Don’t disrupt nascent democracies – Yahaya Bello writes strongly worded letter to U.S govt

– The Kogi state government has expressed its dissatisfaction over the recent U.S ban on unnamed politicians.

– The government says it is particularly concerned that the Kogi governorship election was mentioned.

– In the letter, the Kogi government also urged the U.S to accord greater empathy, more civility and much less disruption to nascent democracies.

The Kogi government has kicked against the recent visa ban imposed on politicians alleged to have rigged the November 2019 election in the state by the United States of America.

The US government had on Monday, September 14 slammed a visa restriction on some individuals for allegedly rigging the November 2019 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states as well as in the run-up to the September and October 2020 Edo and Ondo governorship polls.

But in a letter addressed to the Ambassador of the United States of America signed by the secretary to the government of Kogi state, Mrs Folashade Arike Ayoade, the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello said the US should have created room no matter how slim, for a fair hearing.

In the letter, the Kogi state government also urged the U.S to accord greater empathy, more civility and much less disruption to nascent democracies.

The letter read in parts:

“Please note that for the purposes of this protest letter we are only interested in the citations to the extent that they are referable to Kogi state and her citizens.

“For the most part, we concede that elections in Nigeria are complex affairs which will continue to require improvements for the foreseeable future. The 2019 Kogi state gubernatorial election was also not without its challenges.

“However, it is also crystal clear from critical and composite analyses of the records (official, media, observers, etc) of the November 16, 2020 polls that regrettable incidents were limited to a few polling units, while the overwhelmingly larger portions of the ballot were free, fair and credible.”

Governor Bello maintained that in line with Nigerian law, the few political parties and individuals who alleged widespread electoral malpractices had free rein to contest the outcome in court.

According to him, they vigorously litigated their claims over a gruelling 9-month period, through a 3-step hierarchy of courts, to the conclusion at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

He continued:

“Our concern right now is not the prerogative of the United States of America to impose entry restrictions on anyone, for any or no reason at all, which prerogative remains unfettered, but the room for atrocious misinformation which the timing of your press statement and the mention of the Kogi elections therein has created in our state.

“For the February and March 2019 general elections, your advisory came out in July 2019, long before the Supreme Court delivered her judgments in the petitions against those elections, including challenges to President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection. The presumption is that in spite of your intervention, the Supreme Court still discovered no merit in the petitions and dismissed them accordingly.

“We find this unacceptable, and we protest your presumption. The least you could have done, if indeed this is about democracy and human rights as claimed is create a room, no matter how slim, for a fair hearing.

“As it is now, partisan speculations as to who is indicted, who is not and for what, has become cudgels, furiously swung in the media space by all comers. Your action has therefore added abundant grist to the rumour mills and electrified the merchants of fake news.”

He stressed that the government is not challenging the visa but was only registering the strongest protest as a state to the collateral and unwarranted interference the visa ban has caused.

Meanwhile, the United States has said it will not reveal the identities of Nigerians placed on visa ban for allegedly interfering in the country’s electoral process.

The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, said the names of those politicians will not be disclosed, stressing that the move was as a result of the need to respect the confidentiality attached to visa-related issues.

Our correspondent gathered that the US ambassador made this known at the end of the inaugural consular meeting with Nigeria officials to resolve the listing of Nigeria among countries placed on immigration restrictions.

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