Conduct credible elections in Osun, US ambassador urges Jega
By Simon Ateba
James Entwistle, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, has urged professor Attahiru Jega, Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct credible elections in Osun state next month and in Nigeria next year.
Entwistle spoke during the opening of INEC Public Affairs Officers’ Workshop at the Commission Electoral Institute in Abuja on Monday.
“I’d like to congratulate INEC, as well as the many other electoral stakeholders, on the successful elections in Ekiti in June. As I just mentioned, positive momentum builds up, and I believe that you will carry this forward into the August elections in Osun, and hopefully into next year,” Entwistle said.
He said the trainings, sponsored by the American government, are part of the United States’ support to INEC and Nigeria for all upcoming elections, including the national election in 2015.
“You’re well aware that the US supports a free, credible, inclusive, and peaceful electoral process in which democratic principles are adhered to by all parties, candidates, and institutions,” Entwistle was quoted as saying.
He said the process encompasses all stages in the run-up to elections, including preparation of voter rolls, running campaigns, conducting the actual election, and handling any problems immediately afterwards.
Entwistle said the United States would support an election process that protects the rights of Nigerians to use the ballot box to reflect the views and concerns of their communities—a process that helps produce a stable, democratic government regardless of which candidate wins.
He said public affairs officers help shape public knowledge and perceptions about elections and the debate process, and provide crucial information on voters’ rights and the voter registration process.
“The better informed the public is of their rights and responsibilities, the better the elections will be. Better elections drive more legitimate candidates to the forefront, and this positive momentum continues forward,” he said, adding: “it’s why we’re committed to providing these trainings.”
Entwistle called on Nigerians to pledge against violence and reject candidates to encourage violence.
“If I can make a personal plea, I’ve been asking politicians here to take a public pledge against violence. And I’m asking the media and individual Nigerians to do the same: make it clear that if a candidate wants your vote, he or she must take the pledge that they will not advocate, foment, or condone violence before, during, or after the elections,” he said.
He urged INEC to take advantage of new technologies.
The training would facilitated by Derwin Johnson, an independent senior communications consultant from the United States, with more than 30 years of experience.
Johnson is a former journalist who worked for CNN and ABC News. He also taught news writing at Columbia University.
Last week in zlagos, Johnson trained over 30 INEC Public Relations Officers for four days. He also chaired an interactive session at the University of Lagos.
“Mr. Johnson is one of the very best instructors in this field, we’re thrilled to have him here, and I’d like to hand things over to him now,” Entwistle said.