Ndubuisi Orji, Paulinus Aidoghie (Abuja), Noah Ebije (Kaduna), with agency reports
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, has threatened that Nigerian forces will kill foreign soldiers who intervene in the country’s election matters.
His comments came over a week after the Federal Government accused foreign powers including the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union of actions that could be deemed as interference and warned of consequences.
The three entities had criticised the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), warning that the decision by President Muhammadu Buhari could affect the credibility of the general elections. The February 16 presidential election would be hotly contested, and there were fears of violence and election fraud, with the opposition repeatedly accusing the ruling party of plotting to rig the polls.
Buhari consistently pledged his commitment to free and fair polls and warned against any attempt by other nations to meddle in the country’s internal affairs.
Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had observed overt bias by Western countries towards the opposition People Democratic Party (PDP), a practice it said contradicted international norms.
Featuring on an NTA programme, El-Rufai said: “We are waiting for the person that will come and intervene. They will go back in body bags, because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country.
“We got that independence and we are trying to run our country as decently as possible and we know the history of those countries that are trying to teach us these things. We have read their history.
“We also know that at their own stages of development, they went through these challenges. So please, let’s work together, let’s advise one another—but don’t lecture us.”
El-Rufai warned that individual countries had no right to violate Nigeria’s sovereignty.
He added that while Nigeria had intervened militarily in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s, it was done based on the resolution of the international community and as a gesture of “neighbourliness.”
However, in a statement yesterday by the governor’s media aide, Samuel Aruwan, he said the outrage generated by his principal’s comment was false.
He noted: “When Malam Nasir El-Rufai appeared on NTA’s Tuesday Night Live, he stood up for Nigeria’s dignity in the wake of those who would traduce their country and reduce it to the status of a colony in their vain quest for power.
“The video of his comments does not contain any call for violence. Affirming that a country will defend itself against needless intervention is the kind of statement you expect to hear from a patriot. It is not a call for violence. Warning about the consequences of meddling in another country’s affairs is legitimate.
“Malam Nasir El-Rufai has issued a powerful call for vigilance and a clear notice that other countries should not mistake the supine posture of the opposition for national weakness.”
The European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM), however, said that in spite of the comments by El-Rufai, it would continue its mission in the country:
“We are aware of the comments by the Governor of Kaduna about non-interference by foreigners. The EU only deploys an election observation mission when it is invited to do so by the authorities of a country.
“The EU has been invited to observe all of the general elections in Nigeria since 1999.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission invited the EU to deploy an observation mission for the 2019 general elections.
“EU election observation missions are impartial, do not interfere in the electoral process, and operate according to a strict code of conduct.
“While the security of EU observers is of paramount importance, and will remain under constant review, EU observers will continue their work across the country in the run-up to – and beyond – the 16 February elections.”
Responding to Daily Sun’s query, the British High Commission in a statement by the Head of Communication said: “We are aware of reports of alleged comments by Governor Nasir El-Rufai and are seeking clarification on these from his office.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), threatened to pull out of the peace accord midwifed by the National Peace Committee, if actions were not taken immediately to curb alleged “incendiary actions” by the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the run-up to the February 16 presidential poll.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, at a press briefing in Abuja, yesterday, said Nigerians were shocked by the alleged threats by El-Rufai, “who declared on a national television that members of the global democratic institutions working for a peaceful election in Nigeria will return to their countries in body bags.”
The PDP also called “on the international community to immediately impose a travel ban on El-Rufai for allegedly inciting violence in the country ahead of the general elections.
Besides, the main opposition party rejected the redeployment of Kayode Egbetokun, a former Chief Security Officer to APC leader, Bola Tinubu, as Kwara State Commissioner of Police.
Ologbondiyan alleged: “This is in line with plans by the Presidency and the APC to effect a mass deployment of top security officers, particularly the police, to intimidate, harass and manhandle Nigerians that will not support the self-succession bid of Buhari as well as aiding APC thugs to snatch ballot boxes and orchestrate violence in the elections.”
There was outrage yesterday as reactions poured out on El-Rufai’s comments. In his twitter handle, former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode said: “You are planning to rig the election and you know that the only way you can possibly ‘win’ is by announcing fake results.
“You threaten foreigners…you are playing with fire and it will consume you!”
Ovation publisher, Dele Momodu: “I pray my dear brother, Nasir El-Rufai, will withdraw that unfortunate threat.”
Co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls Movement, Aisha Yesufu said: “Dear Governor Nasir El Rufai @elrufai, just so you know, nobody has monopoly of violence! You keep waving violence at us as if you alone own it.”
Former AMCON chairman: Mustafa Chike-Obi: “As I watch and listen to the final stages of the presidential campaigns, APC is sounding and acting increasingly like a desperate group, intent on sowing division and discord, while PDP is trying to heal and unite. Just listen to the latest ravings from Lai and El Rufai. Strange.”
Dr. Farooq Kperogi: “This El-Rufai man is always threatening murder and violence against political opponents. Thank goodness he became a governor, which has afforded us the opportunity to know him.”
Reno Omokri: “I urge @Elrufai, who today threatened foreign friends of Nigeria of going back in body bags if they intervene in Nigeria, to rather urge the @MBuhari administration to stop releasing ‘repentant’ Boko Haram members and use the body bags he referred to on them instead.”
Somto Onuchukwu: “El Rufai’s bodybag threat is a reminder of the kind of divisive leaders in APC; these people have been making inciting statements even before they came to power; now they’re in power and even more dangerous. “With Atiku campaign you can feel the peace.”