ABUJA – Mr James Entwistle, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria says he is involved in peace building process in support of non-violence pledges among governorship candidates in Rivers, Lagos States and politicians across the country.
Entwistle made the remarks in Abuja at the U.S. Black History Month programme with the theme: “Peaceful Elections and the Principles of Martin Luther King, Jr.”.
The ambassador explained that the U.S. was committed to non-violence polls in Nigeria and challenged the candidates and their parties to respect the non-violence pledged they signed.
“Some weeks ago, working with many of my colleagues, we were able to get the governorship candidates in Rivers State to come out and take this pledge in public.
“We are hoping we will do the same thing early next week in Lagos.
“I travel around the country, as I meet with politicians and candidates; I always ask them to publicly on camera commit themselves to non-violence during the elections,” he said.
According to him, that is, if they see it happening, they will work to stop it, and they will speak against hate speech, I invite them to join me in making this public pledge.
The envoy said that the public pledge would help to introduce the concept of accountability whereby those who support violence could be held responsible by the court of public opinion.
He said that the U.S. talked so much about non-violence in Nigeria’s elections because electioneering has promoted it.
According to him, his government is trying to live the spirit of Dr Martin Luther King, and that, it is one of the main reasons that Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Nigeria.
“He met with both of the major Presidential candidates and “I can tell you that non- violence was part of his message to both of them.
“Do not start it, if you see it, work to stop it. So I think the fact that the Secretary of State himself came to Nigeria to deliver that message is incredibly powerful”.
Entwistle advised Nigerians to vote during the elections, saying that the right to vote is precious all over the world.
The ambassador said that people in many countries went through great struggles to get the right to vote, and counseled Nigerians who had the right, to exercise it.
“I counseled you Nigerians, anyone who is eligible to vote, should vote.
“If you have the right to vote, if you are eligible to vote and you do not vote, in my opinion, you disrespect and you tarnish the memory of all of those people who struggled for you to really have the right to vote,’’ he noted.
He explained that genuine change was possible through the democratic process but that it could not happen overnight.
According to him, genuine change, the world over, could take time and even decades.
“I have seen African Americans when they were being attacked on the streets by the police because they wanted to vote, up to now as being an Ambassador for an African American President in the White House.
“That tells me that change through the democratic process is absolutely possible; it may not be as fast as you like, it may not happen overnight.
“It may take decades but it is absolutely possible. I know because I have seen it in my own country,” he said.