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PDP, LP express concern over US Secretary of State Blinken, Tinubu phone call

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.

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, PDP standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar, who is challenging the ex-Lagos State governor’s victory in court, 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.

Also, Chief Spokesman for Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said it was worrisome for Blinken to be discussing bilateral relations with Tinubu.

During the phone conversation, Blinken said he was committed to further strengthening the US-Nigeria partnership with the incoming administration of the president-elect.

Miller said the two leaders “discussed the importance of inclusive leadership that represents all Nigerians, continued comprehensive security cooperation, and reforms to support economic growth.”

The statement read, “Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke this morning with Nigerian President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu to emphasise his continued commitment to further strengthening the U.S.-Nigeria relationship with the incoming administration.

“The Secretary noted that the U.S.-Nigeria partnership is built on shared interests and strong people-to-people ties and that those links should continue to strengthen under President-elect Tinubu’s tenure.

‘’Secretary Blinken and President-elect Tinubu discussed the importance of inclusive leadership that represents all Nigerians, continued comprehensive security cooperation, and reforms to support economic growth.”

Also, a statement from the Office of the President-elect, signed by Tunde Rahman, said Tinubu told Blinken that he would hit the ground running and unify the country on his assumption of office on May 29.

He further pledged to work to ensure continued positive relations with the US, adding that his immediate priorities would be to deliver institutional reforms and development programmes to deepen our democratic institutions and bring help to poor and vulnerable Nigerians.

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.’’

‘Call worrisome’

Faulting Blinken, Tanko 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.

He said, “As we are concerned, we are aware that a statement was issued by those who have been part of the rigging machine in Nigeria’s electoral system. We don’t want to take issue with regard to any call being made to a government that is already seen to be illegal.

“We cannot gratify such statement as a kind of endorsement. We will rather call it a caution to see whether the judiciary will make do with what is already on their desk.”

But the All Progressives Congress saw the interaction between both Tinubu and Blinken as a welcome development.

Speaking with our correspondent, the Director of Publicity for the APC, Bala Ibrahim, said the majority of those criticising the US for its action needed some form of enlightenment on what ‘democracy’ and ‘bilateral relationship’ connote.

“I think these people (opposition) misunderstand the meaning of democracy. They should also learn the meaning of bilateral relationships. Once an election is conducted and there is a body that is charged with the responsibility of deciding or playing umpire in the election. If that body has made a pronouncement, it stands valid until it is vitiated by a court of competent jurisdiction.

“Nobody is saying people should not go to court to challenge an election outcome. But nobody should say the announcement by the electoral umpire is void simply because there are those who are challenging the outcome. The position of the law is that you are innocent until proven otherwise. And who alleged is burdened by proof. It is for him to prove the wrongdoing or the invalidity of the result.

“Now, while that is ongoing, it doesn’t mean countries should not have a bilateral relationship. Every country is a sovereign entity that cannot be challenged by individuals who have contested and lost elections. They should go and continue licking their wounds and allow the legal process to continue. Diplomacy and diplomatic relationship cannot be dictated by their own wishes. No, it doesn’t work like that.

“There is nothing wrong with Blinken calling the president-elect. It is actually in line. America is the bastion of democracy, the biggest democracy in the world and one country that has practised democracy longer than any country in the world knows the meaning of that better than any other democrat in the world. For Blinken to call and discuss with the president-elect, they know the implication and meaning. There is nothing undemocratic or bad about it.”

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