Foreign Interference in Elections

13
GUEST COLUMNIST: FEMI FALANA

Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti passed on 13 years ago. He was a leader of the consistent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR). In the course of the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, Beko was arrested many times, detained many times, charged many times until he was illegally convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for leading a pro- democracy body to wit: Campaign for Democracy. Even though he regained his liberty following the sudden death of the maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha in June 1998 Dr. Ransome-Kuti continued to contribute his quota to the titanic battle for the restoration of civil rule in May 1999 in Nigeria until he passed on 13 years ago.

As we remember Beko we should as a matter of duty reflect on the emergent issues in the democratic process in Nigeria.
This year’s commemoration of Beko, therefore, provides an opportunity for the human rights community to collaborate with the Nigerian people for the purpose of ensuring that the 2019 general elections, which began last Saturday, are not marred by mindless killing and destruction of property by the armed agents of the political class.

In other words, Nigeria should not conduct another “do or die election.”

The other day, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State threatened that foreign powers that interfere in the 2019 general elections would “return to their countries in body bags because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run out country.”
Notwithstanding that Nigeria became independent in 1960, the governments of western countries have been teaching the ruling class on “how to run our country”. In fact, the governments of some Asian countries have since joined the foreign interest groups in the running of the nation’s affairs.

However, it is interesting to note that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused western countries of supporting the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general election. Did former President Jonathan not accuse President Obama of supporting the APC during the 2015 general election? Have both APC and PDP not engaged the services of lobby groups to convince the governments of western countries to believe in their ability and competence to fix the problems of Nigeria? Have both political parties not sought the endorsement of the governments of western countries? Having regards to the commitment of both APC and PDP to guarantee unrestrained exploitation of the nation’s resources by imperialism it is naive to think that the governments of western countries are going to maintain neutrality in the politics of the country.

It is indisputable that the threat to foreign election observers in Nigeria constitutes an infraction of the Electoral Act, 2010, and the Penal Code. But because Governor El Rufai currently enjoys immunity his trial and prosecution for the offence will have to await the end of his tenure. The western countries that have threatened to place travel restrictions on members of the ruling class who incite violence or interfere in the electoral process should not hesitate to make an example of the governor without any further delay. The Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court who has also warned against any form of electoral violence in the country is urged to hold Governor El Rufai responsible if foreign observers and monitors are attacked during the 2019 general election.

But the majority of foreign and local commentators who have condemned the reckless statement have done so because foreigners are the likely targets of the possible attack.
After all, they did not speak out when Governor el -Rufai publicly justified the massacre of 347 Shiites by the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna state on December 12, 2015. Did members of the “international community” protest when the governor authorised the mass burial of the bodies of the slain Shiites in an unmarked grave? Is the Special Prosecutor of the ICC not aware that the body bags of the massacred Shiites were not even sent to their bereaved family members? Has Governor El Rufai not ignored the recommendation of the judicial commission of enquiry and the directive of the Kaduna state government contained in the white paper to the effect that the soldiers who were responsible for the massacre of the Shiites be prosecuted?

Nevertheless, the reckless statements made by some elements of the leading factions of the ruling class have given the elections the colouration of “do or die affair” (apologies to President Olusegun Obasanjo) to the election. Leading politicians have recruited and armed thugs responsible for the violence defining the general elections in some parts of the country. Even if some of the thugs are arrested and are arraigned in the courts the various attorneys-general would eventually file nolle prosequi to terminate the criminal cases as the managers of the neo-colonial state cannot afford to prosecute their armed agents.
Therefore, since the children of the sponsors of violence are in expensive schools at home and abroad we urge the masses of our people not to allow their own children to be used as cannon fodders in the current battle for the control of political power and economic resources of the country by the ruling class.

“Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense”

The official manipulation of the 1983 general election resulted in “landslide and moon slide re-election victory” for the Shehu Shagari administration. But no sooner had the government been constituted than it was sacked by the Nigerian armed forces led by Major-General Mohammadu Buhari on December 31, 1983. To justify the coup de tat the military junta accused the civilian regime of wanton electoral malpractice and grand corruption.

