President Goodluck Jonathan was in the black book of the United States (US) government when then-President Barack Obama addressed Nigerians through a video message days before the 2015 general elections.
In an unprecedented move, US leader Obama urged Nigerians to turn out and participate in the elections. The 2015 general elections was first scheduled to commence on February 14, 2015, but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed it by six weeks to March 28, mainly due to the poor distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), and also to curb ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.
The US and United Kingdom (UK) had frowned at the postponement of the election. US Secretary of State John Kerry warned the Nigerian government against using security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process. British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond also cautioned Nigerian authorities, stressing that Nigerians should not be denied the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights.
The general elections eventually commenced on March 28 but days before the polls, on March 23, 2015, Obama addressed Nigerians in a two-minute 31 seconds video.
“Hello, today I wanna speak directly to you, the people of Nigeria,” the US President started his address.
After commending Nigerians for winning independence from colonial rule and freedom from military dictatorship, turning the country’s diversity into strength and working hard to build the largest economy in Africa, Obama stressed: “Now you have a historic opportunity to write the next chapter of Nigeria’s progress by voting in the upcoming elections.”
Although Obama did not directly tell Nigerians to vote Buhari, the APC candidate, his message implied that Nigeria is better off with the retired army General.
At the time, there were reports that the US was not happy with the Jonathan administration over Nigeria’s refusal to embrace gay rights. But, added to that, the US was also not impressed with the Nigerian government’s efforts in the campaign against Boko Haram.
Buhari was seen as a more capable hand, and the US wanted him to take up the onslaught on the terror group.
Obama, in the message, said successful elections and democratic progress will help Nigeria to stop Boko Haram, which he identified as the urgent challenge facing the country.
“Boko Haram wants to destroy Nigeria and all you have built. By casting your ballot you can help secure your nation’s progress. I am told there is a saying in your country: To keep Nigeria as one is a task that must be done. Today I urge all Nigerians, from all religions, all ethnic groups and all regions, to come together and keep Nigeria one. And in this task of advancing the security, prosperity and human rights of all Nigerians, you will continue to have a friend and partner in the United States of America,” Obama concluded.
The message was clear.
Buhari eventually won the election. The extent of the impact of the intervention of the US government on the outcome of the election cannot be determined but it is certain that the White House made moves to influence the poll. Jonathan acknowledged the US influence in his book, ‘The Transition Hours’.
About eight years after, Nigeria is set to elect Buhari’s successor. The leading candidates are Bola Tinubu of the ruling party, the APC, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
America, Britain will not want another Buhari in 2023… Diplomat
At the moment, there is no clear indication that the US, and the UK, Nigeria’s colonial master – two countries that exert considerable influence on Nigeria – are backing any of the candidates.
But, in an interview with The ICIR, a Professor, and former Director General of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Bola Akinterinwa, noted that the US and the UK would be seeking to protect and promote their interests in Nigeria by trying to influence the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.