…Asks Citizenry to Work in Concert to Ensure their Votes Count The United States has again warned Nigerian political leaders of severe sanctions if their comments incite the people to violence that disrupts the smooth conduct of the general election. U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Stuart Symington, also warned Nigerians against being led by the
…Asks Citizenry to Work in Concert to Ensure their Votes Count
The United States has again warned Nigerian political leaders of severe sanctions if their comments incite the people to violence that disrupts the smooth conduct of the general election.
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Stuart Symington, also warned Nigerians against being led by the nose by politicians who may issue illegal directives to them using the name of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Symington gave the warning on Thursday in Makurdi, Benue State. He was speaking with journalists after his meeting with the state governor, Mr Samuel Ortom.
According to a report of the encounter monitored on Channels TV, Mr Symington cautioned against implementing illegal directives to manipulate the elections.
He said political leaders have a responsibility to ensure that the elections this year are free and fair.
“If anybody asks you to do something that is not right and says the boss wants you to do it, or the person at the top wants you to do it, don’t believe him; because the person at the top is saying, and I think honestly saying, they want to win a fair election. There is a reason not to believe them, because we all know that citizens are responsible for their own actions,” the envoy said.
Although Symington did not mention President Buhari by name, the President has repeatedly expressed his commitment to free and fair elections. He, like other top presidential candidates, also signed a peace accord, pledging his commitment to peaceful and non-violent conduct irrespective of the outcome of the elections.
Symington advised Nigerians not to believe those who may want to compromise the electoral process. He warned that people are responsible for their own actions.
“They are responsible first to their God, second to their conscience, third to the laws of Nigeria, fourth to the court of public opinion in Nigeria and then finally international law and the rest of us,” he said.
He said people who say things, irrespective of their intentions, that lead to hate or cause people to resort to violence, “will be held to account.”
Mr Symington spoke two days after a statement by Kaduna State Governor, Mr Nasir El-Rufai that foreigners who interfere in the country’s affairs would leave in body bags.
The statement made by the governor on a national television programme ignited an outcry, with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party warning it may withdraw from the peace accord the political parties signed to promote violence-free elections.
On Wednesday, the European Union election observers reacted to Mr El-Rufai’s remarks by stating that they were in Nigeria on the invitation to monitor the processes of the election and not to interfere in the affairs of the country.
Earlier last month, the US, the United Kingdom and the European Union Election Observer Mission expressed grave concern following the furore that greeted President Buhari’s suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mr Walter Onnoghen.
The US ambassador has also called on Nigerians to work in concert and ensure that their votes count. Symington stated this in a broadcast which was shared on his Twitter handle.
He said, “It is absolutely important for the citizens of Nigeria to personally take part in the elections beginning right now by making sure they know what their rights are. It is very important that you work together to ensure your votes count”.
Symington further stated that the US expects a free, credible, transparent and peaceful exercise, asking Nigerians to use the elections as an opportunity to express their civil right.
“As we get ready for your elections, one of the most important things is that there is level playing field, meaning that no officials, no security forces, no electoral officials, no politicians seek to influence you in a way that is not consistent with Nigerian law.”
He explained that the elections are only one part of the democratic process but what is important is the final days of the elections.
“Elections are only one part of the democratic process. The words and the actions that happen in these final days and all the work of government afterwards, are as important to democracy as the elections themselves”.
Advising politicians and those working for the government to remember that it is their individual responsibility to act consistently with the laws, he called on Nigerians to always have three things in mind while casting their votes for the candidates of their choice.
- Know your rights
- Vote and exercise them
- Act consistent with the law
While wishing Nigerians a successful election, Symington says that he was optimistic that this year’s election would be better than the previous ones.
US Consul General, Mr John Bay, on Thursday also insisted the US Government was not supporting any candidate in the presidential election holding on February 16.
Bay said the US was only interested in free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the Governor òf Bayelsa State on Media Relations, Mr Fidelis Soriwei, quoted the US Consul General to have made the comment, while paying a courtesy call on the Governor at the Government House, Yenagoa.
He said: “The US does not have a candidate in this election. We are looking for a free, fair, credible and peaceful process, a process that allows the choice of the Nigerian citizens to come through.”