Nigeria 2019: Election Observers Vs National Sovereignty

Nigeria 2019:   Election Observers Vs National Sovereignty

By Ikechukwu Nnadozie, Abuja

Six days to Nigeria’s Presidential election, the atmosphere is getting highly charged up. Civil words between politicians from opposing camps are becoming rare commodity, even as predictions abound.  From the two major political parties and their supporters, words, like missiles are being hurled into each other’s camps.  Politicians and others with vested interests are making  allegations, raising  objections, trading  accusations of bias, and unfairness  on the part of the Independent  National Electoral Commission,  INEC and  equally  accusing the ruling party All Progressive Congress, APC of exhibiting traits inimical to holding free, fair and credible elections.

Though 73 presidential candidates are in the race, but the real battle is between President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

As the nation is caught up by the feverish election atmosphere, and  politically sensitive citizens line up alongside either political parties, the credibility of the umpire, INEC becomes contentious. That point of contention, bickering and trading of blames bring to the fore the relevance of the Press, Civil Society Organizations, and in recent times the International Elections Observers.

The presence of International Elections Observers is not a Nigerian thing. They are vested partners with  interest in sustainable democracy, They include countries like the USA, UK, the European Union Commission, international organizations like the National Democratic Institute, (NDI),  International Republican Institute, (IRI), USAID, and the United Nations, (UN) African Union,  (AU) and Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS), and othets. Their roles comprises pre-election, election and post election issues, and  their overall objective is ensuring that the elections in each country is free, fair and credible.

Beyond their interest in the credible outcome of the Nigerian election, these bodies equally   assist both the political parties, civil society organizations, the press  and INEC  in both capacity building and technical expertise.

Indeed, the need for free, fair and credible elections is not only a major concern for the individual nations and  the international communities,  but also for regional bodies which  is why sub regional bodies like ECOWAS have protocols  regulating  the conduct of elections within member states.

It is for these reasons that Nigerians  rose in shocked reaction to Kaduna State’s Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s vituperations against the observer groups. Unfortunately, the ruling APC did little to douse the fire started by El-Rufai. Many commentators are alarmed that El-Rufai’s words are real threats suggesting that the safety of the observers would  not be guaranteed if they come to Nigeria to observe the elections or try to interfere with its outcome.

Those who support El-Rufai, argue that he is really speaking  in defense of Nigeria’s sovereignty. However counter argument maintains that his threats were   absolutely unnecessary because so far there is no  history of such interferences.

Scholars who took the argument further stress that thick lines of sovereignty is fast being erased  with the rise  of globalization and the lowering of national boundaries  on  issues bordering on fundamental human rights, civil rights and freedom of the press. They proffer that the emerging global village links nations of the world together such that  any crisis from any part of the world that could lead to humanitarian crisis in one way or the other affect the whole world at large and therefore sovereignty shouldn’t be an excuse for the ruling APC to support threats of  violence and threats to free, fair and credible election in Nigeria.

El-Rufai’s intolerance becomes more glaring as a case of brewing mischief when one recalls that he once took cover in one of the Western Countries when he alleged that there were threats to his life during the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua.

Significantly the affected Western Countries have not taken his threats lightly, and have rolled out series of sanctions to put him on notice, including banning him from entry to the affected countries and from owning properties there. 

The International Elections Observers are also not  shifting grounds on their intentions to observe Nigeria’s General Elections, their objective is free, fair and credible election as vehicle to usher in good governance and prosperity globally. Indeed, one may say that El-Rufai’s uncalculated outburst may have placed the elections on the spotlight as the international community watches its outcome closely.

Nnadozie, a Political Economist is an Editor@Large with theledgerng.com

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