The United States Government has pledged to support Nigeria in ensuring a transparent, credible and peaceful general election next year.
The United States Consular, John Bray,
made the pledge during the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day organised by the US Consulate in Lagos.
The event with the theme: ‘Media and transparency of the 2019 election’, touched on issues bordering on media transparency, safety of journalists and electoral disputes.
While the former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, spoke on media transparency, Professor of Political Science and former vice-chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State, Femi Mimiko, spoke on media and electoral disputes.
Also, the Zonal Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Police Zone II Command, CSP Dolapo Badmus, spoke on the safety of the media, while the panel, comprising the aforementioned and the President of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), Mrs. Funke Egbemode and Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos Council, Dr. Qasim Akinreti, dealt on the elections generally.
Bray said: “The United States values freedom of the press as a key component of democratic governance.
“I’ve been in Nigeria for nearly six years; I’ve been Consular General (CG) since 2015, and as CG, I’ve visited each of the 17 states in southern Nigeria, almost all of them, on multiple locations.
“I’ve spoken with hundreds, perhaps, thousands of Nigerians about democracy, elections and the history of Nigeria. These conversations have confirmed my belief that Nigeria has a vibrant democracy.
“Democratic societies are not infallible, but, they are accountable, and the exchange of ideas is the foundation for accountable governance.
“Peaceful and credible elections are essential to Nigeria’s continued economic, political, and social development, so, I am interested in your discussion today, on media and the transparence of the 2019 election.
“Nigeria plays a vital role on the world stage, and as the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria’s stability is crucial to the security and economic prosperity of the rest of the continent.
“Nigeria’s future is full of promise and opportunity. The US government is dedicated to supporting Nigerians in ensuring that the 2019 election will be transparent, credible and peaceful.”
On the role of journalists in the electioneering process, he said: “Before I joined the Department of State, I was a reporter; based on my experience, I know that as reporters and editors, each of you has an important role to play in the electoral process.
“You will foster active debate, provide investigative reporting, and serve as a forum to express different points of view.
“When people don’t have the facts, they make them up, and that creates unstable environments, rife with rumours, gossips and lies.
And you, as journalists, make sure these don’t happen, by providing information, researching, conducting interviews and, then, educating the electorate.
“Nigerians rely on your unbiased and accurate coverage of the campaign season and the elections. That is why your role is so important.
“As the 2019 election draws near, the US mission supports your efforts to provide objective and balanced reporting to the Nigerian people.”
In addition to this, he said the United States has worked with Nigeria to strengthen democratic institutions for decades, and will continue to do so.
“Some of you may know that the US government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has assisted Nigeria by strengthening the elections process since 1999.
“Working with Nigerian and international partners, the US mission in Nigeria has also engaged diplomatically and publicly, to prevent violence, increase accountability and contribute significantly to the goal of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in Nigeria,” he added.