The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, has criticised Nigerian politicians, blaming them for the inconclusive elections recorded in recent polls conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He said politicians, rather than INEC, were to be blamed for the recurring impasse in election results in Kogi, Bayelsa and other states.
“Politicians often fail to adhere to the principle of nonviolence which leads to disruption of the electoral process,” he said.
The electoral umpire, INEC, has come under severe attacks for declaring elections held in some states inconclusive, especially in Kogi and Bayelsa.
Entwistle dismissed insinuations that the current INEC leadership was not working as effectively as the immediate past leadership that conducted the 2015 general elections, saying, “I don’t agree with that. I was a big admirer of Professor (Attahiru) Jega. I think he’s Nigeria’s true hero. But, in my dealing with Professor Mahmood Yakubu, I’ve been very impressed as well. I think we do not have to be an election expert to know.
“If we look at everything INEC is responsible for, it is a huge array of responsibilities – from conducting elections, to voter education, to this and that. And we look at the fact that they would have to depend on volunteers they do not always have control over, all of the challenges they have, I think they are doing a pretty good job.”
“Obviously, there have been some re-runs where people have found fault with the results. I am not sure if you can put a lot of that on INEC. I think you have to put it on the candidates and the political parties. Have they been inciting violence, fraud? All the things I spoke out against in the general elections campaigns, I think there is a sense, and understandable that, well we don’t have to worry again about the 2015 elections until 2019. So, I will call on all candidates to make public commitments to non-violence, participation in fraud and manipulation or intimidation. I hope the media and civil society in Nigeria will continue to hold all candidates to very high standards,” he stated, at a press conference with select journalists at the American Embassy in Abuja, yesterday.
The American envoy also scored President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration very high. He, however, said if Nigeria’s economy must grow, the federal government must fix the power sector.
He said, “It is good that the expectations from Mr President are very high, but I think people should remember what he inherited. And in my opinion, I try to be neutral and balanced; I think Mr President and his team have done a good job in this first year.”
Continuing, Entwistle said, “he has done exactly what he said he would do. It’s clear that he has unleashed the investigative agencies to follow every evidence and information wherever it goes. I have been following the investigations of those arrested to see whether there is any evidence that they are politically motivated, I have not found any.
“I think there are cases where there might be a political angle to it, but there are also some real evidence to support the real case. That’s something we follow very closely, just as you do. Narrow are the paths of investigations, making arrests, but what I hope Nigerians will follow very closely in the next few years is, as these cases go to court, how they are handled in court, how the courts do their job, how the government reacts when inevitably they would lose a case in court, what’s the reaction to that. All these are things that have to be observed and handled very carefully. But, the premise of your question is absolutely correct. In any country, it is easy for corruption cases to begin to spin out of control. I don’t see that happening here. I hope all Nigerians will follow that very closely, and if you see it, say it.”