LATELY, the Federal Government and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have taken and defended certain decisions and actions that have continued to heat up the polity. Those actions that clearly qualify as missteps by reason of their closeness to the forthcoming general election, among other factors, have had their propriety widely questioned both locally and internationally. But the Federal Government appears to be unfazed by the outrage that such missteps have rolled out in series. The appearance of some officials of the Republic of Niger at the APC rally in Kano, Kano State, typifies such provocative actions. A 60-man delegation was allegedly sent by the President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, to participate in the rally. It was an embarrassing spectacle seeing the foreign delegation at the rally decked in apparels bearing APC’s insignia and participating as partisan persons in the country’s electioneering process. The Nigerien delegation led by two state governors came to rally support for a presidential candidate in a multiparty-system Nigeria. That was rather audacious and it was patently reckless and insensitive of the APC and, of course, the Federal Government to have allowed that to happen.
As would be expected in a seemingly unusual clime, this egregious indiscretion of the APC and the Federal Government has been officially explained away. The claim was that no known laws were breached. Yes, the Nigeriens may not have broken any law directly by coming to the country, but were they still within the ambit of the law when they were ‘playing’ partisan politics in the country? Would the government have been this tolerant if the Nigeriens had come to support an opposition candidate? What part of the country’s law allows foreign citizens to partake in its electoral process? Did the Nigeriens come through the country’s borders with the requisite documents? Did the foreigners go back to their country or will they join thousands or perhaps even millions of their undocumented compatriots residing in the country to interfere with the outcome of elections? And how is it the business of the people of Niger Republic to determine who becomes the president of Nigeria?
What is their interest in candidate Muhammadu Buhari in particular? And are the APC and Federal Government considering the security and legitimacy issues that their romance with the aliens may throw up after the elections? Perhaps it should be stressed that Nigerian citizens hold electoral franchise and the right to participate in the electioneering process to the exclusion of foreigners. That is the law. And even if Niger Republic has a preferred candidate in an election where it has no known stake, is it part of good diplomacy to express its preference in as unabashed a manner as it did in Kano? Does this not, in an unequivocal manner, amount to interference in the affairs of a sovereign country?
We ask this particular question against the backdrop of the fact that Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, on a national television, literally abandoned civility and decorum, spewing incendiary and unveiled incitement to violence just because some key stakeholders in the international community insisted that no one should do anything to undermine the credibility of the 2019 elections. Why play the ostrich? And assuming but not conceding that the actions of the Nigeriens did not violate any laws, where is the place of fairness and decency in all of this, especially when the ruling party that should ordinarily provide leadership is involved? It should be noted that the indignation that attended the APC’s indiscretion in Kano would have been more intense and assumed regional/ethnic and religious colourations if the two main contenders in the 2019 presidential election were not Fulani Muslims.
It is imperative for the ruling party and, more importantly, the Federal Government and its officials to refrain from acts that may create the impression that their commitment to ensuring the credibility of the forthcoming elections is doubtful. Unguided romance with foreigners by a political party is capable of engendering the perception that the mandate of the Nigerian electorate will be vitiated and that may not bode well for post-election tranquillity in the country. It is therefore in the interest of all, and indeed in the enlightened self-interest of the ruling party and the government, not to unwittingly create a fertile ground for needless post-election disputes and possible violence.