Nigerians go to the polls next month in the largest democratic election in Africa this year and perhaps one of the most important in the nation's history. With a militant insurgency roiling the northeastern part of the country and falling oil prices pinching the nation's economy, the closely contested election for president comes at a critical time.
Perhaps as never before it is important that Nigerians be united in the exercise and defense of their democracy during and after the voting February 14.
Given the stakes, it’s absolutely critical that these elections be conducted peacefully, and that they are credible, transparent and accountable. That way, the people of Nigeria can have faith, and the world can have faith, in the government that flows from it.
Nigeria's political leaders recognize this and have issued strong statements discouraging the kind of violence that marred the voting in 2011. Civil society has a role to play too, and it is especially important that voters share these concerns and act accordingly, regardless of the election's outcome.
Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission is working diligently to distribute voter cards and working with security services to ensure that Nigerians can vote safely. Nonetheless, the reign of terror Boko Haram is waging in Borno, Yobe and other states may prevent thousands of Nigerians in the region from voting. The situation would be further complicated if elements unhappy with next month's election results take to the streets.
The United States condemns Boko Haram’s attacks, which have escalated in recent weeks. And we extend our deepest condolences to the thousands of families that have been affected, and we deeply regret the toll that this violence has taken on the Nigerian people. We will continue to support the efforts of Nigeria and its neighbors to fight against Boko Haram.
Together with the international community, we are deeply committed to working with Nigerians going forward with the hopes that they will have an election that is free of violence and capable of instilling confidence in the future. The unity of Nigeria is essential not only for the security and prosperity of the nation, but to that of the region and indeed the world.