El-Rufai’s ‘body bag’ comment: Our security of utmost concern — Election Observers

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The European Union Observer Mission to Nigeria has said it would remain focussed in the discharge of its functions in the forthcoming general elections.

The body also said the security of its members were of great concern and would remain under constant review.  

The mission said this against the backdrop of a comment reported to have been made by Kaduna state Governor Nasir El-Rufai.

Featuring on Nigerian Television Authority, NTA Tuesday Live programme anchored by Cyril Stober on Tuesday night, the APC governor was quoted to have said, “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.”

Reacting to the comment in a statement Wednesday, spokesperson of the mission, Sarah Fradgley said the EU Observer Mission was aware of the El-Rufai’s comments.

She said: “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.

 “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 organisations, 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.” 

PDP too

Also in a reaction, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) threatened to pull out of the peace accord aimed at ensuring violence-free 2019 elections.

National Publicity Secretary and Director Media and Publicity of PDP campaign organisation Kola Ologbondiyan said Nigerians were shocked over the comment.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, Ologbondiyan said: “Nigerians are still in a shock over comments by the Governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasir 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?

Ologbondiyan also said the international community should “Immediately impose a travel ban on el-Rufai for this inciting comment against peaceful elections in our country.”

“Also of particular note is the plot to redeploy, a former Chief Security Officer to APC leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, CP Kayode Egbetokun as Kwara state Commissioner of Police, where he has been handed the instruction to incite the people, cause pandemonium and pave the way for outright rigging in favour of President Buhari and all other candidates on the platform of APC.

 “This is in line with plans by the Buhari 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 President Muhammadu Buhari as well as aiding APC thugs to snatch ballot boxes and orchestrate violence in the elections.

 “It is necessary to state that the PDP is a party of peace and we are committed to the peace accord. However, the deployment of Kayode Egbetokun as Kwara CP directly negates the principle of the Peace Accord and can only hurt the fragile peace that currently exists in Kwara state.”

He said the acceptability of the Acting Inspector General of Police Adamu Mohammed that, “Among Nigerians across party line was based on the pedigree, which was presented to Nigerians before his appointment. These pedigree and exposure place on his shoulders the responsibility to be just, firm, equitable and professional in the discharge of his duties. We therefore urge him not to allow his reputation to be mired in controversial political activities.”

The PDP called on former Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee to note the alleged infractions by the APC and its leaders to the peace accord, “Including the provocative shutdown of all the stadia in Kano state by the state Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, in order to frustrate the PDP presidential campaign rallies in the state.”

He said the peace committee should immediately summon el-Rufai on his inflammatory remarks against conduct of peaceful election.

“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.”

Buhari supporters slam PDP, Atiku

But the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has said the pullout threat by the PDP and its candidate was not unexpected, saying they had never wanted to be part of the peace arrangement.

Chairman of BMO Niyi Akinsiju said it took intensive pressure on PDP’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar to “grudgingly consent to sign the peace accord not more than 48 hours after all willing consenters to the accord had done so. 

“In issuing this threat at this time is in furtherance of the PDP’s Dubai agenda to build a case for the disruption of the presidential election or at the minimum, create a perception of ill will around the election with intent at discrediting the election which they know they will lose even before they commenced formal campaign.

“To advance their evil agenda, in their desperation, they have continued to throw all manners of tantrums, rubbishing institutions of states without any modicum of patriotism and civility.”

The BMO leader however said no matter the threat from the main opposition party, “the presidential election will be held peacefully and creditably well to their shame.”

I stand by my words – Gov

Reiterating his position, however, the governor said he had no regret over  the comment.

This position was conveyed by his media aide Samuel Aruwan in a statement Wednesday.

He said: “When Malam Nasir El-Rufai appeared on NTA’s Tuesday Night Live, he made comments every patriot can understand. 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 is in circulation. Any fair-minded person with modest familiarity with the English language and unimpaired comprehension can understand it. It does not contain any call for violence. What it is a powerful defence of sovereignty. Are some sections of our political class implying that they will acquiesce in or collaborate with foreign intervention in our country?”

The governor said he never called for violence under whatever guise.

“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.

“El-Rufai has stood firmly against those who have been trying to divide Nigerians on ethnic and religious lines. He is resolutely opposed to violence, and firmly committed to peace and harmony.”

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