Buhari Campaign Organisation has accused the United States Ambassador, Stuart Symington, and other western ambassadors of partiality.
The spokesman of the team, Mr. Festus Keyamo, in a statement on Monday, also alleged a tacit support for the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar.
The statement was in reaction to threats by Symington that persons who indulge in hate speech would be dealt with by the US.
The US ambassador had warned public officials not to obey unlawful directives issued in the name of the “boss,” saying any politician whose utterances incite people to violence would be held to account for the crime.
The ambassador’s warning came a day after Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State threatened that foreign persons who interfere in the elections would leave Nigeria in body bags, a statement that was defended by the Presidency.
For Keyamo, such utterances by some western powers were giving the impression that Buhari was planning to rig Saturday’s elections.
He also pointed up the decision of the US Government to issue a visa to Atiku despite being accused of corruption to underscore his charge
The statement read in part, “We take the view that the constant statements by Ambassador Symington and the other diplomats are implicit attacks against the government of Nigeria. These statements imply the Nigerian government is inclined to rig the election in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari. 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 elections in the South-West 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.
“We expected that such open confession to rigging in the past would have drawn condemnation from the United States. Rather, what we witnessed recently was the ignoble act of giving such a self-confessed rigger with a decade-old indictment in America for corruption hanging over his head a special status to enter the US for a few days. Such is the double standard that America now displays for the whole world to see.
“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 forthcoming 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.”
Keyamo said threatening to deal with persons who make certain utterances was an abuse of free speech which is guaranteed by both the Nigerian and the United States’ constitutions.
“We take the view that the constant statements by Ambassador Symington and the other diplomats are implicit attacks against the government of Nigeria,” he s
The statement reads: “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.
He said contrary to insinuations, it was the PDP that rigged in 2015 especially in the South-South geopolitical zone where the party won.
Keyamo said that that contrary to the position of the ambassador, it was only the PDP that depended on rigging for victory in Saturday’s elections.
He said,, “An American ambassador has a great responsibility in representing the strongest economic and military power in the world. His comments carry weight because of the status of his nation. This means his comments should reflect a deep knowledge of the subject. Sadly, Ambassador Symington has not shown the deep knowledge of the Nigerian situation. The impression he creates by constantly harping on suspected government interference with the electoral process is that President Buhari cannot win without tipping the results. He seems to be saying that only a PDP victory will be evidence of a fair election.
“Again, he is in great error. From all of the information at our disposal, President Buhari can and should win a free and fair election. However, it appears to us that Ambassador Symington is substituting his subjective conclusions for the sovereign will of the Nigerian people. In doing so, he has abandoned the impartiality of a true envoy and has trespassed into interfering in our electoral process.”
He asked the US envoy to not only face the ruling party but also focus on the opposition party.
He said the days of colonialism were long gone and therefore advised Symington to respect Nigeria’s sovereignty.