On 1st February, 2019, something curious and unusual about President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election campaign rally at the Sani Abacha stadium, Kano state, had every corner of Nigeria buzzing.
It was not the performances by Kannywood singers like Ado Gwanja, Ibrahim Yala or Rarara Kahutu. Nor was it the comedy show of Baba Ari and Rabiu Daushe. What thoroughly stunned Nigerians were the foreign elements that populated the crowd at the President’s campaign rally. Notably in attendance were Mr. Issa Moussa and Mr. Zakiri Umar who are respectively Governors of Zinder and Maradi states in the Republic of Niger. The pair of alien Governors wore the uniform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and made public statements of their support for President Buhari’s re-election bid. Of course, this caused a major rocus and scandal across the length and breadth of Nigeria. How do these Governors of foreign Countries hope to “support” Buhari?
It was not unexpected that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, former EFCC boss cum Director of Field Operations in the APC Presidential Campaign Council, would defend his Party by choosing not to see anything wrong and unlawful about their actions. Was it not El-Rufai who just few days later warned that anyone (including US, UK, EU and African observers) who would dare interfere in Nigerian politics may end up in a “body bag”? That was palpable “fatina” pronouncement of death sentence to any foreign country that insists that the forthcoming elections should not be mindlessly rigged by the APC. How then would the same people urge some West African Governors and government officials to campaign for President Buhari’s re-election on the very soil of Nigeria? Recall that the same government frontally abused US, UK and EU countries and warned them against meddling in Nigeria’s internal affairs and electoral matters, all because the Countries had made strong observation about the undemocratic and unconstitutional ways the Executive was harassing the CJN, Walter Onnoghen. Was it not the same President Buhari and APC government that led a multi-sub regional military to smoke out Yahya Jammeh who had refused to quit as Gambian President after his defeat in the 2017 presidential election?
Recall that alleged interference in the 2016 elections by entities connected with Russia was a big scandal that has dominated the news till date following President Donald Trump’s election. While this may be the first time that a cyber-attack on an election has been so publicized, it is certainly not the first time that a country interfered with another country’s election. During the Cold War, Russia used sheer political power and influence to routinely undermine elections in satellite countries such as Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, and so on. The United States too uses similar influence in countries like Italy, Iran and Chile. In fact, former President Goodluck Jonathan has alleged in his book, “My Transition Hours”, deep interference by the U.S. in the 2015 elections that ousted him from Aso Rock. He gave up power, snatched victory and honour from “defeat”. GEJ, has remained an imposing international figure till date. He is respected for his rare democratic credentials of conceding defeat, even when he knew a lot was wrong with the elections.
But, such foreign electoral interference is seriously condemned in the international community. No doubt. Under international law, no state is to meddle into purely domestic affairs of another state. This principle that the political will of one state cannot be forced on another is enshrined in Article 2 of the UN Charter. It is also expressed by the maxim Par in parem non habet imperium (“Equals have no jurisdiction over one another”).
With this in mind, the presence of two Nigerien Governors at Buhari’s rally is a clear warning of the dangers that lie ahead. It will have implications on the credibility of the Presidential elections. Already, the wheels have been set in motion for an unfair electoral contest. INEC had allowed Internally Displaced Persons in the country to vote during elections, thereby opening the door for aliens to infiltrate into Nigeria under the guise of being IDPs and participate in the elections. Similarly, the mass creation of additional polling units which are yet to be properly designated raises serious questions, foreboding the execution of unprecedented levels of electoral fraud this year.
The promise of Kano’s Governor, Ganduje to deliver five million votes to Buhari in this year’s elections now takes on greater significance. How will that be possible without compromising the nation’s international borders to foreign political interests as Buhari has done? Where will he get this humongous figure in a state where Kwankwaso and his Kwankwaasiyya movement still dwarf the “Gandollar” governor?
He who pays the piper always dictates the tune. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was merely replaying his paymaster’s song, the APC, when he saw nothing wrong in this bizarre occurrence. But, even he cannot deny that Nigeria is a sovereign, independent state, but subject to international monitoring and observance. Because the world is now a global village. Security agencies in Nigeria must immediately investigate and lay in the public domain, the circumstances leading to their presence. How did the alien governors come to Nigeria? Will Kano state be free of Nigerien, Chadian, Malian and Cameroonian voters on February 16 and March?
There can be no doubt that we are, in Nigeria, operating a constitutional democracy. By this, our democratic principles are bestowed upon us under the Constitution. The said Constitution prescribes elections to be an entirely Nigerian affair. For instance, the seat of the President can never be occupied by a foreigner. Section 131 of the Constitution automatically disqualifies any person, not being a Nigerian citizen by birth, from ever becoming President. The section states:
“A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if –
- he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;
- he has attained the age of forty years;
- he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and
- he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
Notably, an aspirant to the office of President of Nigeria must also be a member of, and sponsored by a political party. Political parties are themselves a creation of the Constitution. The Constitution goes further to vest the mandate to support an electoral candidate by way of campaigns exclusively on political parties. Section 221 states clearly that:
“No association, other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.”
By these provisions, electioneering campaigns are strictly a Nigerian affair. How would the same APC feel if the PDP opposition party campaigns with Governors from Liberia, South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Togo, Gambia, etc?
What we saw at the President Buhari campaign rally in Kano was a shameless display of gross irresponsibility by a government that permitted foreigners to campaign for Buhari as though they were Nigerians, or members of the APC.
Of great significance is section 222(b) of the Constitution which stipulates that membership of political parties shall only be open to “every citizen of Nigeria”. It did not mention foreigners. One of the cardinal rules of statutory interpretation is to exclude what is not stated in the statute. This rule is expressed in the Latin phrase, “expressio unious et exclusio alterius”, meaning that what is not stated in a statute is deemed excluded. So, by the unambiguous provisions of section 222(d) of the Constitution, membership of political parties in Nigeria is not open to NON-CITIZENS, or foreigners, like the two alien Nigerien Governors whom we saw wearing APC garments and campaigning at Buhari’s Kano rally. The audacious display by the Governors, in connivance with a shameless APC definitely contravenes the foundational principles of sovereign independence and autochthonous democracy upon which our Constitution is built.
Perhaps the President should be reminded of section 100 of the Electoral Act, 2010, which states that:
“A candidate and his party shall campaign for the elections in accordance with such rules and regulations as may be determined by the Constitution.”
No Constitution of a political party in Nigeria makes provisions for foreigners to come to Nigeria and campaign for candidates. I have both the APC and PDP Constitutions. They do not have such provisions. INEC has not permitted that either.
Indeed, the Nigerian Constitution itself has determined that democracy in Nigeria shall be based on a government of Nigerians, by Nigerians and for Nigerians. There is no place for foreigners to take over our campaign structures. The action of the APC must be strongly condemned and roundly denounced as being undemocratic, unconstitutional, illegal, immoral and clearly against the letter and spirit of the Nigerian democratic experiment. It is a dangerous and foreboding first step towards enslaving our democracy to foreign dictators. All to win election.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“To finalize, the purpose of an election is to hear the will of the people, not to fabricate votes.” (Lincoln Diaz-Balart).
Nigerians, as you begin a new week, let us pray for peaceful elections. Keep faith with our weekly national conversation on the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project by Chief Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., Ph.D, LL.D.