By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The United States Government on Wednesday said it would extend its longstanding commitment to supporting the conduct of free, fair, transparent and peaceful election in Bayelsa State on Saturday.
The U.S Consul-General in Lagos, Claire Pierangelo, made the promise in Lagos while briefing some select journalists ahead of Saturday’s election in the state.
‘’I would like to reiterate the U.S. Mission’s longstanding commitment to support free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections in Nigeria.
‘’It is our desire to see nothing less during the November 16th election in Bayelsa State,’’ she said.
She said the U.S. government has assisted Nigeria with strengthening the electoral process since 1999.
Pierangelo said since 1990, the U.S. elections-related diplomacy and programme had sought to advance three main objectives.
“First, we support a free and fair electoral process, including technical assistance to Nigeria’s election institutions and civil society in addition to our active monitoring of both general and off-cycle elections.
“Second, we consistently work to prevent and mitigate election-related violence, including peace building programmes and messaging.
“Third, we encourage an expansion in Nigerian civic and political engagement, including support to Nigerian civil society’s election observation efforts and parallel vote tabulation, as well as campaigns such as “Vote, Not Fight” that promote peaceful political involvement by Nigeria’s youth,’’ she said.
The consul-general said she had, ahead of the election, visited Bayelsa and met with the leading candidates and leadership of the political parties.
Pierangelo said the visit provided her the opportunity to engage with public and private key stakeholders in the state and expressed the U.S. expectations from the election.
“The Bayelsa election provides a channel for the citizens to choose a leader who will govern fairly and ensure access to basic services for all of its citizens.
“As friend of Nigeria and its people, we will follow the election closely. We will be out there in the field observing the election.
“We will work closely with our colleagues and partners in the international community to promote a credible process that will benefit the people of Bayelsa.
“It is also critical that the Independent National Electoral Commission operates free from outside pressure and intimidation and in a totally objective manner,’’ she said.
The envoy cautioned against voters intimidation, vote buying, interference by security forces and violence.
She enjoined political actors, political parties, bloggers and other influencers not to engage in hate speech or incite violence during the election.
She said the Nigerian security services must provide a safe, secure, and impartial environment for the people of Bayelsa to exercise their right to vote.
“I encourage all eligible voters in Bayelsa to participate in the upcoming election and exercise their political franchise. A large turnout will enhance the credibility of the election and Nigeria’s democratic reputation.
‘’I would especially ask that every effort be made to boost the participation of women, youth and people living with disabilities,’’ she said.
Pierangelo said the U.S. and the international community would monitor the election closely in order to deter the potential instigators of violence.