Some even see it as more than a gaffe, they may be right. One thing is sure, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir EL-Rufai did not do his image and position good by the unguarded statement he made on national television last week. El-Rufai, on Tuesday last week in an implied threat, stated that Nigerian nation or people or military will kill foreign soldiers or any other force that intervene in the country’s internal affairs; in the instant matter, the up coming elections. 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 Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, warning that the decision by President Muhammadu Buhari could affect the credibility of general elections weeks away. Although President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly assured that he is committed to a free and fair poll, he also warned against any attempt by other nations to meddle in the country’s internal affairs. He may be right, he may be wrong, however, these entities were invited to observe the elections. It is also on record that they make monetary and logistical support to the operational fidelity of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
In the same vein, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued what can be described as a strongly worded rebuttal to the questions raised by the foreign trio. The ministry criticised what it called overt bias by Western countries towards the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a practice it said contradicted international norms.
If that was what the Kaduna Governor equally wanted to delve into, he obviously chose the wrong words at best. The man did not start his rabid loquaciousness today. In the first place, he is not an official of the central government. He has no capacity to direct or suggest what the Nigerian Armed Forces should do. He overreached himself in that regard and that has undercut whatever argument he tried to make. As a member of the ruling APC and staunch backer of the president, it behooves him to be an example of decorum rather than a character immersed in advertising his false importance or ability to do harm. Running a state that has witnessed gory killings in the past two years should humble him to not ratchet up ghostly tales.
Hear him: “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.” Mr 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”. He said Nigeria is an independent entity whose sovereignty would never be compromised in servitude to foreign powers. We agree in principle on the last part of his statement, but not on the first part that evokes death. We vehemently disagree with him.
Saturday’s presidential election is expected to be hotly contested, and there are fears of violence and election fraud, with the opposition repeatedly accusing the ruling party of plotting to rig the polls. The ruling party also say the opposition wants to rig the election or wants to set the stage for delegitimising the outcome of the election which they claim they will win. In such a tensed atmosphere it is irresponsible therefore for a political leader to make careless statements in the manner the governor did. Although he claims to have spoken in defence of Nigeria’s sovereignty against needless intervention but his body bag comment was the bad clincher.
In defending himself, he went on an ego trip: “a notorious trait of the characters that constitute the opposition in Nigeria is the manufacture of outrage on flimsy grounds. However, contriving anger on false premises and summoning a din of feverish commentary will not alter the facts. Election season is regarded as silly season in some quarters, but it is a very serious moment. 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 defense of sovereignty? Are some sections of our political class implying that they will acquiesce in or collaborate with foreign intervention in our country?
We insist that the governor should apologise over that uncouth statement. He indeed did defended Nigeria’s integrity but wasted the effort in creating a needless controversy. El-Rufai should be a man of interest through the election. He appears capable of conjuring ill-will, therefore should be curtailed at every turn.