Nigeria’s 2019 poll ‘critical test’ for Africa — U.S.

File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari's visit to President @realDonaldTrump in the Oval Office and Press Conference in the Rose Garden.
File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari's visit to President @realDonaldTrump in the Oval Office and Press Conference in the Rose Garden.

The U.S. has described Nigeria’s 2019 general elections are “a critical test” for the country, the ECOWAS sub-region and the entire continent.

U.S. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, Jr., stated this in his testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Sub-Committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organisations.

The title of the hearing is ‘Nigeria at a Crossroad: The Upcoming Elections’, according to the transcript made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York by the U.S. Department of State, on Friday.

Mr Nagy said: “The Department of State agrees with the view that Nigeria’s February 2019 national elections are a critical test.

“The conduct of the elections could have significant consequences for the democratic trajectory of Nigeria, West Africa, and the entire continent”.

The U.S. envoy said the conduct of the 2015 Nigerian elections, although by no means perfect, was a step forward for Nigeria’s democracy.

That contest resulted in Nigeria’s first-ever democratic transfer of power to a non-incumbent party, thereby increasing capacity and improving conduct of Nigerian democratic institutions and election bodies, he said.

“In advance of the 2019 elections, the U.S. government continues to support the Nigerian goal of free, fair, transparent, and peaceful elections that reflect the will of the Nigerian people.

“Through diplomacy, robust public engagement including with Nigeria’s youth and civil society, and democracy and governance programmes, we are helping the country to strengthen its democratic institutions and processes.

“The U.S. does not support any single candidate. We support a democratic process that is free, fair, transparent, peaceful, and reflects the will of the Nigerian people,” he said.

According to him, the U.S. government has developed a comprehensive election strategy to plan and coordinate its efforts, anchored on three main objectives.

This includes support a free and fair electoral process, including technical assistance to Nigeria’s election institutions, civil society, and political parties as well as U.S. government monitoring of the election around the country.

The other is to prevent and mitigate electoral violence, including conflict monitoring, peace building programs, and peace messaging, is another strategy.

Others are support to civic and political engagement, including support to Nigerian civil society election observation and parallel vote tabulation, social media campaigns to engage youth including through our Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), “get out the vote” campaigns, voter education, and Nigerian efforts to counter disinformation.

“To advance our strategy, we have sustained high-level diplomatic engagement from Washington as well as robust and regular engagement by our Ambassador, Consul-General, USAID Mission Director, and other officials based in Abuja and Lagos.

“Earlier this year, President Trump welcomed President Buhari to the White House and conveyed our expectations for a credible election.

“Two Secretaries of State, USAID Administrator Green, Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan, and many others have either traveled to Nigeria or met with senior Nigerian officials in the U.S. to underscore our commitment to free, fair, transparent, and peaceful Nigerian elections in the last 12 months.”

Nagy said he recently returned from Nigeria as part of his first trip to the African continent, and conveyed the U.S. expectations and concerns for the elections in person.

He said he met with leadership from the two main political parties, INEC Chairman, and civil society organisations, delivering public messages on the elections in a speech, press engagements and private messages with key stakeholders.

“That is just a summary of our Washington-focused diplomatic engagement on these elections.

“Our Ambassador and the Mission in Nigeria are working to advance our goals every day,” he added.

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