Nigeria: Buhari Distances Presidency From El-Rufai's 'Body Bag' Comments

Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai
14 February 2019

With the less than 48 hours remaining before Nigeria goes to poll to elect its president and federal lawmakers, President Muhammadu Buhari has said international observers were welcome to monitor the elections.

"I want to assure all Nigerians, the diplomatic community and all foreign election observers of their safety and full protection," Buhari said in a national broadcast on Thursday evening.

"Any comments or threats of intimidation from any source do not represent the position of the Federal Government of Nigeria."

Buhari's assurance of safety of international election observers and the diplomatic community came more than a week after Kaduna State governor and a staunch ally of the president Nasir El-Rufai last week threatened on Nigerian Television Authority's discussion programme violence against those who may want to "intervene" in Nigeria's internal democracy.

"We are waiting for the person who will come and intervene. They will go back in body bags because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country," El-Rufai said.

"We have got that independence and we are trying to run our country as decently as possible."

The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have recently criticised the Nigerian government over the suspension of the country's chief justice Walter Onnoghen very close to the elections.

They also spoke against malpractices and violence which characterise elections in Africa's biggest democracy.

El-Rufai, however, insisted that he did not call for violence against foreign election observers but only wanted Nigeria's sovereignty to be respected.

And on Thursday evening, Buhari pointed out in his broadcast that violence does not feature in his plans for the polls.

He also appealed to Nigeria's large army of young people to participate in the elections peacefully, while tacitly accusing the opposition of wanting to incite them to violence to discredit the polls.

"I want to make a special appeal to our youth: do not allow yourselves to be used to cause violence and destruction," the president said.

"The people who want to incite you are those preparing the ground for discrediting the elections. Having lost the argument, they fear losing the elections."

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