More eminent Nigerians and groups from across the country have condemned Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State for threatening that foreign nationals who interfere in the forthcoming general elections would be given "body bags treatment."
El-Rufai, who is seeking re-election under ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), made the comment at Tuesday night on a live programme on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) anchored by Cyril Stober.
He argued that it is a basic principle of international law that no country should interfere in the internal affairs of another country.
The threat elicited swift reactions from groups and individuals who lambasted el-Rufai.
Yesterday, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State urged the international community to sanction el-Rufai by cancelling his visa, as purveyor of extreme electoral violence.
Wike said el-Rufai and the Federal Government had resorted to issuance of threats because they were afraid of imminent defeat.
The Rivers governor who addressed teeming Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters during his campaign rally at Ngo, in Andoni Local Government Area, urged the foreign observers to disregard the death threats and monitor the general elections to ensure it is credible.
"We urged the international community not to be afraid. They should not be deterred by the so-called threat by el-Rufai. They should come out and monitor these elections. If anybody rigs, they should sanction Nigeria. They should start first by imposing sanctions on el-Rufai. They should cancel all his visas.
"El-rufai is afraid because he knows he has nothing to account for as his stewardship in Kaduna. That is why he can open his mouth to attack the international community," he said.
The senator representing Kaduna Central District, Shehu Sani, on his verified Twitter handle @ShehuSani yesterday, said the el-Rufai's act was nothing but fascism, geared toward rigging of the forthcoming elections.
According to the legislator, threatening foreigners with body bags is never nationalism or patriotism. "They simply want to switch off the lights, close the windows and the doors and count our votes. They are watering the flowers of our democracy with kerosene."
The Nigerian Ethnic Nationalities Youth Leaders Forum lambasted the Kaduna governor for the threat.
The group comprising the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Yoruba Council of Youths, Ohaneze Youth Council, Ijaw Youth Council, and the Anioma Youth Council urged both local and international observers to ignore the threat.
The youth leaders, who jointly addressed a press conference in Abuja, said Nigerian youths would not be a ready tool in the hands of el-Rufai and his likes to unleash violence which could truncate democratic rule in the country.
Shettima Yerima of the Arewa Youths Forum, who described the antics of el-Rufai as that of a drowning man, said the youths would not shed blood in the 19 northern states.
"When somebody is drowning, he looks for excuses. No body will shed blood for anybody this time around. It is obvious and very clear that we have come of age. I am from Kaduna State. El-Rufai is speaking out of frustration because he knows that he is not popular and he might want to incite people.
"Our people are well informed. It would not be easy for any person to make use of youths to achieve political goal. We are going to monitor the election, we will protect our votes and the votes will count. We have suffered enough and it is a moment of decision. We will vote them out," Yerima said.
To Mr. Oladotun Hassan of the Yoruba Council of Youths, el-Rufai's statement is tantamount to hate speech and committal of treason against the Nigerian state. He hinted that his group may be forced to drag el-Rufai to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the threat.
The lead speaker, Mr. Oweilami Pereotubo of the Ijaw Youth Council urged the Independent Electoral commission (INEC) to conduct free and fair polls, promising that the youths would deploy technology, the social media and electronic to monitor the elections.
He endorsed Atiku Abubakar of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the position of the president over his stance on restructuring of the country.
"We will work hand-in-hand with all relevant stakeholders to continue to enlighten them in the need to ensure that only a candidate who can get Nigeria back on the right track.
"We are determined to ensure that the next set of Nigerian leaders are those with clear understanding of the nexus, proper resource management, good diplomatic relations as opportunity for direct foreign investment.
"As members of the Nigerian Ethnic Nationalities Youth Leaders Forum, we are aware the deep-rooted fears amongst the electorate regarding the high risk of manipulation of the election by vested interests within the corridors of power in collaboration with their foot soldiers. This fear became bare faced with the open attempt to emasculate the judiciary.
"This unwarranted, Gestapo style expectedly drew the anger of the international community, notably the EU, UK, US, AU and others. The move has ridiculed our international image, creating more doubts about sincerity regarding the 2019 second leg of a civilian -to -civilian transition," he said.
Also yesterday, the Joint Action Committee of Northern Youth (JACON) urged the international community and election observers not be intimidated by el-Rufai's threat.
In a statement signed by its convener, Murtala Abubakar, JACON said :"The recent outburst and threat to the international community, especially election observers by el-Rufai is not surprising.
"What is surprising is extending it outside the shore of Kaduna and Nigeria, targeting the international community who are interested in fair, transparent, credible and peaceful elections in Nigeria.
"For the record, Governor el-Rufai is no stranger to such inflammatory statement meant to stock ember of discord and results in violence. But we have seen through his veiled calls to violence.
"El-Rufai is known to have called the opposition in Kaduna termites and ants and should be crushed. He has asked those who asked questions on his style of leadership to climb Kufena Hill and jump to their death.
"The most recent and bizzare was his allusion to a religious icon; the celebrated and revered Catholic leader, The Pope. That statement was meant to infuriate the Catholics and Christians to cause religious conflict. But we thank the Christian community for their restrain and the show of maturity by not playing into the hands of the governor."