By Donu Kogbara
SOME folks go completely crazy around elections. A switch flips inside their heads the minute the voting season looms; and they start to make dangerously inflammatory or just plain ridiculous comments they wouldn’t usually make and probably don’t really mean.
This is why the commonly-used term, “election fever,” is so appropriate.
According to Dictionary.com, fever is an abnormally high body temperature that can, in severe cases, be accompanied by delirium. And aggressively heating up the body (politic!) to boiling point is what sufferers from election fever specialise in.
Delirium, meanwhile, is defined as “an acutely disturbed state of mind characterised by…illusions…derangement… dementedness, temporary insanity…raving, irrationality…wild emotion…”
And I must say that a bout of seriously mind-distorting fever/delirium is the only explanation I can come up with for Nasir El Rufai’s absolutely unhinged decision to issue a threat this week to foreigners he thinks might dare to intervene in the upcoming polls.
Stung by foreign criticisms of the Buhari administration’s crude, cack-handed suspension of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, El Rufai – the Governor of Kaduna State – darkly assured a watching world that any foreigners who interfere will “go back in body bags.”
And he made this statement on TV, not in a private gathering! This was not a leaked conversation. It was a public declaration of war.
OK, so El Rufai is notoriously blunt and has never been one to pull his punches verbally or worry about the sensitivities of polite society or avoid activities that will win him enemies rather than friends.
But, until now, this maverick of a man has restricted his mouthy aggro to home turf. And while he has had an immensely chequered relationship with Naija compatriots – millions of whom bitterly resent his abrasive style, tactless utterances and controversial actions – he has hitherto been on his best behaviour around whites.
This talent for charming foreigners made him a treasured darling and development partner of the international community.
He acquired a substantial foreign fan club because he understood international mindsets and knew what buttons to press when he was talking to donor agencies, embassies, overseas academics, etc.
And they chose to ignore his shortcomings, mistakes and penchant for unnecessary quarrels…and focussed on praising his big, Harvard-honed brain, on applauding his genuine belief in reform and modernization and on just generally supporting someone who is definitely one of the most competent senior government officials in this country.
El Rufai basked in the warm glow of this near-unconditional love; and it can only be the sheer nuttiness that flows from election fever that led him to take the risk of losing his influential Oyinbo admirers forever.
They may even henceforth classify him as a security risk or Undesirable and deprive him of benefits like visas and access to respectable speaking opportunities and lecturing platforms.
So did he really mean the body bag thing? I doubt it and hope not.
I used to be super-chummy with El Rufai and his wife, Hadiza.
I met them before he became a household name; and I have fond memories of intellectually stimulating, laughter-filled halcyon bygone days when we hung out together with our families and pals.
I reckon that he blurted out that combative braggadocious body bag rubbish in a moment of madness because the Nasir I knew was essentially civilized and would not have dreamt of harming anyone.
MAYBE because I grew up abroad, I have always had cordial relationships with foreigners who live in Nigeria. And I’ve have been able to observe them, their attitudes and their behaviour patterns at close quarters.
I’m frequently struck by the fact that so many Nigerians are so profoundly and doggedly convinced that electoral outcomes can be determined by foreigners because to the best of my knowledge, it is simply not true.
And I think that the following statement from the European Union’s election observer delegation is fair: “The EU only deploys an election observation mission when it is invited to do so by the authorities of a country. The EU has been invited to observe all of the general elections in Nigeria since 1999. Thus this is the sixth time the EU is observing elections in Nigeria.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission invited the EU to deploy an observation mission for the 2019 general elections. EU election observation missions give commentary and analysis, and make recommendations about the electoral process. EU election observation missions are impartial, do not interfere in the electoral process, and operate according to a strict code of conduct…
“…For the last month the mission’s team in Abuja, as well as 40 long-term observers across the country, have followed the elections. We have met with a wide range of candidates, parties, election officials, security agencies, and civil society organisations, and have enjoyed good cooperation at federal and state levels.
Independence of the judiciary
“The mission looks at all aspects of the election, including the campaign tone, the transparency of the election administration, the neutrality of security forces, and the independence of the judiciary…”
Call me naïve, but to the best of my knowledge, foreigners can only act as onlookers, critics and minor supporters from the sidelines.
To the best of my knowledge, Nigeria is so not an easily manipulated colony of any foreign power and foreigners do not have the power to decide who will be our President or who will not be our President.
To the best of my knowledge, the election machinery in Nigeria is entirely controlled by Nigerian politicians and their indigenous allies.
Whatever the truth may be, the very same members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, who are currently crying “foul!” and strongly suspecting foreigners of trying to get rid of President Buhari are the very same APC members who actively sought foreign back-up in 2014/15 when they were trying to unseat ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
I clearly recall being urged to highlight Buhari’s strengths on foreign TV channels. And I know that certain members of APC kept saying they wished they could count on concrete assistance from external sources.
The hypocrisy of our political class never ceases to amaze me!
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