NIGERIANS have been watching with utter bewilderment the increasing, unabashed involvement of Niger Republic in our affairs since 2015.
Shortly after assuming power in May 2015, Niger Republic was the first foreign country that President Muhammadu Buhari visited. His Nigerien counterpart, President Mahamadou Issoufou, accorded him a rousing reception and gave him a white horse as a parting gift.
Later, there was a great uproar in the country when it was noticed that Buhari, in his 2018 budget proposal planned to extend the Nigerian railway network through his hometown, Daura to Maradi, the third largest city in Niger Republic.
By far the most audacious show of involvement of Niger Republic in our political affairs was the recent appearance of Niger Republic officials, fully decked in the ruling party’s apparels, at the Kano stop of Buhari’s nationwide campaign. It was a 60-man official delegation sent by President Issoufou and led by the Governors of Maradi and Zinder.
The Presidency has since claimed that the presence of these foreigners at a Nigerian political rally did not violate any laws, yet the Federal Government had expressed its displeasure over the insistence by the European Union, EU, the United States of America, USA, and the United Kingdom, UK, that every step should be taken to ensure free and fair elections. The government had called it “interference” in our internal affairs. How then do we describe the presence of Niger Republic officials to whip up “support” for a presidential candidate?
We advise the Federal Government and its officials to desist from acts that could increase the perception that the forthcoming elections are already compromised by acts of commission and omission, particularly those coming from foreign quarters. The oft-quoted ECOWAS protocol which allows the free movement of nationals of our sub-region does not permit their interference in the political or civic affairs of host countries.
The freedom to vote and be voted for and to be part of the electioneering process is the prerogative and exclusive right of Nigerian citizens. It is not open to foreign migrants, more so as most of them in Nigeria are undocumented aliens.
We call on Nigerians, particularly the law enforcement agencies, to be extra-vigilant and ensure that non-Nigerians do not vote in the forthcoming elections. There are thousands, if not millions, of these migrants all over the country, especially in the North. Their participation in the election could tamper with the mandate of the Nigerian electorate. It will create security and legitimacy problems that could hurt the country after the elections.
Nigeria’s sovereign integrity must be protected.