Elections: El-Rufai insists his ‘body bag’ threat was for Nigeria’s dignity

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Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has explained that his recent outburst against foreigners plotting to interfere in Nigeria’s elections was in defence of the nation’s dignity, stressing that his opinion wasn’t a call for violence but warning about the consequences of meddling in another country’s affairs.

The Governor’s threat came barely a week after the Federal Government accused foreign powers, including the United States, U.S, United Kingdom, U.K, and the European Union, E.U, of actions that could be deemed as interference, and warned of consequences.

These nations had condemned the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, over alleged non-declaration of assets, warning that the action taken by President Muhammadu Buhari could negatively affect the credibility of the forthcoming elections.

El-Rufai, who is seeking re-election under the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, spoke on Tuesday night on a live programme on the Nigerian Television Authority anchored by Cyril Stober.

He argued that it is a basic principle of international law that no country should interfere in the internal affairs of another country.

“You can comment, but when you make statements on the internal affairs of a country without facts, that is interference and is very irresponsible. Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for those that will come and intervene, they will go back in body bags,” the governor said.

This comment has been greeted with lots of criticisms as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, threatened to jettison the peace pact it signed with the Abubakar Abdulsalami-led National Peace Committee, NPC, regarding the peaceful conduct of the February 16 presidential election.

At a press briefing addressed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday in Abuja, PDP said it would be left with no option than to consider a review of its signatory in the national peace accord, if no action is immediately taken as regards the comment by El-Rufai.

“Nigerians are still in a shock over the comments by El-Rufai, who declared on a national television that members of the global democratic institutions that are working for a peaceful election in Nigeria will return to their countries in body bags. What a threat?”

The opposition party urged the international community to immediately impose a travel ban on El-Rufai “for this inciting comment against peaceful elections in our country.”

The PDP called on the peace committee “to note the infractions by the APC and its leaders to the peace accord, including the provocative shut down of all the stadia in Kano State by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje in order to frustrate the PDP presidential campaign rally in the state.”

“We therefore call on the National Peace Committee to immediately summon el-Rufai on his inflammatory remarks against peaceful election in our country.

“The PDP holds that any situation that seeks to allow the APC to abuse the tenets of the accord will definitely force our party to review our signatory to the peace process. In that regard, we might have no option left than to allow our members to defend their votes with whatever that is available to them.

“This country belongs to all of us and no individual or group, no matter how highly placed, can subjugate other citizens or seek to appropriate any sort of absolutism to themselves,” the opposition party added.

Also in a swift reaction yesterday, the European Union Election Observation Mission, EU EOM, to Nigeria said it would continue to do its work in the country in spite of claims of interference by el-Rufai. “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.”

However, a statement by the Kaduna Governor’s spokesman, Samuel Aruwan, on Wednesday night stressed that the outrage generated by his principal’s comment was false, adding that affirming that a country would defend itself against needless intervention was the kind of statement to expect to hear from a patriot.

“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,” Aruwan said.

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