By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council has expressed worry at the comments allegedly made by ambassadors of the United States America and other diplomats which it said tended to cast doubt on the ability of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to conduct free and fair elections.
It also accused the American Ambassador W. Stuart Symington of threatening that his country would punish any politician who makes inciting political speeches.
The party, which referred to recent statements credited to the US envoy, said that it would appear that these envoys have discredited the election even before it took place.
APC further accused the United States of being guilty of double standards for granting Vice-President Atiku Abubakar special status to enter its territory.
In a statement issued Monday by its Director, Strategic Communications, Festus Keyamo, the Campaign Council described the diplomats’ views directed at Nigeria’s upcoming elections as unwarranted and an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Nigeria.
“We are deeply concerned about many of the expressions of the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador W. Stuart Symington, and other Western diplomats which have been directed towards Nigeria’s upcoming elections. Whilst we laud and whole-heartedly welcome their interests in the elections, many of these expressions have been notably off key. The continued warnings about ‘flawed elections’ is capable of casting an unwarranted cloud over the process,” it said.
The APC campaign organisation said that instead of encouraging efforts towards credible elections, such statements undermine public confidence in government.
It said that Ambassador Symington was reported to have threatened to “hold to account anyone whose speech, no matter the motivation of that speech, engendered hatred”.
The APC campaign organisation said the American Ambassador had criticised its call on Nigerians to reject the presidential candidate of PDP Atiku Abubakar over “his political and economic policies that are abhorrent and dangerous”.
“We truly hope some of the statements attributed to these diplomats are inaccurate,” it said.
It said: “The unfounded allegations and threats to penalise people for constitutionally-protected free speech is improper interference in our internal affairs.
“We all agree that any speech willfully intended to trigger violence is condemnable. However, in condemning other forms of political speech, the American envoy overstepped his ambassadorial brief.
“We take the view that the constant statements by Ambassador Symington and the other diplomats are implicit attacks against the government of Nigeria.
“These statements imply the Nigerian government is inclined to rig the election in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is unfair and unacceptable to us. President Buhari has never been accused of electoral malpractice all his life.”
While defending its campaign statements, the APC said it is the duty of the candidate to tell the people the truth to protect the nation from subsequent calamity.
While further deploring the US envoy’s views, APC said he failed to acknowledge an open confession of blatant electoral malfeasance by the PDP candidate.
It also said that Symington intentionally issued his threats to place a chilling effect on speeches in Nigeria which if uttered in America, would be constitutionally protected.
“For us it is significant to note that such strong political speeches are not unlawful in the United States, but Ambassador Symington is seeking to penalise such speeches by Nigerians.
“He seeks to shrink our ambit of free speech so that we may behave in accordance with their vision of well-behaved Africans, rather than in consonance with our vision of our own democracy, no matter how tumultuous and dramatic we may be. It would appear that his position seeks to prohibit forms of expression integral to our political discourse,” it stated.