Free, fair elections and America’s interest
APART from being the largest in population in the sub-region, Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa. Many American diplomats believe that If democracy survives in Nigeria, it will serve as a beacon for other parts of the continent. They do not want violence; they want a free and fair elections.
United States (US) delegates from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) visited Nigeria from January 15-20 this year. The delegation’s goals were to:
- Assess the current political and electoral environment in the lead-up to the tomorrow presidential election;
- Assess preparations for the presidential election and offer recommendations to enhance citizen confidence in the process and mitigate violence; and
- Demonstrate international support for Nigeria’s democratisation process.
The mission also reiterated that the election must be peaceful and credible through all phases of the process, including during the campaign period, on election day and in the post-election period after the release of final election results. Both NDI and IRI have deployed international election observation missions to every presidential election in Nigeria since 1999.
Earlier on US Secretary of State, John Kerry during his recent visit to Nigeria is optimistic that one of the best ways to fight back Boko Haram and similar groups is by protecting the peaceful, credible, and transparent elections that are essential to any thriving democracy, and certainly, essential to the largest democracy in Africa.
“It’s imperative that these elections happen on time as scheduled, and that they are an improvement over past elections, and they need to set a new standard for this democracy. That means that Nigerians have to not only reject violence but they have to actually promote peace.”
He said that he met with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan separately with All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), and he was encouraged to hear that they were committed to a free and far elections.
“As President Jonathan said in his New Year’s message, none of our political ambitions is worth the blood of any of our countrymen, women, and children. And as General Buhari recently tweeted, electoral violence is unacceptable, and every Nigerian life is sacred.”
He also urged all of Nigeria’s governors to call for peaceful democratic engagement among their residents, and for all parties and candidates to do the same.
“I want to emphasize that for the US, Nigeria is an increasingly important strategic partner. Nigeria has a critical role to play in the security and prosperity of this continent and beyond.”
He said that the US is committed to helping the electoral process succeed, and sent an electoral security advisor in order to support INEC’s efforts to advise on security concerns and to help develop a risk mapping tool to prepare for any violence that might emerge.”
Kerry said that anyone who participates in, plans, or calls for widespread or systematic violence against the civilian population must be held accountable, including by ineligibility for an American visa.
He described Nigeria as Africa’s most populous nation and one of the world’s largest democracies.
“It is blessed with some of the planet’s most valuable and abundant natural resources. Conducting accountable, credible, peaceful elections will help put the Nigerian people on a path to prosperity and regional leadership that is needed in order to address a wide range of challenges in this part of the world, including, obviously, violent extremism.
Nigerian intelligence fusion center. And most recently, we’ve worked with Nigeria’s neighbours Cameroon, Chad, and Niger to develop institutional and tactical capabilities that will increase the joint efforts between our countries in order to be more effective.
Kerry said that America wants to do more.
“And that was part of my message to both President Jonathan and General Buhari. We are prepared to do more, but our ability to do more will depend to some degree on the full measure of credibility, accountability, transparency and peacefulness of this election.”
Equally, the U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden also had telephone conversation recently with President Jonathan and General Buhari ahead of tomorrow’s election.
The Vice President commended President Jonathan and General Buhari for signing the Abuja Accord in mid-January as a show of their commitment to non-violence throughout the election process.
The Vice President further expressed the United States’ support for the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission and its work to deliver free, fair, and credible elections, in part through its essential efforts to distribute Permanent Voter Cards and help ensure that electronic voter card readers are in place and fully operational.
He also noted his concern about the violence during some recent election-related events and reiterated the need for both candidates to make clear that such violence has no place in democratic elections.
The US President, Barack Obama, on Tuesday issued a special message to Nigerians regarding the general elections.
He called for concerted efforts from all concerned to make for a peaceful and credible election.
“Nigeria is a great nation and you can be proud of the progress you’ve made. Together, you won your independence, emerged from military rule, and strengthened democratic institutions.
“You’ve strived to overcome division and to turn Nigeria’s diversity into a source of strength. You’ve worked hard to improve the lives of your families and to build the largest economy in Africa.
“Now you have a historic opportunity to help write the next chapter of Nigeria’s progress—by voting in the upcoming elections. For elections to be credible, they must be free, fair and peaceful.
“Successful elections and democratic progress will help Nigeria meet the urgent challenges you face today. Boko Haram—a brutal terrorist group that kills innocent men, women and children—must be stopped. Hundreds of kidnapped children deserve to be returned to their families.”
On a different note, a former spokesperson for four US Ambassadors to the United Nations, Richard Grenell, said that it will be a disaster for Africa if Buhari, becomes Nigeria’s President.
He also accused Buhari of working tirelessly to enthrone Sharia law in Nigeria.
Grenell made the statements in a piece titled: “Nigeria on the Brink” which was published in the Washington Times on Thursday, March 19.
Former American Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell in his book “Dancing On The Brink” said that if civil society elements continue to strengthen, they may be able to support the establishment of a multiparty system that, in turn, could change over time Nigeria’s system of governance.
He said the sequence of elections in 1983, 1999, 2003, and 2011 may have established the principle that the regime now changes through rigged elections rather than by military coup in Nigeria.
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