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Be loyal or resign, Buratai tells soldiers

Written by Maritime First

…As Taiwan’s Tsai says no peace deal with China unless force ruled out***

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Wednesday gave officers and men of the Nigerian Army with doubtful loyalty to the Federal Government Friday deadline to resign from the service.

Buratai gave the ultimatum at an expanded weekly meeting with Principal Staff Officers (PSOs), General Officers Commanding (GOCs) and some field commanders at the army headquarters in Abuja.

He said, “The foundation of military professionalism is discipline and without discipline an army cannot stand.

“One of our core values is loyalty to constituted authority. Loyalty must be hundred per cent.

“Should any officer or soldier have doubts as to his loyalty to the Nigerian State as presently constituted, such a person has up to Feb. 22, 2019 to resign.

“There is no room for indiscipline or disobedience to lawful orders in the Nigeria army today.’’

Buratai also said that the expanded meeting was to review security strategies put in place for the Presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday.

He recalled that two weeks ago, the strategies were planned in a similar meeting until the elections were rescheduled to Saturday and March 9, from Feb. 16 and March 2.

The army chief decried some politicians’ reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari directive to security agents to deal ruthlessly with ballot box- snatching.

“It is unfortunate to hear persons who are aspiring to rule this country again inciting the army to disobedience.

“We have consistently stated our position in the political dispensation to remain neutral and apolitical.

“However, direct and public incitement of the Nigerian military against democracy and constituted civil authority will not be tolerated.

“I request such persons to withdraw this inciting statement.

“Let me re-emphasize loud and clear, that the Nigerian Army is a professional army,’’ he stated.

He, therefore, ordered commanders to deal decisively with any electoral crime or action that could be inimical to national security.

Buratai further directed them to ensure that they and personnel under them did not hobnob with politicians.

“In this regard, there will be no military escort for any politician and all Nigerian army personnel are to stay clear of retired military officers, especially those who are now politicians until after the elections.

“Commanders are to conduct extensive patrols within their Area of Responsibilities (AORs).

“They must ensure that all flash points within the area are dominated.

“Commanders must, in conjunction with the Nigeria Police Force, enforce the restriction on movement within their Area of Responsibilities (AORs).

“All vehicles must be searched and suspicious persons or vehicles arrested/impounded and later handed over to the police,’’ he said.

According to Buratai, thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, illegal possession of elections materials and similar crimes are intended to mar an election and create deliberate avenues for post-election violence and mayhem.

He said that such actions could also become more damaging when they are widespread, leading to destruction of lives and property.

Buratai noted that such incidents in past elections were often planned and orchestrated by politicians, but said that the army had hitherto been cautious in its approach.

“However, this time around the Nigerian army will adopt a proactive posture that ensures that similar incidents do not even arise.’’

He noted that Nigerians had generally expressed disappointment with the postponement of the elections, adding that it increased apprehension in the populace and international community.

He, however, assured that the army alongside other security agencies, would rise to the challenge of ensuring a peaceful outcome of the rescheduled elections.

Buratai said that there was need to give confidence to Nigerians and reassure the international community that all would go well in the electoral process.

He insisted that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable, “hence those who seek to undermine its democracy by interfering in its electoral process must be seen as enemies and dealt with appropriately.

“Our role is aptly captured in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and we must defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity as well as act in aid of civil authority when called upon to do so.

“Therefore, commanders must work with all stakeholders, interest groups and agencies to avert any act by any individual, groups or entities that seek to undermine our democratic process.’’

In the meantime, President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday said no formal peace deal could be signed with China until leaders in Beijing rule out using force against the island.

Tsai was speaking a day after she confirmed she would run for re-election in early 2020 despite falling ratings and an increasingly strained relationship with China.

Beijing still sees democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Tsai was responding to recent comments by Wu Den-yih, head of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), that his party would pursue a peace treaty with Beijing if it were to regain power next year.

“There would be no so-called negotiation on equal footing and no real peace as China refuses to give up the use of force against Taiwan and forcefully pushes the ‘one country, two systems’ framework,” she said in a media briefing.

“China’s military intentions and its refusal to give up the use of force against Taiwan is a real source of regional instability and a threat to regional peace,” she added.

“One country, two systems” is China’s proposal to absorb Taiwan into the mainland but allow it to keep some of its freedoms.

Beijing has made its dislike of Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party clear.

After her election in 2016, it cut communication with her administration, stepped up military drills and poached several of Taiwan’s dwindling diplomatic allies.

President Xi Jinping reiterated in a speech last month that China would not renounce the option of using military force to bring Taiwan into the fold, describing unification with the mainland as “inevitable”.

A KMT win in 2020 would likely please leaders in Beijing given the much closer relationship it forged with the previous administration of Ma Ying-jeou.

Ma suggested in 2011 that Taiwan should consider a peace treaty with China within the coming decade, to formally bring an end to a civil war that has actually been over for seventy years.

The proposal sparked criticism from detractors that it would be tantamount to a unification or surrender treaty.

Ma later stressed that he would only move ahead for a peace agreement with the approval of both the parliament and the public, and the issue had been shelved since.

The KMT’s drubbing at the 2016 election partly stemmed from voter unease over the party’s perceived cosiness to the mainland.

But Wu — a former vice president under Ma — has resurrected the issue ahead of next year’s polls. He is among the KMT bigwigs who have been tipped to run for president.

Tsai said she believed voters would balk at the proposal unless Beijing withdrew its threats.

“I believe Taiwanese society would not accept any political agreement that could harm or eliminate our sovereignty or eliminate Taiwan’s democracy,” she said.

Additional report from AFP

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Maritime First