The US and UK take a strong stand on free and fair electoral process in Nigeria. A welcome development!
John O. Ifediora, Director, and Editor-in-Chief.
By all accounts Nigeria’s last presidential election held in March 2015, was reasonably less problematic than the rigged and blood-saturated past attempts at what passed for democratic elections in Africa’s most populous nation-state. The spectacle of young, articulate, and persistent voters determined to witness a fair and violence-free electoral process in 2015 took to social media to give notice of their collective intent. It worked, and for the first time Nigerians saw what can be achieved when the electorates, tired of marginalization by the elites, registered their choice at the voting polls. That was democracy in action, and we should expect nothing less on February 16.
Nigeria is an important nation-state that deserves to be taken seriously, not only within the continent but also without. Its geo-political significance, and the impressive size of its citizenry make it imperative that it continues on the path it paved in the election of 2015. Anything less would be an unfortunate retrogression that the already thoroughly strained populace, and fragile economy can least afford, and should not be made to endure. The international community, very familiar with Nigeria’s unflattering past, has made its preference for a free and fair electoral outcome known to all who care to listen. So far, the loudest voices are those of the US and the UK. This week both countries issued the following joint statements:
The US: “The conduct of the upcoming elections in Nigeria is important not only for Nigeria, but for the African continent.
The United States government does not support any specific candidate or party in Nigeria’s upcoming elections. The United States supports the Nigerian democratic process itself. We support a genuinely free, fair, transparent, and peaceful electoral process.
We, and other democratic nations, will be paying close attention to actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process or instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections. We will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process. Under U.S. immigration law, certain violations may also lead to restrictions on family members.
We welcome the signing of peace pledges by Nigerian candidates and their commitment to a peaceful electoral process.”
The UK declared a similar stand: “We and our international partners remain committed supporters of Nigeria’s democracy. We do not support any party or individual and believe that the Nigerian people should be able to choose their leaders in an environment free from hate speech and insecurity.
We continue to provide significant support to Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission and to Nigerian civil society to help them deliver credible elections. We also regularly engage with actors across the political spectrum to encourage them to respect electoral rules and maintain an atmosphere of peace and calm. We will be deploying an extensive observation mission for the forthcoming elections, including coordinating with the EU’s Election Observation Mission. Our monitors will in particular be looking out for any attempts to encourage or use violence to influence the elections, including on social media. We would like to remind all Nigerians that where the UK is aware of such attempts, this may have consequences for individuals. These could include their eligibility to travel to the UK, their ability to access UK based funds or lead to prosecution under international law.
The UK is a friend and partner of Nigeria. We hope our continued support will play a role in helping Nigeria take a further step towards consolidating the progress made since democracy returned in 1999.”
Such attention given to Nigeria is a strong indication of its importance to the international community; this is comforting and should be embraced.