US Senators Move to Ensure Free Elections in Nigeria


Olawale Olaleye

Four United States senators; Jeff Flake, Cory Booker, Johnny Isakson and Christopher Coons came out strongly in the week and insisted that Nigeria must build off on the peaceful transfer of power she pulled off in 2015 as she gears up for the 2019 elections.
The senators, who showed their concern about some of the events culminating in next year’s general election in a letter to Tibor Nagy, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, however, said the United States government was determined to help the country consolidate her democratic gains, noting that the 2019 elections must meet expectations and international standards.

The Senators’ joint letter of concern about Nigeria’s 2019 election came to fore about the same time another US congressman, Christopher Smith took a swipe at President Muhamamdu Buhari’s government especially over alleged crack down on the opposition, saying as Africa’s largest democracy and economy, his concerns were understandable.
Yet, in the same breath, a former presidential spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe has declared that Nigeria was in a perilous time and that only God and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could save the nation from total collapse.

In their letter dated December 19 and obtained exclusively by THISDAY, the US senators said to Nagy, “As you know, Nigeria’s next presidential and National Assembly elections are scheduled to take place on February 16, 2019.

“As the largest democracy and economy in Africa, Nigeria’s ability to hold peaceful and fair elections is of paramount importance to maintaining democratic legitimacy and stability in the region. Nigeria completed a peaceful transfer of power in 2015 and it is important that the country build off this progress and momentum in the upcoming election.

“With the election approaching, the United States must reaffirm its support for democracy in Nigeria by calling on all parties to refrain from violence, harassment or intimidation of political opponents, and from impeding the electoral process in any way.
“We urge you to speak out against any efforts to interfere in the electoral process in a timely manner to reinforce the US government’s support for elections that are credible, transparent and peaceful,” they stated.

The lawmakers however stated with emphasis that, “What happens in Nigeria will set example for other African nations to follow and it is critical for the United States to focus on helping that country consolidate its democratic gains. We encourage you to take all actions you deem to be appropriate to ensure that Nigerian elections meet the expectations of its people, as well as international standards.”

On his part, Smith, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, who issued a statement with regards to presidential and National Assembly elections in the country particularly, with respect to cases of violence that is largely attributable to Fulani extremists, said there might be a serious crackdown on the opposition.

“I am very concerned by the current trajectory in Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy and economy, and President Muhamadu Buhari’s apparent crackdown on non-violent protests and harassment of opposition leaders, such as freezing the assets of opposition vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi and the raiding of the home of two sons of opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar.

“I call upon the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that elections will be free and fair, and for the Commission to remain impartial. I further call upon President Buhari to use his authority to end the violence perpetrated by Fulani extremists, particularly in the Middle Belt region, and question why he has failed to do so.

“I also urge the Trump Administration to monitor the evolving situation closely, and not to hesitate to use its sanctioning authority to hold accountable any officials, who subvert the electoral process or foment violence against citizens,” he said.
Smith, who chaired a hearing on Nigeria on December 13, 2018, titled: “Nigeria at a Crossroads: The Upcoming Election,” had repeatedly called attention to extremist violence and appealed to President Buhari to use his authority to put a stop to it.

As if cashing in on the mood of the concerned US lawmakers, Okupe, who spoke on Friday while speaking on Arise Television, the broadcast arm of THISDAY newspaper, said the economic situation in the country has become terribly bad due to the fact that President Buhari was not in charge of governance of the country and therefore advised Nigerians not to vote for a president, who they are not sure of being in charge of the economy and affairs of the nation.
Okupe, a former governorship aspirant of the PDP in Ogun State, said the president’s wife, Aisha Buhari had made it clear to Nigerians that her husband, Muhammadu Buhari was not in charge of the nation’s affairs.

“His wife came out on television and said the president is not in charge. Mrs. Buhari said two men are the people that are running the country”.
Contending that it would be unwise for Nigerians to still vote the same president whose wife openly told the whole nation that just two men had hijacked his government, Okupe said, “Mrs. Buhari came to the Nigerian public and said you guys have to fight for yourselves because right now, my husband has lost the grip on this administration, and some two people, who we do not know, are the ones running the economy”.

The PDP stalwart also lamented the untold suffering being experienced by Nigerians due to poor economic policies of the president, and expressed shock that the presidency seemed completely unaware of the grinding poverty foisted on the citizens by APC government
“The presidency is totally unaffected; they are unconcerned and totally disconnected from the suffering of the masses. The president does not know about many things going on.”
He advised Nigerians, particularly the unemployed youths to salvage the nation’s situation by voting for a president that would be in charge and be fully aware of happenings around him.

“Is that what we want to vote for – the same government that you don’t know who will run the administration – a country of 200 million people with so many youths? We are in dangerous and perilous times, and only God and PDP will save this country in 2019”.

The medical doctor turned politician said the APC government has brought indecency into Nigeria, and has continuously peddled lies, adding that the Buhari administration has not created 12 million jobs as claimed, but contended that Akinwumi Adesina, the erstwhile Minister of Agriculture during Jonathan’s government evidently had over 10 million farmers on his mobile wallet data base.
According to him, although the Buhari government might have added two million farmers to what Adesina had verifiably done, it was however saddening that the government could come out to openly celebrate 12 million jobs that they never created.