Ex-US president Clinton cancels visit to Nigeria

            By Rafiu Ajakaye <br>

LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has canceled his trip to Nigeria ahead of Saturday’s presidential elections over concerns the visit could be politicized.

Clinton had been scheduled to speak in the capital Abuja at the signing of a peace accord between the two main contenders — incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who is the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Clinton spokesperson Angel Urena said in a statement late Monday that he has called off the visit because his involvement could be misinterpreted by the parties in the elections.

“Over the course of the last several days, and after various conversations with the different stakeholders, it's become apparent that President Clinton's visit to Nigeria has the potential to be politicized in a way that is not in line with the goals of the [peace] committee. Therefore, he will not be travelling to Abuja,” Urena said.

Earlier Monday, Festus Keyamo, a spokesman for Buhari's campaign, slammed Washington for its ‘open partisanship in favor of the opposition’ and asked the U.S. to retrace its steps.

The statement came days after the U.S. envoy asked local security forces to ignore directives by government officials if they contravene the law or compromise the elections.

“We are deeply concerned about many of the expressions of U.S. Ambassador Stuart Symington and other Western diplomats which have been directed towards Nigeria's upcoming elections,” Keyamo said in a statement.

“Whilst we laud and wholeheartedly welcome their interests in the elections, many of these expressions have been notably off-key. The continued warnings about flawed elections is capable of casting an unwarranted cloud over the process,” Keyamo added.

The U.S. and UK have issued statements condemning the recent suspension of Nigerian Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen over alleged non-declaration of assets, saying that action taken by the president against him could affect the credibility of the elections.

Buhari said Onnoghen had abused his office and was using his influence to frustrate the case against him.

The government said the statements amounted to interference in its local affairs.

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