As the 2019 general election inches closer, the federal government has cautioned the United States government against endorsing any candidate for Nigeria’s presidential poll.
Minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who gave the warning in an interview with LEADERSHIP Friday yesterday, also noted that contrary to speculations, the federal government is not bothered about the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, being granted US visa by that country’s government.
He said it was the prerogative of the US government to issue visa to whoever it wishes.
The minister, however, warned against at a scenario whereby the US government would create an impression of endorsing one particular candidate over others.
Mohammed stated: “For the issue of Atiku Abubakar and his efforts to secure the visa to visit the US, I must say that we are not at all in any panic. It is the prerogative of the US, in particular, to grant a visa to anybody who applies and who deserves the visa.
“However, impression must not be created that the US government is endorsing one particular candidate over the other”.
The minister noted that for more than 12 years, there had been a kind of congressional investigation of corruption against certain individuals which made it difficult for the former vice president to secure a US visa.
“Now, this is not the making of this administration. This has been ongoing and our position is that if the former vice president already has a US visa, we have no problem about it, but we want the US government not to give an impression that it is endorsing one particular candidate over the other, and that is what is going to happen,” Mohammed said.
The information minister further noted that Atiku’s reported engagement of the services of a firm to facilitate his visa process should not be considered an issue, adding that the former vice president has the right to do so.
“But we want other countries to be neutral in the 2019 elections and they (US government) should please be wary of taking any decision that will give the wrong impression that they are favouring or endorsing one candidate over the other,” he said.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the US government had on several occasions insisted that it had no anointed candidate for next year’s general elections in Nigeria.
During a courtesy call on Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, in October this year, the political officer of the US Embassy in Nigeria, Mr Philip Franz, had assured that the Embassy would not interfere with the electoral processes of the country, but will work to ensure a rancour-free poll.
“Our mission in the country is to ensure a hitch-free, credible and transparent election that would not toy with Nigeria’s electoral acts. Therefore, we are looking forward to a peaceful electoral process. We will make sure that the elections are conducted in Nigeria in accordance with the country’s electoral laws,” Franz said.
While reaffirming the Embassy’s quest for credible elections in Nigeria, Franz added, “We don’t have any candidate; our candidate is the process.”
Earlier in August, the US government said that it would not take sides in Nigeria’s 2019 general elections because it wanted the winner to be elected in a free and fair contest.
Counselor for Public Affairs, US Embassy, Aruba Amirthanayagam, who spoke when he visited the executive director of Prestige FM Radio, Zubair Idris, in Niger State, urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to replicate its 2015 performance in the country’s general elections next year.
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