U.S. Ambassador James F. Entwistle re-affirmed the strong interest of the United States in Nigeria’s elections during a seminar on March 9 entitled “The Role of Media in Promoting Issue-based Electoral Campaigns in Nigeria.” Serving as the forum’s keynote speaker, Ambassador Entwistle explained the significance of the U.S.-Nigeria relationship in the U.S. policy towards Africa and emphasized that violence has no place in the democratic process.
Ambassador Entwistle commended the efforts of Nigerian civil society groups to promote accountability and non-violence in the electoral process and urged the media to ensure that their stories and editorial opinions are always balanced and reflect both sides of the issue.
He also stressed the importance of a losing candidate’s gracious acceptance of defeat to show that the welfare of a nation transcends individual ambitions. “Think back to the year 2000 in my country, its incredibly complicated elections. At the end of the day, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of George Bush. What did Al-Gore do? He came out before the cameras and graciously accepted the results of the Supreme Court decision because it was in the interest of the nation.”
Ambassador Entwistle also invoked his personal memories of the Civil Rights Movement. He recalled growing up in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1960s: “When I see what my fellow Americans had to go through in order to vote, it is a reminder to me of how precious the right to vote is.” To all Nigerians, he said, “Vote, if you are eligible to vote. It is an incredibly, precious thing to vote.”
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) Alumni Association jointly organized the event. TMG’s national coordinator, Zikirullahi Ibrahim, said that the discussion was aimed at strengthening the media to do their jobs responsibly “because in this season of electoral politics, there is the risk of losing sight of the issues due to the growing trend of hate campaigns.”
Olanrewaju Osho, regional coordinator of the IVLP Alumni Association, said that the seminar allowed Nigerian beneficiaries of U.S. exchange programs to lead, mentor, and contribute to nation building.
Panelists agreed that the media has an agenda-setting role in compelling politicians to focus on the issues and educating the public.