The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard has said all Nigerians have a role to play in the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming elections, insisting that for the elections to be hitch-free this responsibility cannot be left to security agencies in the country alone.
She equally admonished Nigerians to pick interest in democracy and governance beyond election season and the day of the election.
The envoy who spoke to selected journalists in Abuja on the forthcoming elections said the United States is so much interested in its peaceful conduct, how democratic rules are allowed for the emergence of the popular candidate.
She noted that “conducting a peaceful election is not about the signing of a peace treating and it is not only the responsibility of the security agencies, it is the responsibility of every Nigerian voter, every Nigerian citizen, people in government, people in INEC, everyone has a role but in particular individual Nigerian has a responsibility to eschew violence.”
She added that: “Politicians are allowed to disagree with one another on the issues they are supposed to, that is what election is about. But debates should be in an atmosphere of peace.”
She admitted that since the inception of the present democratic experiment in 1999, democracy has grown in Nigeria and everyone is now at home with basic democratic tenets.
She said the physical aspect of the election has grown but that is however just one part, insisting that all parts of the democratic culture need to be imbibed and allowed to grow.
Leonard who also admitted that in the country now, there is respect for term limits, people do not stay beyond their terms, said: “One of the cultures of politics is for the electorate to know that their relations with government should not be during the time of elections alone, it should not be about the voting day.
“After you have cast your votes and someone has made it into office, people have an obligation to follow up with those officeholders and tell them that I voted for you because I want these like I want better education in my state, I want better access to health care, an environment that enables my business activities.
“It is important to know that democracy is not about elections but about a conversation between the citizenry and their government, about how they work together to ensure prosperity and engagement. I think in every society it evolves over time. And I think there is room for that conversation to grow further in Nigeria.”
The Ambassador said she looks forward to more women’s participation in politics, stressing that it would be a good narrative for Nigeria’s democracy when half of her population, the women are seen to have equal opportunities as men to aspire and be voted into political offices.
She stressed that Nigeria is one of the cherished friends of the United States, and her country is looking up to working with whoever leader Nigerians choose as their president.