If there were to be an Operation Positive Identification (OPI) in an organized, adequately regulated and previously “identified” community like University of Ibadan, one will agree to it as a critical and largely explainable mechanism of checking and tracking criminal subjects. However, it is tactically obnoxious to consider the implementation of such a scheme in the current state of the most populous black nation in the world. Even if it were to be achievable, it is crystal clear that it would precipitate despicable insult to human rights and democracy of our country.
Quite unfortunately, the Nigerian Army (NA) seems disgustingly biased by this scheme. OPI, which according to the Nigerian Army, would start on November 1, 2019, and tentatively end on December 23, 2019, has been welcomed by many concerned Nigerians with fierce resistance and criticism. The opposition was more aggravated because of the obvious non-involvement of appropriate legislative and bureaucratic mills of our democracy. In the official sense of it, the federal executive cabinet, the national assembly, ministries of defense, interior and information and Chief of Defense Staffs were not consulted before the publicity and preparation of this scheme. Of course, these are the quarters such nationwide-scale activity must pass through, constitutionally, before their approval and implementation. When the House of Representatives eventually summoned the army to give an explanation of their proposed plan, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, sent a representative, Maj. Gen. U.S. Mohammed, who gave an extensive explanation justifying their plight, urging Nigerians to collaborate with them to ensure adequate security measures are put in place all over the country.
Just after administering his gospels of persuasion in the House of Reps did we hear another report from the same Nigerian Army through the Acting Director, Nigerian Army Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, referring to the operation as “mischievously peddled on the social media by a hitherto unknown and fictitious organization, the so-called Bricks Company.” The report revealed: “the NA wishes to inform members of the public that it has nothing to do with the so-called Bricks Company and its illusionary OPI, it is not an army operation and the NA does not create any operation with such name or abbreviation in all its operations across the nation in a manner maliciously presented by the so-called Bricks Company.”
This is a glaring testament to the fact that we have relegated our security and safety to the hands of people that do not even have a bearing. What a tragedy! In a country roaring of insecurity do we have her officers of protection contrasting themselves and toying with the minds and auditory apparatus of the citizens.
Even if the operation is aimed at identifying Boko Haram insurgents, who, according to the NA, are already fleeing the North East for other parts of the country, it is important to note that the nation’s peace and harmony will be disrupted by the scheme. Soldiers that have been tagged complacent with upholding human rights would now be legitimately allowed to unleash their brutal horror on innocent Nigerians. Many armed operatives, rather than “positively identifying” Nigerian citizens will turn the activity to money extortion medium. Even the freedom of movement constitutionally deserved by every Nigerian will be diluted as armed military operatives take over the civilian realm. The terrifying effects of this operation on civil life of Nigerians are just unimaginable.
The definition of democracy, which is rather clichéd in the mouth of the average Nigerian citizen goes thus: a government of the people, by the people and for the people. This so-called OPI does not even have a strong element of governmental backing, not to talk of the people. With no single statement from our indifferent President, there is nothing showing the participation of the federal executive cabinet and other governmental parastatals. And of course, the civil populace was not engaged by the army to apprise them on the scheme. Therefore, this seems like a premium way of rejuvenating the long-forgotten draconian military regime on Nigerian soil.
The human-right activist, Femi Falana, described the operation as “an apartheid scheme that reintroduces the infamous and highly deprecated Pass Law of White Rule in South Africa” and he referred to it as “dictatorial and reprehensive.” Looking critically at the sequence of events in Nigerian democratic rule, there is an unalloyed trend. In a much smaller format, engaging military officials in explicitly civilian and police affairs began during the Olusegun Obasanjo-led regime. This was taken on a higher mode during Goodluck Jonathan-led administration when soldiers manned checkpoints and seized newspapers they deemed hostile. And here we are, during the Muhammadu Buhari tenure, experiencing our democracy being tussled with on a nationwide scale.
Whether the NA is regarding or disregarding Operation Positive Identification, the message is clear. The scheme is utterly unacceptable and it threatens to endanger our democracy. The NA should work effectively to propose better ways to tackle the seemingly undying security threats to our nation. It is also the job of the civilian populace, especially youths, to defend Nigerian democracy and ensure that our military officials work within their constitutional confines. We must all be watchdogs to uphold our democracy and sniff off any threat to it by any forces. Operation Positive Identification has no place to stay in our dear nation.