- The United States and other countries have been cautioned over unguarded statements ahead of the forthcoming 2019 general elections
- The APC Presidential Campaign Council issued the warning on Monday, February 11
- The council was reacting to statements credited to the United States ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, and diplomats of other countries
The APC Presidential Campaign Council has cautioned the United States and other countries over unguarded statements ahead of the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
The caution was contained in a statement sent to Legit.ng on Monday, February 11, by the spokesperson for the council, Festus Keyamo (SAN).
Keyamo said: "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. Instead of encouraging our country toward credible elections, such statements undermine public confidence. It would appear that these envoys seem to have discredited the election before it has even taken place.
"We truly hope some of the statements attributed to these diplomats are inaccurate. For instance, the Premium News reported that Ambassador W. Stuart Symington threatened to “hold to account” anyone whose speech, no matter the motivation of that speech, engendered hatred. 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. For instance, the American Ambassador was reported to have condemned a situation where a candidate says that his opponent’s political and economic policies are abhorrent and dangerous to the greater welfare of the people and calls on the citizens to hate and reject such policies.
"In our view, this is a correct statement because it is the duty of the candidate to tell the people these truths to protect the nation from subsequent calamity. But Ambassador Symington says his country would punish such necessary political speeches.
According to Keyamo, such strong political speeches are not unlawful in the United States. He said: "But Ambassador Symington is seeking to penalize 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. These forms of expression have time and time again been adjudged to be constitutionally-protected speeches by the United States Supreme Court.
"However, Ambassador Symington intentionally issued his threats to place a chilling effect on speeches in Nigeria that, if uttered in America, would be constitutionally protected. Unfounded allegations and threats to penalize people for constitutionally-protected free speech is improper interference in our internal affairs. Sadly, what Ambassador Symington and some other western diplomats are doing border on the improper.
Keyamo said constant statements by Ambassador Symington and other diplomats were implicit attacks against the government of Nigeria.
According to him, the statements imply that the Nigerian government is inclined to rig the general elections in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said: "This is unfair and unacceptable to us. President Muhammadu Buhari has never been accused of electoral malpractice all his life. However, in contrast, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar publicly boasted a few months ago that he rigged the 2003 election in the Southwest States.
"Here, we have an open confession of blatant electoral malfeasance by the PDP candidate. But in all of these, there seem to be no concern by Ambassador Symington and other diplomats about this well-acknowledged proclivity of the main opposition."
Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported the All Progressives Congress (APC) warned foreigners against interfering in Nigeria’s electoral process.
While APC welcomed foreign observers to Nigeria for the 2019 general elections which starts with the presidential polls on Saturday, February 16, it warned that intimidation or interference under the guise of election monitoring would not be accepted.
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