Posted by By Kunle Adeyemi, Ibadan on
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. John Campbell, on Tuesday said America was ready to support Nigeria to achieve a free and fair election in 2007.....
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. John Campbell, on Tuesday said America was ready to support Nigeria to achieve a free and fair election in 2007.
Campbell spoke in Ibadan as a guest lecturer at a forum organised by the University of Ibadan.
During the lecture titled, “Elections: The American experience,” Campbell said Nigeria’s democratic success was a cornerstone for African political development.
He said, “On the 2007 elections, America stands by Nigeria. We will stand by you as much as we can, but always only on your invitation. What happens to Nigeria is crucial to what happens to democracy in Africa. Your success is Africa’s success.”
Campbell also told the gathering that “America’s talks with Nigeria were purely diplomatic” and that he would be divulging diplomatic secrets if he spoke on whether President Olusegun Obasanjo had told America that he would leave office in 2007 or not.
He said the US had no interest in imposing a particular form of democracy on any country and it would not introduce its own form of democracy to any country since America’s was as a result of a peculiar historical experience.
Campbell, a historian, was sworn in as his country’s ambassador to Nigeria on May 18, 2004.
He said democracy was not an easy process as America, despite its high democratic standards, struggled for 217 years to enthrone democracy.
Going down the historical lane, the ambassador said after America’s first election in 1619, it took 182 years before the country could achieve universal suffrage and 170 years before the current American constitution was ratified.
He said during the gestation period of democracy in America, only land-owning whites could vote and it took great pains and political persuasion before the states could revoke the land-owning condition for voting.
Besides, Campbell noted that it was still difficult for women, blacks and slaves to vote in America.
He said, “The road to achieve universal suffrage was a long one for America.
“Even for those who had the right to vote, exercising the right was not so easy.”
According to the ambassador, women still had difficulties enjoying suffrage like the men until 1869 when women were first allowed to vote and by 1918, 15 American states had adopted the principle of women suffrage.
Campbell said leaders in the southern states always found ways to prevent blacks from voting until 1965 when congress passed the bill abolishing voting discrimination against the “blacks and other minority groups.”
He added, “As it were, age restriction was also placed on voters as only people above 21 years could vote but this was discarded by the passage of the 1971 26th amendment to the American constitution, which gave voting right to anyone who was 18 years old.”
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