International response to last week’s postponement of Nigeria’s presidential and general elections may have provoked serious worries and consideration of the option of targeted sanctions on certain government and security officials by the US government in Washington DC and other western capitals, Empowered Newswire reports
A White House spokesperson Edward C. Price had exclusively informed Empowered Newswire that the US government had been deeply disappointed about the delay in the date of the Nigerian polls, even after the US Secretary of State John Kerry had hurriedly issued a strong worded condemnation of the decision last Saturday evening.
Sources reveal that there are now considerations within the US official circles for possible sanctions that will target specific government and security officials in Nigeria should there be any further “threat” to the holding of the elections.
It was explained that it is because of this possibility of sanctions such as visa restrictions on already identified security and presidency officials that the US is now insisting that the new dates must not be changed.
One of America’s leading newspaper, Washington Post also did an editorial during the week, specifically Tuesday Feb 10 that warned that “ the looming danger is that Mr. Jonathan and his military supporters will attempt to further delay the elections.” In fact the editorial called on White House to take steps to insist on no further delay of the polls by saying “the Obama administration should now enlist European and African states in a diplomatic offensive to insist that the elections go forward.”
Criticizing the delay, the newspaper stated that it “has not only endangered the country’s fragile democracy but also greatly increased the risk that Africa’s most populous country will collapse into civil strife.” The newspaper noted that it observed that the military in Nigeria had forced the postponement.
The Post added regarding Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan’s perceived role in the delay of the polls that while he “has appeared indifferent to the terrorists’ advances, made no secret of his desire to put off the election. The president appears to calculate that with six more weeks to campaign with vastly more resources than his challenger, he will be able to establish a decisive advantage.”
In fact the worries about the delay of the polls were so deep here in the US that the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Prof Ade Adefuye disclosed that he had been inundated all week with calls from both the US government including the Congress, the media and the society at large. In a chat with The Guardian, the Ambassador said calls and enquiries protesting the delay have been coming in the earlier days after the delay, “every hour.”
Later in a press release Adefuye he said “the Embassy of Nigeria has been inundated with telephone calls and mails from individuals and organizations across the United States seeking information or clarifications on the status of these elections.”
But the Ambassador put a positive spin on it adding that the “Embassy is pleased with the widespread interest in these elections, and wishes to assure all that the elections, now re-scheduled to begin on 28th March, 2015, will proceed as planned.”
US sources explained that what irked top officials of the US government including President Obama and Secretary Kerry was that the US govt had specifically requested and advised the Nigerian government to ensure that the elections were held as previously planned so as not to provoke latent fear and cynicism that a delay might produce.
Also, the impression said to have been given the US govt especially during a visit by the Secretary of State to Nigeria where he met President Jonathan and General Buhari was that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC would be left alone as an independent agency to run the election. The announcement of the delay therefore represented to the US government a loss of trust in an already strained relationship with the Nigerian government. It is the trust issue, according to a source that is now fuelling the consideration for targeted visa sanctions against some top officials especially in the Nigerian security agencies and the presidency.
But in his statement addressed here to assure the American govt and public, Ambassador Adefuye said the new dates of the election would be “strictly” adhered to, adding that “what is sacrosanct is the 29th of May as the date for the swearing-in of the elected President.”
President Goodluck Jonathan has promised that the date will be strictly adhered to. What is also sacrosanct is our determination to conduct a free, fair, credible and peaceful election as well as providing adequately for the security of lives and properties in Nigeria.
We would rather delay and get it right than hurry and mess up things. We are determined to conduct an election the results of which will reflect the will of our people. We did it in 2011. We shall do it in 2015 by the grace of God.
From the United Nations, the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon also dispatched his Special Envoy on Nigeria, Ambassador Ibn Chambas to hold meeting this past week with President Jonathan and General Buhari.
Speaking from Abuja to New York through a video conference on Friday, the UN Special Envoy said he has met with both presidential contenders “reiterating the Secretary General and the international community’s appeal urging them to talk to their followers to ensure a violent free and fair and inclusive elections in Nigeria.
Chambas also called on the security agencies, especially the police to ensure a violent free election to enable people vote “without fear or intimidation.”