February 16: Anyoku, el-Rufai Trade Words over International Observers’ Involvement, EU Reacts

By Uche Mbah

Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyoku, and Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai,  the combative and foul-mouthed Kaduna State governor, have been speaking on opposing ends of the divide on the involvement of the International Community in the February elections in Nigeria. While Anyoku insists that no country is an island, el-Rufai threatens foreigners who interfere on Nigeria’s internal affairs with death.

  “Nigeria’s friends and International Community as a whole are watching the behavior of the Federal Government and its  Agencies, including especially the police, the Army, and the other Law enforcement instruments to see how far they respect the country’s constitution,  (and)the rule of Law”, Anyoku said.

Anyoku, who is  very influential  in international diplomacy, insists that no country can be an Island unto itself.

“I must warn that no country can be an Island unto itself especially in our increasingly globalizing world. Therefore, our Nigerian Government, like all other governments all over the world, while of course guarding their sovereignty, should pay heed to the views of the international Community, otherwise the country will return to the Pariah Status which it happily exited in 1999 when it once more embraced democracy”.

But the Kaduna state government was not impressed by his statement. Appearing on a Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, program anchored by Cyril Stober, el Rufai threatened foreign observers with death.

 El-Rufai: “Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in body bags. We are trying to run our country as decently as possible.” Reminding them that Nigeria has got their independence, the Governor said: “We know their history, we also know their own stages of development and they went through these challenges. So, please, let us work together, let us challenge one another, but don’t lecture us.”

But the European Union insisted they are to monitor the elections because of a subsistlng invitation since 1999.

In a statement by the team’s leader, Sarah Fradgley, the union said they are aware of el-Rufai’s comment. The statement reads in full:

“We are aware of the comments by the Governor of Kaduna about non-interference by foreigners during a talk show on the elections Tuesday 5 February. 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. Thus this is the sixth time the EU is observing elections in Nigeria. The Independent National Electoral Commission invited the EU to deploy an observation mission for the 2019 general elections. EU election observation missions give commentary and analysis, and make recommendations about the electoral process. 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. For the last month the mission’s team in Abuja, as well as 40 long-term observers across the country, have followed the elections. We have met with a wide range of candidates, parties, election officials, security agencies, and civil society organizations, and have enjoyed good cooperation at federal and state levels. The mission looks at all aspects of the election, including the campaign tone, the transparency of the election administration, the neutrality of security forces, and the independence of the judiciary.”

El Rufai had, however, admitted that Nigeria had intervened in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s but that it was done on the basis of resolution of the International community. He did not say whether if the International community resolved on this, the foreign observers will no longer go back “in body bags”.

With a barrage of criticisms from Nigerians and the International Community, the governor decided to make clarifications saying that he made the statement in National interest. Reacting to this, Garba Shehu, Presidential spokesperson added presidential weight to the issue.

“We have taken note of the clarification to a reported earlier statement by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufa’i, concerning opposition call for foreign interference in our domestic affairs and to say that latest statements by him should rest the issue for good,” he said.

“There is nothing more to sneeze at. The governor spoke strongly in defence of of national interest. It is clear that El-Rufa’i, our party the All Progressives Congress , and all its candidates have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections.”

In 2016, el-Rufai was in Ghana for Election Monitoring. Analysts question why suddenly he has become averse to election monitoring.

He also said that the reactions of the International community over Onnoghen was “Irresponsible”.

On INEC, Anyoku commended them for the Anambra elections, but said their handling of Ekiti and Osun came with a barrage of criticisms. He urged them to be free and fair in the conduct of the elections.

“Indeed, the image and standing within the international community will be significantly affected by how INEC and the Federal Government as a whole are seen to behave”, he said.

He deplored the debasement of the sanctity of human life in Nigeria, citing the indifference of Nigerians and its government to daily killings of its citizens as deplorable. “Nigeria is clearly under-performing and lacking in National cohesion as never before”, he concluded.

It will be recalled that the federal Government has been in a faceoff with the International Community over the president’s suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen.

The US, EU, UK and others have condemned the unilateral suspension  of the Head of the Judiciary by the Head of the executive.

Only recently, two governors from Niger Republic attended the political rally of President Buhari in Kano in official  their capacity.

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