear and respected separation of powers. The same approach is evident in the United Kingdom, where military leaders rarely make public statements unless they pertain to direct military operations or matters of national defense, and these communications are always in tandem with civilian leadership.

From a psychological perspective, the repeated public presence of military leadership in civilian matters can have significant implications. It can create perceptions of indirect competition for influence or visibility, which is not conducive to a healthy democratic environment. Nigerians are fully aware of the military’s role in ensuring national security and do not need constant reminders. Each time the president addresses the nation, and General Musa follows with his own statement, it inadvertently creates a sense of competition.

This pattern can also lead to public confusion regarding the distinct roles of military and civilian leaders, potentially undermining the authority of civilian governance. It is crucial for the military to support civilian leadership without overshadowing it, ensuring that democratic principles are upheld and respected. From a psychological standpoint, this blurring of roles can create an environment of uncertainty and distrust among the populace, as citizens may begin to question the true delineation of power and responsibility between their civilian and military leaders.

Highlighting this issue is not about accusing General Musa of any ulterior motives—no one is suggesting he's plotting world domination between tea breaks. Instead, it's about reflecting on the best practices for maintaining a healthy democratic balance. By bringing attention to this matter, it’s actually a way to support General Musa. In Nigeria's political landscape, where powerful figures watch each other's moves like hawks eyeing their next meal, being overly vocal could result in him not being invited to important presidential events and meetings with foreign dignitaries. Imagine missing out on all those fancy dinners and photo ops! Adopting a more restrained communication strategy could help reinforce democratic norms and protect his role within the military hierarchy. After all, we wouldn’t want General Musa to end up sidelined and suddenly replaced just for being too chatty! Oga, I beg, slow down oh, hmm.

Constructive reflection on this issue serves not only to protect General Musa but also to strengthen the overall governance framework in Nigeria. By adopting communication strategies that are more aligned with democratic practices observed in Western countries, the Nigerian military can ensure its commitment to national security is perceived as supportive of, rather than competitive with, civilian governance.

It is important to acknowledge and thank General Musa and the armed forces for their unwavering commitment to the security and stability of Nigeria. The dedication and sacrifices made by the military are invaluable, and their efforts are deeply appreciated. By aligning their public communication strategies with democratic norms, they can further enhance public trust and support. Acknowledging the military’s efforts in safeguarding the nation while encouraging a balance in public communications can lead to a more unified national front, where the contributions of the military are recognized and respected within the proper context of civilian oversight and control.

Educating everyone about these principles can help reinforce the importance of democratic norms and the rule of law. By doing so, Nigeria can foster a healthier balance between military and civilian roles, ultimately contributing to a more stable and effective governance structure. This involves maintaining clear distinctions between the roles of military and civilian leaders and ensuring that public messaging from the military complements, rather than competes with, the messages from civilian leadership.

By understanding and implementing the practices of long-standing democracies, Nigeria can ensure that its military remains dedicated to national security while deeply respecting the democratic process. This balanced approach is crucial for maintaining public trust and support, ensuring that the military’s role is perceived as supportive of, rather than in competition with, civilian governance.

To achieve this, it is essential to promote education on democratic norms and the proper roles of military and civilian leadership at all levels of society. This education should begin with government officials and military personnel, emphasizing the importance of maintaining clear boundaries and coordination between their respective spheres of influence. Additionally, the general public should be engaged in this educational effort, fostering a widespread understanding and appreciation of the distinct but complementary roles of military and civilian leadership in a democratic society.

By instilling these values, Nigeria can create a more cohesive and stable governance structure where the military’s commitment to national security is harmoniously integrated with the principles of democratic oversight and civilian control. This holistic approach not only strengthens the nation’s democratic institutions but also ensures that the military’s efforts are aligned with the broader goals of peace, stability, and democratic governance.

While some might argue that frequent military public statements align with African culture or Nigeria's unique context, it's essential to recognize that true democratic integrity requires adhering to established democratic norms. Nigeria, having adopted a constitutional system inspired by long-standing democracies like the United States, must also embrace the practices that sustain such systems. This means maintaining a clear separation between military and civilian roles, with the military's public communications being coordinated and supportive of civilian leadership rather than appearing competitive. By doing so, Nigeria can ensure its military remains dedicated to national security while fostering a democratic environment that is transparent, respectful of civilian oversight, and ultimately more effective.

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024

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