Propriety of visa-for-good-behaviour in elections
During the last election in Edo and Ondo States, the ambassadors of the European Union, the United States and the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom were reported to threaten vote riggers and other practitioners of voting fraud with withdrawal of their usual visas if they had them; and a refusal to other culprits who did not have visas. Why restrict it to good behaviour? Why not to good governance? Why not extend the visa ban to money so that only those with uncorrupted money get visas?
Would this mean that no Governor, member of the National Assembly, Government ministers, etc will have visas even with their diplomat passports? Since when are diplomats allowed to interfere in the politics of their host countries? Can the Nigerian Ambassador to the US go to Texas and threaten the Governor there now that he is engaged in votes suppression by having only one centre per county for postal ballots (In Texas, one county is as large as the South West political zone in Nigeria)?
The Republicans and President Trump have criticized postal ballots, and claimed that the elections will be rigged; he has tampered with postal ballots; there are armed militias out to protect their respective votes. Hundreds of court cases are in progress, one Governor was threatened with death or abduction, and a host of electoral manipulation which even Nigerian politicians would agree are in excess of anything they had contemplated. Businesses in the United States are hiring private security firms for protection; shops and businesses are being boarded up for the elections.
The West should declare that Corrupted money is banned, stopped and returned; naming names. In Edo at the last election, an aide to a prominent politician was caught with electoral malpractices. When charged he said it was not him. The money to bribe the electorate, the guns to intimidate the electorate, came from the secretary of the APC at the ward. He said he was confessing because his children were in Baltimore studying IT. Another one was now a citizen there. He was confessing because he feared that his children would be deported and he would never allow that to happen. After all, the PDP ward coordinator was in a similar predicament. A few days to the election, the people told him that the money he brought was insufficient: it could only buy three guns, 20 machetes, 100 wraps of Igbo while his opposition had treble what he had. In any case, since he knows the PDP representatives, he would report them to the EEC, the UK High Commissioner and the US Ambassador.
The PDP coordinator had six of his children overseas. They were sent there many years before when their sister was a courier for Edo`s wealthiest man. She was arraigned but the Italian police was bribed and she got out: She set up her own ‘Trade ` route bringing young girls into Europe. She built a beautiful house for her mother and family. She started a trend where most of the fine houses in Benin were built by women who had made good money in Europe. The women are so strong now they have branches all over Europe and they cannot be deported. Their patrons include prime ministers, other ministers, captains of industry etc. They have double protection from their erstwhile pimps (I am surprised that Nollywood had not made several blockbuster of these stories: they are out there).
It would seem that each political party now has a visa defamation sector. Since INEC is seen as complicit in these violation, our foreign embassies have the low down on all the electoral practices committed. The embassies are very thorough in collating the detailed information so when Mr X wants a visa, a flag is immediately up.
Sovereignty is a precious achievement and it should not be threatened by anyone, nor should Nigeria surrender it so cheaply. Elections in Nigeria is an internal Nigeria problem. Diplomatic usage does not allow foreign diplomats to interfere in internal affairs of their credited countries. As of today, the United States has been complaining that Russia and Iran are interfering in the United States elections just as Russia did in 2016 to help Donald Trump win the white House. The Republicans deny it. But it is a massive political problem.
Nigerians must learn how to value themselves. Nothing I say here would stop any Nigerian who wants political office from going to any and all Western Embassies when invited and even when not invited. They are not so eager to go to Russia or Chinese Embassies- which they should. But that the West knows that their visa is a thing of great value is only an indication of how cheap we are willing to sell ourselves.
A cursory knowledge of the election process in the United Kingdom (2019) United States (2020) would show how serious the issue of foreign interference is reviewed in their election and other elections malpractices. These people have no right to inveigh against electoral malpractices when they are not paragons in this department. It is true that Nigeria has invited independent electoral observers but that in no way shortens our sovereignty and no one should blackmail us by dangling visas to our people. Every nation has the right to give or deny visas to applicants. But that should not give anyone the right to interfere in our internal matters. The Minister of Foreign Affairs should issue a stop and desist order to foreign embassies who issue such threats.
Dr Cole is a former Nigeria Ambassador to Brazil.