EU: We’re Not Here to Select a Leader for Nigeria

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Mr. Ketil Karlsen
  • Recalls 2015 message was very powerful, resonated far beyond its borders
  • Buhari, Atiku must play by the rules, says Jonathan foundation

Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Bayo Akinloye in Lagos

The European Union (EU), Saturday, reiterated its delegation to Nigeria was not in the country to select who should take over governance after the February 16 presidential and national assembly elections.

Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West Africa States, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, who spoke during a visit to the Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, at the Government House, Yenagoa stressed that the organisation did not have any political aspiration in the country.

In the same breath, the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation has called on President Muhammadu Buhari, his major rival, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and other stakeholders in the forthcoming 2019 elections to play by the rules, even as it urged the federal government to ensure the protection of lives and property during the elections.

Apparently reacting to insinuations of interference by international observers, Karlsen noted that the body was only committed to the conduct of free and fair elections in the country.

The EU Ambassador said Nigeria sent a strong message to the international community with the outcome of the 2015 general election that it was possible to have elections with acceptable results.

According to him, it was therefore in the interest of the EU to support the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria as part of the efforts to secure the stability, development, and creation of opportunities for its ordinary citizens.
He said: “We are visiting at this important moment ahead of the presidential election and of course, the state elections in so many parts of Nigeria to express to you the Governor, and your team the importance that we attach to have a free, fair and credible, peaceful and transparent elections in Nigeria.

“We are strong believers in the consolidation of democracy as the best if not the only way to continue stability and development and creation of opportunities for ordinary Nigerians. And that is why we reiterate again and again that for the EU and the international community at large, we are not here to select the leadership of Nigeria. That cannot be and should not be our aspiration.

“Our only desire is to see to a fair process of the election in this country, because that is what is providing that legitimacy of the democratically elected government, whether at the federal or state level.

“And Nigeria demonstrated wonderfully in the last election in 2015 how the outcome of a democratic election can prevail. That message was very powerful within Nigeria but it resonated far, far beyond the borders of Nigeria, to West Africa and to the world.”

Responding, the governor expressed concern over the conduct of security agencies in the forthcoming elections, but assured that Bayelsa was committed to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.

Dickson commended friendly nations for their positions on critical developments in the country, insisting that the international community acted right to remind the country of its responsibility and duties to do what is right, fair and internationally acceptable, as a responsible member of the committee of nations.

“This is an important period in the life of this country. I thank the EU and all other friendly nations, who have made statements on critical developments in Nigeria, reminding this country of our responsibilities and duties to do what is right, fair and internationally acceptable.

“Our country is not a pariah nation and we are not an island of our own. Nigeria, I believe, is a responsible member of the International community with rights and duties, and others have expectations, the legitimate expectations of what we should be doing and we are signatories to a lot of International treaties and protocols.

“We are all concerned about the elections, electoral body with respect to the behavior and conduct of the security agencies. We are all concerned whether the elections will be free and credible,” he said.

But the Jonathan foundation made the statement as part of the outcome of a one-day peace conference, Peaceful Elections and National Development it organised recently.

“Stakeholders in the 2019 general election in Nigeria should play by the rules and avoid utterances and actions that may precipitate violence. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Security Agencies should be professional and non-partisan in the performance of their duties,” he stated.

Continuing, the foundation said “The government of Nigeria should ensure the security of lives and property as enshrined in the nation’s 1999 Constitution before, during and after the 2019 general election.”

Noting that there was a connection between violent conflicts and underdevelopment, the Foundation charged Nigerian leaders and their African counterparts to strive to resolve conflicts through peaceful means.

Chaired by a former Head of State and Chairman of the National Peace Committee, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the conference also witnessed the attendance of more than 500 important people, including former heads of state, members of the diplomatic community, development partners, the ECOWAS Commission, Nigeria Police Force, academia, civil society organisations, media, women and youth leaders.

The statement issued at the end of the conference made some recommendations that could help Nigeria and other African nations to avoid the usual post-election violence ravaging the region.

It said: “Politicians in Africa should use politics as a platform for building peace and strengthening cooperation across cultures, religions, ethnicity and political alignment.

“African leaders and politicians should refrain from labeling opponents as liars, looters and enemies, as such unsubstantiated name-calling could trigger violent reactions.”

The document further urged that efforts should be made by national governments, civil society organisations and community leaders in Africa to prevent post-election crises.

It further added that regional and sub-regional organisations like the African Union and ECOWAS should encourage and promote good governance by establishing a reward system for exemplary leaders in Africa.

“Inclusive and people-centred leadership should be the focus of national governments in order to mainstream peace-building in the course of governance,” the communique stated.

It however concluded, that “Based on the foregoing, participants urged the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF) to leverage on the vision of its founder in developing programmes to promote the conduct of peaceful elections and democratic consolidation in Africa for sustainable development.