The Peoples Democratic Party and the Labour Party on Wednesday expressed anger over the telephone conversation between the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.
Blinken pledged stronger ties between the US and Nigeria during a 20-minute telephone call to Tinubu, who is in France.Punch
The US Department of State spokesperson, Matthew Miller, in a statement said Blinken spoke with the president-elect on Tuesday.
The development came 24 hours after the Joe Biden administration announced the imposition of visa restrictions on Nigerians who allegedly disrupted the recently concluded elections.
The US said the affected persons were involved in voter threats, results manipulation, physical violence, and other activities that undermined democracy. The identities of the culprits were, however, not made public.
But dismayed by Blinken’s communication with Tinubu, the PDP standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar, who is challenging the ex-Lagos State governor’s victory at the tribunal, said the Secretary of State’s assurances of bilateral cooperation contradicted the position of the US on the general election in Nigeria.
The former vice president was referring to a statement issued by the US government on March 2 in which it acknowledged the complaints and frustrations expressed by some Nigerians about the manner in which the presidential election was conducted and the shortcomings of the technical elements used in the poll.
“Secretary Blinken assured that Nigeria should expect a good and mutually-beneficial relationship with the US.’’
“He promised to play his part in ensuring and sustaining a cordial relationship between the two nations, saying a democratic and peaceful Nigeria is important to the United States as it is to Africa.
“Both President-elect Tinubu and Secretary Blinken ended their discussion with pleasant greetings and a promise to keep the channels of dialogue and communication open, whilst maintaining a strong relationship between the two nations”, the statement added.
But reacting to the US engagement with Tinubu on his verified Twitter handle @atiku, on Wednesday, the ex-vice president said he was in disbelief that the US top diplomat could give legitimacy to what he described as the sham election of February 25.
He tweeted, “I am in disbelief that Secretary Antony Blinken called Tinubu, a contradiction to the publicly stated position of the US on Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election.
‘’This is inconceivable considering that America, as the bastion of democracy, is well briefed on the sham election of February 25. To give legitimacy to the widely acknowledged fraudulent election in Nigeria can be demoralising to citizens who have hedged their bet on democracy and the sanctity of the ballot.’’
The Deputy National Youth Leader of the PDP, Timothy Osadolor urged the president-elect not to get carried away by ‘’a mere phone call from a United States official.’’
He added, “Tinubu and his co-travellers should not be fooled by the phone call from the Secretary of State of the United States government. It is not an endorsement of his person or his hotly contested and smeared purported victory.
‘’Rather, the United States government knows the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with the powerhouse of Africa in its current challenge as the world superpower. With the BRICS nation at its jugular economically, China at her tail economically, militarily, and technologically and the top spot of world power, it makes sense for the USA to be looking for strategic allies around the globe and make no mistake, in the community of nations.’’
Osadolor argued that the Blinken phone call could not legitimise Tinubu’s election victory which he said would likely be nullified by the court.
“Nigeria is no pushover! So, the relationship with Nigeria, her people and her leaders is key. The only thing is that they (the US) only called a temporary or stop-gap president who, if things go as expected, will most likely be vacated by the court of the land. So, Mr Tinubu will do well not to delude himself into thinking he is now legitimized by the phone call,” he said.
Faulting Blinken, Tank said, “It is worrisome at this point to hear them discuss bilateral discussion at the point in which the issue of election is being challenged in the court of law.”
The spokesperson, however, stated that the discussion on the bilateral relationship should not be taken as an endorsement.
Sultan on inauguration
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Abubakar, has said nothing would stop Tinubu’s inauguration on May 29.
He, therefore, urged Nigerians to pray for the incoming administration to succeed in steering the affairs of the country.
The Sultan, who was speaking during a roundtable engagement with traditional and religious rulers in Abuja on Wednesday, said everyone should know that a new administration would take over on May 29 “whether they like it or not.”
The event organized by the World Bank was to fashion a way out to increase human capital development in the country especially, the girl child education.
The Sultan appealed to the attendees not to abandon the advocacy of ending child marriage and other impediments to the growth of the girl when they get to their community.
He said, “There must be change because in the next few days or weeks, there will be a new government. What can we contribute to that government to stabilize?