Awwal Musa Rafsanjani is the executive director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, CISLAC.
Opposition parties have accused the APC of planning to rig the elections. Have you seen signs that this is the case?
Well, politicians in Nigeria are the same. The political parties and politicians, they are all the same. They have the same character, so they accuse one another rightly or wrongly. I don’t see anything new from what the political parties have been accusing one another of.
If you hear the ruling party accusing the opposition of doing this and this, you will also hear the opposition party of accusing the ruling party of doing this and this. But all we know is that the politicians in Nigeria, they are the same.
Many of them have nothing to do with patriotism or any agenda to move Nigeria progressively forward. They are just there for themselves and they use every sentiment to mobilize people which is really unfortunate.
In my opinion, the ruling party, the opposition party, they are just the same and everyone of them will use every available opportunity to rig the election. It is not a preoccupation of one party or the other. All of the are the same because they don’t have regard for the rule of law. They don’t have regard for the electorate. They are just out there for themselves.
The governor of Kaduna, Nasir el-Rufai, just made a threat against foreign intervention during the elections. Is your organisation aware of any foreign agents trying to influence the elections?
In fact, that statement is a serious statement and is a serious setback for the country because the statement is tantamount to throwing Nigeria into a diplomatic quagmire. Nigerian government invited these foreign observers.
If you check INEC’s budget, they have components where they are going to invite and support foreign observers to make sure that the electoral process is credible and that it is free and non-violent. If the Nigerian government invited the foreign observers and one of its governors is threatening the observers, it is a serious matter.
Who are these foreign observers? They constitute the ECOWAS member states, delegation from the African Union, delegation from the European Union, delegation from other countries like the commonwealth. These regional and subregional bodies are the ones coming to observe the elections.
And again, this statement will give room for those who want to engage in electoral violence to have the license to attack the local and foreign observers. I think this statement is rather unfortunate and the governor should quickly withdraw the statement and apologise to the nation.
The Nigerian government must come out openly to distant itself. The ruling party must come out and distance itself from this kind of unguarded utterances.
This statement will give room for those who want to engage in electoral violence to have the license to attack the local and foreign observers. I think this statement is rather unfortunate and the governor should quickly withdraw the statement and apologise to the nation.
Do you think that el-Rufai or even the APC can be trusted on providing security for these foreign observers?
When they are threatening to kill people, how will you now guarantee the safety and security of these people? You are threatening to kill somebody just like that! And at the same time, you think people will believe you that you will provide security for them?
You have already intimated that you are going to kill them. So, how will you at the same time provide them with security? That is why I said the federal government, the security agencies must come out openly to distance themselves from this and to also assure the international community, international observers and Nigerians.
The elections are being observed by both local and international observers. This threat is not only to the foreign observers but also to local observers who have in the past fallen victims of politicians, when they go out to monitor elections. It is serious threat. The government must come out and guarantee the safety of all the observers.
In the past, you have described the TraderMoni scheme as vote buying. Do you think that INEC should sanction the APC?
If INEC has the liver and the capacity or the independence, they should make sure they sanction anybody who uses money to buy voters. We have said it early on, you cannot be campaigning and then be sharing money in the name of Tradermoni.
And then, each time you give me a his money, you ask that people should vote your own party. That is clearly a breach of the campaign finance rules and also the laws from INEC. I know INEC may not be able to act because they are appointees of the federal government and it is the federal government that is doing this. So, it is really unfortunate.
Do you have faith in INEC to conduct free and transparent elections?
I want to believe that there are so many credible people in INEC who believe in Nigeria and will conduct free and fair elections.
On your part, will you be an observer in this election?
Yes. We are accredited election observers. For us at CISLAC, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, check INEC’s website, we are there. We are accredited. We have been observing elections for a long time.
Personally, l was executive member of Transition Monitoring Group in 1998. The election was in 1999. I was also a founding executive member of the Situation Room. These are all civil society organizations that are working on the elections, ensuring credible, peaceful, transparent and non-violent elections.