Obama, ECOWAS seek peaceful polls in Nigeria

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United States President Barack Obama and the the Economic Community of West African States have stressed that only fair and transparent elections will guarantee   a true democratic process in Nigeria.

Obama made his comment via a video posted on Monday on the White House official website while the ECOWAS Chairman and Ghananian President, John Mahama, spoke in Abuja.

The US President, who also called for the safe rescue of the more than 200 kidnapped Chibok girls by Boko Haram, reminded Nigerians that “successful elections and democratic progress” would help Nigeria meet the challenges it currently faces.

He therefore urged Nigerians to peacefully express their views on election days and “reject the voices of those who call for violence.”

According to him, the elections presented to Nigerians,   the opportunity   to unite   in saying no to violence and extremism and instead show their support for a more peaceful, secure and prosperous future.

“I call on all Nigerians to peacefully express your views and to reject the voices of those who call for violence. And when elections are free and fair, it is the responsibility of all citizens to help keep the peace, no matter who wins,” Obama added.

The US President   made it clear in the message that it was the duty of all voters to safeguard the democratic process by performing their civic responsibility peacefully.

He said, “Today, I want to speak directly to you—the people of Nigeria. Successful elections and democratic progress will help Nigeria meet the urgent challenges you face today.

“Boko Haram—a brutal terrorist group that kills innocent men, women and children—must be stopped. Hundreds of kidnapped children deserve to be returned to their families.

“Nigerians who have been forced to flee deserve to return to their homes. Boko Haram wants to destroy Nigeria and all that you have worked to build. By casting your ballot, you can help secure your nation’s progress.”

He also urged all Nigerians to put their ethnic and religious backgrounds behind   ahead of the polls, saying that the task ahead   required unity.

“I’m told that there is a saying in your country: ‘to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.’ Today, I urge all Nigerians—from all religions, all ethnic groups, and all regions—to come together and keep Nigeria one. And in this task of advancing the security, prosperity, and human rights of all Nigerians, you will continue to have a friend and partner in the USA,” he added. The US President also had a message to Nigerian leaders, especially the two leading candidates – President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress: They must   caution their supporters   against violence during and after the March 28 polls.

“I call on all leaders and candidates to make it clear to their supporters that violence has no place in democratic elections—and that they will not incite, support or engage in any kind of violence—before, during, or after the votes are counted,” he advised.

In Abuja, Mahama and   the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Desire-Kadre Ouedraogo   met seperately with Jonathan and the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

The ECOWAS chairman told journalists after the meetings   that they stressed to the two candidates they need for free and fair elections in Nigeria.

Mahama, who also heads   ECOWAS electoral observer mission to Nigeria said that the sub-regional body had been actively involved in ensuring peaceful and transparent elections in the five countries   going through elections in West Africa this year.

He said the observer mission had been monitoring the electoral process in the lead up to the elections not just before the polls but from a longer period.

Mahama added, “We have received several monitoring reports and we are working together with the electoral commissions of the countries and the authorities of those countries.

“We have tried to ensure that obstacles to free and fair elections are removed to ensure that elections are free and fair. People would accept the results of those elections.

“As chair of the authorities of Heads of State of ECOWAS, I have extended my solidarity to the Nigerian people through my brother President Jonathan, to see that the whole of ECOWAS, not only ECOWAS, but the international community is in solidarity with Nigeria to have a very transparent election so that the democratic process in Nigeria will be better entrenched.

“This is a critical election for Nigeria and it will be one more indication for the world that Nigeria is a democratic country and is ruled by tenets of good governance and rule of law. And so, we want to wish you all the best.”

He disclosed that the delegation would also meet with the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission to look at the state of preparedness for the elections.

He expressed the belief that the postponement had given the electoral body more time to be able to meet all its processes and be in readiness to ensure that voters were not disenfranchised and that the results of the elections were accepted.

The Ghanaian President also expressed the belief that there would be no post-election violence after the release of the results.

“We expect that there will be no post-election violence and that all the parties involved in the elections would accept the results   in good faith when INEC has announced the results of the elections.

“As you know, Nigeria is a very important member of ECOWAS. The largest economy, the largest nation in the ECOWAS region and so Nigeria’s safety and security is the safety of and security of the whole of ECOWAS region and so I stand on behalf of all the Presidents of ECOWAS and wish that all Nigerians will come out and express their votes and their votes would count towards electing who becomes the next leader of this country.”

Mahama also told journalists after meeting with Buhari that the international community was interested in the outcome of the elections because of the strategic position Nigeria occupies on the African continent.

He said, “I arrived here this(Monday) morning as the ECOWAS chairman at the behest of all the Heads of a States of ECOWAS to pay a solidarity visit to Nigeria to express our solidarity with the people of Nigeria in the elections you are going to hold on   March 28.

“The whole of West Africa and indeed, the whole of the international community is watching your country because these elections are going to be another step at consolidating and enhancing democracy in Nigeria.

“I began this(Monday) morning with a meeting with President Jonathan and we discussed all issues concerning the intending election and I had firm assurances that everything is set to go and that on the Match 28   election will come up.

“We expect the elections to be free, fair and transparent and ECOWAS is going to do everything possible to work with the political stakeholders and INEC to make sure that the   process is credible and acceptable to the people of Nigeria.

“ I feel assured that all the political leaders are ready for a peaceful, free and fair election.

“Of course, there are a few issues that he(Buhari) has brought up which I will refer appropriately to our monitoring group and I hope that the discussions that will take place in the next few days will address some the issues that have been raised.”

Mahama said he received assurances from both Jonathan and the INEC Chairman,   Attahiru Jega, that all was now set for the elections to go ahead on March 28 as scheduled.

Punch news – culled from: http://www.punchng.com/news/obama-ecowas-seek-peaceful-polls-in-nigeria/

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