The United States has said it was not supporting any candidate in the forthcoming polls, including the presidential election slated for February 2015.
It has also asked the various Nigerian security agencies to be neutral during the forthcoming 2015 general elections.
The US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, said these while he led a delegation of some members of the embassy staff, to the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress in Abuja, over the weekend.
The advice by the US ambassador came on the heel of recent alarm by especially the APC of worsening partisan roles played by the various security agencies in the recently held governorship elections in Ekiti State on June 26 in Ekiti State and in Osun State on August 9.
The APC had repeatedly alleged that the various security agencies openly took side with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party by intimidating leaders and supporters of APC in during the elections in the two states.
The ambassador, who said he was on a mission of advising political parties, politicians and Nigerians in general on the need to eschew violence in the February 2015 polls, said elections were key to democratic governance.
He said Nigerians must be conscious of their right to vote, while security agencies must ensure they were neutral during the forthcoming elections.
He said, “I have always told Nigerians to be careful about their right to vote because it is the most precious thing in the world.
“The other thing is the role that the security agencies have to play. They have a very huge responsibility in any country to maintain security and peaceful atmosphere during elections. That is their job and we support them in that. But they have to maintain absolute neutrality so that they are not seen as favoring either sides.”
He said of late he had been inundated with questions of who his country would be supporting in the forthcoming election.
Entwistle, who said he was previously US Ambassador to Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasha, said his response to the inquiries had always been that the support of the US was for the Nigerian people.
He said, “I have been frequently asked who the United States is supporting for the February 2015 elections and my answer has always been that the United States supports the Nigerian people in their quest for a credible, transparent election that they want and deserve.
“So, we are not here to support anybody or any candidate, but to support a credible process in which the Nigerian people can freely express their wishes. That is why we provide support to INEC and civil societies as we get ready for this election.
“Let me be clear and say that what I am saying t you now, I say to the PDP and all others who are involved in the democratic process in Nigeria.”
Earlier, APC national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, who welcomed the US delegation to the party’s secretariat and thanked the US government for its support for the development of democracy in the country, said opposition parties were disadvantaged by the new trend of heavy militarisation of elections in the country.
During an interview with journalists after the meeting, Odigie-Oyegun said the fact that there was no violence on the election day did not necessarily mean a transparent election had been conducted.
He pointed out that “about 70,000 troupes were put in Osun with the obvious intent of intimidating voters.”
He said, “The truth is that we are often blamed for being bad losers, not just the APC, but Nigerians. But losers find it difficult to accept because there is no demonstrable level playing field.
“The kind of thing we are having is that weeks to elections, the might, militarisation and the rest of it and monetary inducement are deployed in such a way that it places the opposition clearly at a disadvantage.
“In a situation like that, quite frankly, it become very difficult to say that there was a free and fair election just because there was no violence on the day of the election itself.
“The so-called famous observers will tell you that nobody snatched a box or nobody got killed. The run off to elections are as important as the days of the election itself. We want you as a good friend of this nation to talk to those that you normally talk to nature that this nation.”
The US ambassador also lamented the fate of many Nigerians in the North East region of the country, who had fled their homes because of the devastating insurgent activities of the Islamic fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram.
In an interview with journalists after meeting the ambassador said it was not enough to conduct elections in the troubled region, but there must be a way of ensuring the people were not disenfranchised.
He said, “So far, the plan I see is to conduct the election throughout the country. That is something we have to work for with the full understanding that in certain parts of the country right now, the security situation is very delicate.
“But I think we have to work towards that. It is not just whether you can conduct election in the North East, but what happens to all the voters who have been displaced b the violence?
“On Election Day,if they are not at the polling units or at home, will they be able to vote? It seems to me that there must be a way for them to be able to vote. Otherwise, you have a significant number of people who have fled from violence and are effectively disenfranchised. I think we all have to work together to find a solution to that.”
He also gave assurance of the continued support of the US government towards ensuring that the girls abducted from their schools in Chibok, Borno State, more than 100 days ago were rescued from their captors, Boko Haram.
He said, “We stand with your government in their effort to rescue these girls; we stand with your government in their effort against Boko Haram.
“We provide different kind of assistance and my country stand with your country in its counter-terrorism efforts. That has always been the case and that will always be the case.”