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13 Feb 2019

U.S. ambassador replies Buhari campaign team over taking sides of Atiku/Obi ahead of Saturday election

The American ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, has dismissed claims by the Buhari 2019 Presidential Campaign Council that his country was subtly supporting the opposition as the general elections approach.

The director, strategic communications of the team, Festus Keyamo, on Monday, lampooned Mr Symington and other Western diplomats saying their recent statements on the elections showed they were tactically supporting the opposition, seeking to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari.

Mr Keyamo specifically accused Mr Symington of interfering in the 2019 electoral processes.

”The impression he (Mr Symington) creates by constantly harping on suspected government interference with the electoral process is that President Buhari cannot win without tipping the results. He seems to be saying that only a PDP victory will be evidence of a fair election,” an infuriated Mr Keyamo said.

”Instead of encouraging free and fair elections, these judgmental statements and threats only cast an unnecessary pall over the elections and the nation,” he added.

Western nations have in the past few weeks called on relevant stakeholders in the Nigerian polity to work together to ensure free and credible polls.

‘We are impartial’

The U.S. Embassy via its website on Tuesday said the US government is not taking sides in Nigeria’s electoral process.

The statement said the U.S. government supports the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

It urged Nigerian citizens to be wary of fake news and rumours that are ”operating in overdrive”. It said the 2019 general election ”is as important to foreign diplomats as much as it is important to Nigerians.”

The U.S. government also called on every Nigerian, and the security forces to peacefully support the democratic process ”in accordance with the Nigerian law”.

”The United States Embassy in Nigeria wishes to reiterate unequivocally that we are not taking sides in Nigeria’s election. We do not support any party or candidate. We support a level playing field and the democratic process.

”That is the bedrock principle of our Government’s advocacy on democratic elections. In the final run-up to the Feb. 16 vote, fake news, and rumors are operating in overdrive. But it must be repeated: we are not taking sides.”

It recalled its support to the Nigerian government in the past.

”The United States is Nigeria’s long-term and enduring friend. We provide more than $1 billion in assistance and help save more than two million lives of Nigerians each year through our health and humanitarian assistance. This will not change. We are Nigeria’s good partner, and this will continue after this democratic election – no matter who wins.

”This election is Nigeria’s, but it is also important for Nigeria’s neighbors and for the world. Nigeria has long played a great leadership role in the region and beyond as a force for democratic stability. The credible electoral results of 2015 empowered Nigeria to play that role. The United States looks forward to a similar result this week.”

It also added that the United States welcomed the signing of peace accords by the candidates for president and other offices.

”Now is the time to grow that peace by ensuring all get the message and put it into action so that both the voting and the aftermath are peaceful and fully respect the democratic process,” it said.

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