In a timely record entitled, “Teacher, Don’t Teach Me Nonsense” the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti criticised the governments of western countries for turning round to welcome the coup plotters after it had supported the “crazy demonstration” practised in the name of democracy by the neo-colonial ruling class in Nigeria. Instead of threatening to send foreign observers home in body bags Governor el- Rufai and others of his ilk should have asked the European and American teachers of the ruling class to stop teaching “demonstration of craze” in their own countries by building inhuman walls and waging wars against minorities and immigrants dislocated by the crisis of global capitalism.

Since all petitions and appeals arising from the 2015 general elections have since been concluded by Nigerian courts Governor el -Rufai may wish also to advise President Donald Trump and his aides to concentrate on the investigation being conducted into the unprecedented electoral malfeasance, which marred the 2016 presidential election in the United States. The dictatorial leaders of western countries involved in sponsoring wars to effect “regime change” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria cannot moralise about democratic ethos and principles.
Therefore, foreign observers should be not exposed to any danger in Nigeria. They should be allowed to observe the Nigerian elections without harassment or intimidation and then return home to join other democratic forces to halt the planned invasion of Venezuela.

Electoral Reforms After the 2019 General Elections

In spite of the tension, which has enveloped the land and the fear that has gripped voters, the general elections, I remain optimistic that the elections will not lead to a break up the country.
But as the problems of insecurity, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, corruption and infrastructural decay have not been seriously addressed by the political parties and their candidates the choices of the Nigeria people are limited. To that extent, the Nigerian people might have lost the election if the winners would not be prepared to tackle these problems. Instead of waiting for 2023 the Nigerian people should be organised and mobilised by patriotic forces to fight for their rights as soon as the rituals of the 2019 elections are concluded.

While we call on the Independent National Electoral Commission to continue to ensure that the elections are held in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and guidelines the candidates who are dissatisfied with the results should be prepared to approach the election petition tribunals for legal redress.

However, it is pertinent to recall
That the late President Umaru Yar’Adua openly admitted that the 2007 presidential election alleged to have been won by him was highly “flawed.”
To ensure that credible elections are conducted in the country the he instituted the Mohammed Uwais Panel. Former President Goodluck Jonathan set up the Ahmed Lemu Post- Election Violence Panel. It is common knowledge that the far-reaching recommendations of both panels on electoral reforms were ignored by the PDP-led federal government. Similarly, the recommendations of the Ken Nnamani Electoral Reforms Committee set up by the President Buhari have also been jettisoned by the APC-led federal government. It is indubitably clear that both APC and PDP are resolutely committed to the status quo, which permits the manipulation of election results.

Hence, both parties have rejected the reform of the electoral system. But it is high time democratic forces mounted sufficient pressure on the political class to implement the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Panels.

It is also important that the authorities allow the Nigerian electorate to exercise their franchise without any form of intimidation. Since the involvement of military personnel in the electoral process has been declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in a number of cases the Nigerian army should be restrained from carrying out Operation Python or any other military exercise during the 2019 general election.
In order to ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Police do not compromise national security, I am compelled to urge them to maintain neutrality in the electoral contests.
In Attorney-General of the Federation v. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (2007) 30 WRN 49 at 140 the Supreme Court had held as follows;

“The office of the Inspector General of Police is a creation of the 1999 Constitution. The Nigeria Police Force is also a creation of the 1999 Constitution. See Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution.
Also, by the force of the said 1999 Constitution, the Nigeria Police Force shall and is under the command of the Inspector General of Police. The primary duty, indeed the most fundamental duty of the Nigeria Police Force, is the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the country.

In the performance of its duty, the Nigeria Police Force must manifestly demonstrate impartiality. It must not lean to one side against the other; it must be apolitical. It must not take part in any disputation, which has political coloration. These qualities are sine qua non to the enhancement of public respectability to it.
Having regard to the nature of the function which the Nigeria Police Force also performs, that body must also insulate itself such that impartiality and fairness may at all times are ascribed to it.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by its statutory existence is an independent body with constitutional powers to conduct elections in Nigeria. It must not only be an umpire, it must be seen, in the eyes of reasonable men, to be an impartial umpire in the conduct of an election. The INEC must never by act of omission or commission place itself in a position where imputations of partiality in favour of one party against another one will be levelled against it. Neutrality must be the watchword of the body. It must always remain fair and focused.