Kaduna Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, appeared on an NTA late-night programme on Tuesday.
Responding to a question from the host, Cyril Stober, the governor spoke about foreign intervention in Nigerian affairs. Mr El-Rufai said the country was ready to confront any foreign invader who tries to militarily intervene in the country, and that any such person would be taken out in body bag.
The comment has sparked controversies, with interest groups subjecting it to various interpretations.
PREMIUM TIMES has watched the about two-hour programme and hereby transcribed the governor’s exact answer to the question that triggered the comment.
Before I get to the issue of interference and intervention, I think you raised a fundamental question that I think I would want to comment on. Why are there shouts of rigging of elections? I think my brother …. tried to throw light on that. I mean when a politician faces an election situation and he thinks he is likely to lose, it is quite likely to start crying wolf. It is okay. It is normal. It is human and it is political.
Okay, but what we are seeing in Nigeria, in this election circle, it is illogical because President Muhammadu Buhari has, under his watch, overseen the conduct of several elections. He has seen the election of Kogi, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Anambra, Osun. At least five governorship elections have taken place since President Buhari took over and there is not one instance that anyone from the ruling party or the opposition party or any party for that matter accused the federal government of interfering with INEC’s operations.
So the president I think has a credible track record in non-interference, in the running of INEC, under two different heads of INEC. So, I think anyone that accuses President Muhammadu Buhari or his party of trying to rig elections is being too clever by half or totally irresponsible or reckless because there is no record of the president in interfering in elections. And the best person to ask is the governor of Anambra State. He would give that testimony where the president even intervened to change the security chiefs when the governor complained that some security chiefs were compromised. The president has been trying.
I think in the public interest of Nigerians we should stop being irresponsible and politicising everything. Lets look at the record of this president and INEC. Secondly, I was quite visible in the Osun election and I know what happened in Ekiti and I was also in Edo. And what I have seen on the part of INEC is rapid improvement in their operations. Their logistical capabilities have improved. Their capacity to conduct credible elections has been significantly improved. I was most impressed. I think we are getting to a point, in my view as a politician, where I would not need polling agents on election day. Because it would be nearly impossible to manipulate results.
I am confident based on what I have seen from Kogi to Edo down to Osun One. I mean the first round of the Osun election because I was there. I was not around for Osun two. I think INEC is in a position to conduct a very credible election. Nobody should be afraid. You can only be afraid when you are sure you are going to lose and when you are trying to create a foundation for future crises.
And this is what is worrying me. All the information and signals we are getting from the PDP indicates that, one they know they would lose this election; two they want to illegitimise this result in advance. No one in the PDP can point at the leadership of INEC and say that they are in a position that they want to manipulate election results. There is no record of that after we have elected six governors out of the circle.
So they want to illegitimise the result in advance so that when they lose they would say we told you so. Number three it appears to me and from all the intelligence available to us that they are trying to create a crisis after the result has been announced and they have lost. I think every responsible Nigerian should rise up against this.
Where does interference come in. I now come to Prof. Prof is trying to differentiate interference and intervention.
It is a basic principle of international law that no country should interfere in the internal affair of another country. We can comment on Brexit. That is not interference. But when you come into a country and make statements without facts in an attempt to complicate the internal government of that country that is interference and it is irresponsible.
What we have seen from the three countries the EU, US and UK in response to the suspension of the chief justice and trying to link the suspension of the chief justice to the electoral act law is the most irresponsible piece of diplomatic mishap I have ever seen in my 59 years of living in Nigeria. I have read about international law. I have seen how countries operate. Those statements where coordinated. They were based on no information at all and they were most irresponsible.
And I am happy that the presidency responded to it and as Nigerians, we must understand that these guys can sit pretty in their countries, say things and when the crises happen we are here. We are the victims, our wives and children are the victims. We must rise up and unite and say no to violence in this country.
We have every confidence that INEC would conduct credible elections and we challenge opposition parties to point out what part of the logistical arrangement of the electoral preparations give room for any manipulations. Otherwise they should shut up and go and get people to vote for them.
We all do polls. A poll was released today by the opposition showing that they are likely to win. We have our own polls that show something different. But do not let us use our own internal polls or procured polls to try to delegitimise the election in advance. At the end of the day it is Nigeria’s 84 million registered voters that would line up and vote on the 16 of February. Let us wait for the result and if the results are not what we expect them to be, there is a process to challenge them. We have election tribunals. President Buhari did that three times. He never resorted to violence. He never called for violence. He went to the Supreme Court three times. Let these other parties that are not used to losing elections …. We are used to losing elections. Those of us that came from the opposition, we know the pain of losing elections and the pain of things stolen from us.
But we never resorted to violence. We went through the due process even if it was unfair to us. We accepted the outcome. Let every Nigerian, let us all commit that we have a country and we have institutions and we should allow those institutions to work. If we have a situation that the security forces are biased as the governor of Anambra complained to the president, raise the flag and give the authorities the opportunities to change them. But do not try to create trouble because your children have all been taken out abroad or they are studying abroad and it is the children of the ordinary that would be up on the streets killing one another.
This is my appeal. Now, intervention is the higher form of interference where countries intervene militarily. We have done that in Sierra Leone and Liberia and we only did so because we had the international community actually appealing to Nigeria to go in and restore order. It cost us a lot of money and lives and we never got anything from it. We did it out of good neighbourliness.
Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person to come and intervene. They would go back in body bags because nobody would come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country. We have got that independence. 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 their own stages of development. They went through these challenges. So, let us work together. Let’s advise one another. But don’t lecture us.