The United States Government on Sunday said Nigeria’s general election billed for next month must hold as scheduled because it is one exercise that is both critical to the survival of the country and reaffirm its place in the world map.
The US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, who said this at a news conference in Lagos, also had separate meetings with both President Goodluck Jonathan and the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, where they discussed the need for a violence-free election and the nations’ bilateral relations.
While the meeting with Jonathan was said to have held at the State House in Lagos, the one with Buhari was held at the official residence of the US Consul General in Ikoyi, Lagos, the same venue as the news conference yesterday evening.
Kerry, who repeatedly harped on the need to eschew any form of violence, also noted that for Nigerians to know how seriously the US government took the issue of election violence, perpetrators would be ineligible for the US visa as a new measure against every anti-democratic tendency.
“The fact is 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, it is essential to the largest democracy in Africa.
“It’s imperative that these elections happen on time as scheduled. There have been improvements over past elections and a need to set new standards for this democracy. That means that Nigerians do not only have to reject violence but they have to actually promote peace,” he said.
The US Secretary of State, reading the riot act to violence perpetrators, said: “So, let me be clear: anyone who participates in plans or calls for widespread or systematic violence against the civilian population must be held accountable including being ineligible for an American visa.
“Violence has no place in democratic elections and I can guarantee you that the perpetrators of such violence will not be welcomed in the United States of America. Nigeria is 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.”
Reading from a prepared speech, Kerry said: “I am particularly pleased to be here at this moment just few weeks before one of the most important elections that this country has held. And this would be the largest democratic election of the country. Given this stage, it is absolutely critical that this election be conducted peacefully. That they are credible, transparent and accountable; that the people of Nigeria can have faith and the world can have faith in the government at this moment.
“So, I came here today to deliver a very simple message and I met with both major candidates in order to underscore that the international community is paying very close attention to this election and that the international community is deeply committed to working with Nigerians, going forward with the hopes that they will have election that is free of violence and capable of instilling confidence in the future.”
“The unfortunate truth is that Nigerians know as well as anyone how desperately that approach is needed. Day after day, the group that calls itself Boko Haram continues to kill scores of innocent civilians and attacks villages and military installations in places like Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
“The United States condemns these attacks which have escalated in recent weeks and extend our deepest condolences to the thousands of families that have been impacted and we deeply regret the toll that this violence is taking on the Nigerian people.
“We will absolutely continue to support the Nigerian military in its fight against Boko Haram. And as I said in Davos, all of us must work together to strategize to stop the groups – the Boko Haram, Al-Queda – but they will address the environment from which these groups emerged.
“We were very happy to see the government of Nigeria host a regional security ministerial meeting last week to discuss how to better coordinate counter-terrorism method. This is exactly the kind of thing that I suggested as necessary a couple of days ago. It is very important that the world cooperates more and helping countries where they want to and where they don’t have the capacity to be able to step up and take up lawless terrorist entities.
“That is precisely why President Obama has announced that next month in Washington we will host an international summit on combating violent extremism around the world. It would be held at the White House. It would be at the ministerial level and we hope to bring people together, who have been engaged in this fight against Boko Haram and other entities so that we can share best practices; so that we can hear from people about what they need and what they think is necessary in order to be able to summon an even stronger global response.
“I met with President Jonathan earlier today and separately with General Buhari and I was encouraged to hear once again from both men that this is exactly what they intend to do – to try to press for elections that can be held with the credibility that the people of Nigeria want and deserve. As President Jonathan said in his New Year’s message, ‘None of our political ambition is worth the blood of any of country’s men, women and children’.
“And as General Buhari recently tweeted, ‘Electoral violence is unacceptable and every Nigerian life is sacred’. Both candidates have also signed on to a peace pact which commits them to running exclusively issue-based campaigns; refraining from violence before and during and after election day.
“These are commitments that need be said from everyone and they are commitments that need to be kept. Many people are stepping up. For example, Chairman Jega and a thousand of Independent National Electoral Commission employees are taking concrete steps in order to guarantee that this election is successful. We also urge all of Nigeria’s governors to call for peaceful and democratic engagements amongst all citizens and we ask all parties and all candidates to do the same.
“And I urge all of Nigeria’s candidates to do what is best for their country no matter the outcome on Election Day.
“I want to emphasise that for the United States, Nigeria is increasingly important, strategic partner. Nigeria has a critical role to play in the security and prosperity of this continent and beyond. We are committed to helping the electoral process succeed.
“I want to reiterate what President Obama recently said that he and the American people stand with you as Nigeria’s great democratic exercise unfolds. And we stand ready to work with the government of Nigeria, the Nigerian people to continue building on the important partnership that we share,” he said.
In the same vein, the National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu has described the call for the postponement of next month’s general election as absolute nonsense.
He also said that PDP is ready for the February 14 presidential and National Assembly polls and the February 28 governorship and state assembly elections.
Reacting to calls for the postponement of the general election, Mu’azu through his Chief Press Secretary, Tony Amadi, said: “It is absolute nonsense to suggest that the Peoples Democratic Party is not ready for the 2015 elections. The APC is at it again. The PDP looks at election campaigns as a marathon race and runs like the Kenyans and the Ethiopians in measured steps, slow, steady and consistently. We are only just in the half way mark of a long distance race and the APC thinks that they have already won simply because they think they are on pole position.
“The aggression with which they (APC) are pursuing this election is fine, but they must realise that pulling crowds is one thing, winning the election is quite a different kettle of fish. Their mountain of propaganda is being steadily dismantled by the ruling party since the campaign began because our message of truth is now getting through and opinions are being reversed at a rate they will never understand especially with the desperation to win by all means.”
The quest for a postponement of the election was first mooted last week by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd). Although Dasuki had argued that the insecurity and non-readiness of some of the electoral materials like the permanent voters’ card (PVCs) were the basis of his suggestion, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), through its Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, had foreclosed any plan to postpone the polls, insisting that he is ready for the election.
Mu’azu said signals from the North-central zone of the country showed that PDP would get massive votes from the Middle Belt.
According to Mu’azu, “The North-west zone has been a reassurance that PDP is on course for a fourth consecutive election victory not only because of the performance of our President Jonathan which are glaring for all to see, but also because the acceptability of the major opposition candidate is fraught with danger.
“The northern elite who direct the destination of votes don’t want a Buhari administration now or never. We accept his massive popularity among people who have no intention of voting but who adore his cult status and following.
“Therefore PDP, when the polls open on February 14th will not only be on pole position but victory is guaranteed because our marathon speed would have increased to the level we need to win the race. Think about this: we set up 12 universities across the country, nine of which are in the North and the opposition says they are glorified secondary schools. If their candidate had set up even a glorified primary school in 1985, imagine what would have become the lot of the Almajiris of those days who would have changed Nigeria today. But now they are Boko Haram, harassing all of us and the APC have the magic wand to stop their carnage and butchering of innocent souls immediately they get power. How will they do it?”