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Presidential polls: Western diplomats call for caution

By Vera Anyagafu
AS Nigerians count days to the country’s general elections come March 28, 2015, many foreigners appear to be leaving the country in droves as witnessed by Vanguard Consular Advisory at both Lagos and Abuja international airports.

Investigations revealed that many foreign missions in the country have advised their citizens against staying behind for fear of post-elections violence in Nigeria

In this light most foreigners are relocating in droves to presumed safer areas, notwithstanding the fact that almost all of the aspirants have indicated commitment to ensuring violent free elections in the country.

A United States diplomatic envoy who spoke on grounds of anonymity, told VCA that he is better off staying back in his country until weeks after the elections in Nigeria.

He said that Nigeria seems not to have grown in its democratic rule and he is too afraid that the worse could happen during the presidential election, owing to how much the polity has been heated up.

Boko Haram insurgency

The envoy said,“I often heard Nigerians talk about so many negative things like, ‘there would be no more oil from the Niger Delta if Jonathan loses and Boko Haram insurgency will heighten if Buhari loses. It is true that key aspirants have signed many peace accords towards ensuring non-violent polls, either during or after elections, we still harbour the fear of possible widespread violence after the elections.”

The envoy, however, disclosed that many of the foreign mission workers in Nigeria are prepared to stay behind for the love of Nigeria, but the worse fear is that the elections may be marred by violence coupled with the increasing threats by Boko Haram to strike wider and harder, if Buhari loses.

Many others who shared same views with the US envoy, told VCA that they took the decision to leave Nigeria, following the alert that they may be caught up in violence which may arise as a result of the elections. They disclosed that the move became necessary given the desperation that both parties are displaying on the campaign platform.

“I am leaving Nigeria because you can never tell what might turn up during and after elections here. Although I have not witnessed any elections held in Nigeria, the manner at which the campaigners throw back at each other, is even more frightening.” said James, who spoke to VCA at the Lagos International Airport.

James while expressing the importance of the Nigerian elections to the international community, also pointed out that Nigeria is a great country and most foreigners are interested in coming to Nigeria, because Nigeria has prospects.

He added, “I purposely applied for my annual leave and will be travelling before the elections. I am here to send my wife and little daughter home. My sincere hope is that the elections come and go smoothly. I also do not plan to return to Nigeria until after the elections, March 28, 2015.”

There was steady movement of people out of the city of Lagos and Abuja as was observed by VCA. It was also gathered that many people, especially those from the Western world are not too comfortable with the present situation in the country, describing the exodus of people as something ‘unprecedented.’

“People are travelling en masse on a daily basis resulting from fear of what Boko Haram or Niger Delta Militants would do. People also are shutting down businesses and schools too, are caught up in the apprehension regarding the possibility of post-elections violence”, said a source who simply identified his name as Harry.

Investigations also indicated that schools, especially private schools are thinking of closing for the second term as a proactive measure against whatever may be the unexpected outcome of the polls.

A parent who came in from London to pick her only daughter from a school in Lagos also expressed fears, saying that she likes the plans to close schools.

She said that “The move to close schools I supposed is linked to fears being expressed by parents over the safety of their wards in the event of violence after elections. The fear made me return to take my daughter to London. I would have really appreciated she remained here for studies, but what is the gain if I lose my only child to a stupid situation. Nigeria is indeed in a sorry situation, especially at the moment, with the most keenly contested elections since the return to democratic rule,

“This election is not just about the political class, but the kind of citizens participation we are witnessing is unprecedented. But then, this election, will prove to a large extent, how far Nigeria has grown to handle democracy.”

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