2015: We are neutral, US envoy tells APC

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The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, at the weekend told the opposition All Progressives Congress that the US would not support any candidate for the presidency in the 2015 general elections.

The ambassador said the US would only be on the side of the people and a transparent electoral process.

Entwistle, who spoke when he led a delegation of the embassy on a visit to the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja, said, “I have been frequently asked who the United States is supporting for the February 2015 elections and my answer has always been that the United States supports the Nigerian people in their quest for a credible and transparent election that they want and deserve.

“So, we are not here to support anybody or any candidate, but to support a credible process in which the Nigerian people can freely express their wishes. That is why we provide support to INEC and civil societies as we get ready for this election.

“Let me be clear and say that what I am saying to you now, I say to the Peoples Democratic Party and all others who are involved in the democratic process in Nigeria.”

He advised the Nigerian security agencies to be neutral during the 2015 general elections.

The advice came on the heels of insinuations, especially by the APC, of worsening partisan roles allegedly played by the security agencies in the recent governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states on June 21 and August 9 respectively.

The APC had repeatedly alleged that the various security agencies openly took side with the ruling PDP by intimidating leaders and supporters of the APC in during the elections in the two states.

The ambassador, who said he was on a mission to advise political parties, politicians and Nigerians in general on the need to eschew violence in the February 2015 polls, said elections were central to democratic governance. [eap_ad_1] He said Nigerians must be conscious of their right to vote, while security agencies must ensure neutrality during the elections.

He said, “I have always told Nigerians to be careful about their right to vote because it is the most precious thing in the world.

“The other thing is the role that the security agencies have to play. They have a very huge responsibility in any country to maintain security and peaceful atmosphere during elections. That is their job and we support them in that. But they have to maintain absolute neutrality so that they are not seen as favouring either sides.”

The ambassador also said the Independent National Electoral Commission, had a huge responsibility of conducting free and fair elections.

The APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had told the ambassador that opposition parties were disadvantaged by the new trend of heavy militarisation of elections in the country.

During an interview with journalists after the meeting, Odigie-Oyegun also said the fact that there was no violence on election day did not necessarily mean a transparent election had been conducted.

He pointed out that “about 70,000 troops were put in Osun with the obvious intent of intimidating voters.”

He said, “The truth is that we are often blamed for being bad losers, not just the APC, but Nigerians. But losers find it difficult to accept because there is no demonstrable level playing field.

“The kind of thing we are having is that weeks to elections, the might, militarisation and the rest of it and monetary inducement are deployed in such a way that it places the opposition clearly at a disadvantage.

“In a situation like that, quite frankly, it become very difficult to say that there was a free and fair election just because there was no violence on the day of the election itself.

“The so-called famous observers will tell you that nobody snatched a box or nobody got killed. The run off to elections are as important as the days of the election itself.” (Vanguard)