The United States government says it hopes that Nigeria will become a strong example for world democracies when the nation heads to the polls come 2023.
In an exclusive interview with Channels Television, U.S. Secretary of State, Mr Antony Blinken, said the United States anticipates an election that goes “smoothly, freely and fairly, with real participation which will send a very strong message about democratic resilience”.
Blinken who in a recent address warned that ‘democratic recession’ is growing around the world, noted on Friday in Abuja that he is pleased with the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is willing to respect term limits.
According to him, respecting such a democratic principle is powerful on its own. He, however, noted that there has to be something more.
The Secretary of State explained that “one of the reasons that citizens are losing faith in some places, in democracy, in the institutions is because they feel that its not delivering for them. It’s not actually producing things that they need, that they want, that will make a difference in their lives.
“So, in different countries including in Nigeria, when everything is done based on patronage as opposed to actually delivering all the things that people need, that actually erodes trust in democracy.
“But the more the government can be responsive to the needs of people, the more they will say you know what, this system works, I want to be a part of it, I want to defend it and that I think will create enthusiasm around the elections. And that alone will also send a very important message to countries through the continent and around the world.”
Earlier, Blinken told members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja that the United States government believes now is the time for major geopolitical players across the world to start treating Africa as one of them.
“The United States firmly believes that it is time to start treating Africa as a subject in geopolitics, and structure it as a major geopolitical player it has become – the facts speak for themselves,” he said.
Speaking specifically about Nigeria, the U.S. official highlighted some of the reasons it would not be out of place to call the nation the giant of Africa.
Among several other qualities, he noted Nigeria’s cultural influence, saying people across the world listen to the Afrobeat music genre and watch Nollywood movies. He, however, believes there are areas that require improvements.
”Your strengths are undeniable – a dynamic democracy, a robust economy, and a very powerful civil society. Challenges you face here are undeniable as well, including the disruption and insecurity caused by terrorism,” said Blinken.
“What happens here in Nigeria is felt around the world, and that, in a nutshell, is why I came to Abuja. United States knows that in most of the challenges and opportunities we face, Africa will make a difference.
“We can’t achieve our goals around the world – whether ending the COVID-19 pandemic, building a strong and inclusive global economy, combating the climate crisis… without the leadership of the African governments, institutions, and citizens.
“Countries like Nigeria, not just global leaders, they are increasingly prominent around the world beyond this region, and they are deserving a permanent seat wherever the most consequential issues are discussed.”
The U.S. Secretary of State stressed the need to foster democracy across the African continent and appealed to its leaders to stop interfering with democratic processes.
Alluding to the threats to democracy also in the U.S., he stated that it was important for countries in every part of the world to share best practices.
Blinken also asked them to make public pledges to hold each other accountable, as well as show how democracy can deliver what citizens want quickly and effectively.