Human rights activist and pro-democracy crusader, Senator Shehu Sani, has urged the United Nations and the European Union (EU) to immediately impose visa sanction and other restrictions against President Muhammadu Buhari and elements under his government for undermining democracy in the country. According to him, if the current trend is allowed to continue it would mar the conduct of 2023 general elections.
Sani explained that unless the international community rises up to its responsibility to save democracy in Nigeria, the subsequent conduct of elections in the country after the outcome of the recent governorship polls in Kogi and Bayelsa States might lead to chaos and erode democracy. He was reacting to the violence, the use of firearms against voters, the killings and general malpractices that were recorded during the elections in Kogi and Bayesa States. He said unless the international community responds appropriately to sanction the anti-democratic elements in Nigeria the country’s future stands endangered.
According to him, “The only way to address the problems of elections in Nigeria, apart from implementing electoral reforms, is through sanctions on individuals that are fully involved in electoral malpractices. The European Union should not sit down and simply fold its arms and allow only the United States to carry out the responsibility of sanctioning individuals that are involved in election fraud or violence.
“The EU must join other democratic nations of the world. A no-fly sanction must be declared against elements in the army, police, INEC and the political sphere that are involved in violence, killings and other malpractices internationally.
“They cannot fly to any country. The African Union (AU) must also be serious about this political problem. Visa restrictions should not only be limited to people going to the United States. The EU and other democratic nations of the world who are not part of the EU must impose sanctions. The airline companies of these countries must apply sanctions against anti-democratic elements”.
Also, Sani blamed President Buhari for allowing the country’s democracy to nose-dive, saying that if former President Goodluck Jonathan had followed Buhari’s antecedent, he would not have been in office as incumbent president.
According to him, “The former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has been consistently drawing the attention of the country to the new reality as far as elections in Nigeria are concerned. There is general consensus that the 2015 elections were free, fair and credible. Most of those who lost elections did not go to court to challenge the results. The president at that time, Jonathan, warmly and heartedly congratulated Buhari.
“Buhari promised the country that he would leave behind a legacy of fair, transparent and credible elections in the country. But the 2019 elections and subsequent elections have clearly demonstrated that the president rather has drown us back to pre-2015, particularly the military era. Our elections are now characterized by violence, thuggery, ballot stuffing and ballot snatching; the use of arms, killings and outright manipulations. This is not what Nigerians bargained for. The two elections in Bayelsa and Kogi are an eye-opener.
“The government of Buhari has lost the moral ground to organize elections that the world can see as free and credible. We have never had it so bad in this country where the international, domestic observers, the media and Nigerians will unanimously condemn elections such as the ones in Kogi and Bayelsa. I have said it many times that President Buhari should be concerned about his role in Nigeria’s history.
“What kind of legacy does he want to leave behind when the elections that brought him to power is more credible than the ones he is organizing? So, as far as I am concerned, this present INEC, as it is today, and the conduct of elections show that we have gone backward to the dark and stone ages where election results are simply written and announced”.
Sani excoriated the electoral umpire for taking the country’s democracy backwards just as he insisted that most of those in elective positions today would not have been elected if the electoral umpire did its good job properly.
“When you see a political leader using violence, thugs, manipulations, fire arms to secure votes, he knows very well that he has lost the moral high ground and he does not have the support of the people. So, we cannot call this a democracy if the method and processes of getting elected into office is through violence, bloodshed and manipulation of votes, ballot snatching and ballot stuffing.
“You can’t build honesty in a foundation of fraud. The assessment of the UN, the EU, and international and domestic observers said they have never seen anything like this.“With subsequent elections in the country, especially the 2023 general elections, I think the message has been sent clearly to everybody that the means of assuming power is not through a peaceful, credible and transparent elections. It is the ability to gather and garner an equivalent force that may likely play out to counter the other side. And I am very sorry to say that the judiciary and the National Assembly, as they are today, are not in a good position to address the problems of elections in the country”.