The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard has called on Nigerians to take action and vote for leaders who will provide security and justice in the 2023 general elections.
Leonard gave the charge on Saturday in Yola, the Adamawa State capital while delivering a commencement speech at the American University of Nigeria (AUN).
The Ambassador's message comes amid deteriorating security, despite repeated promises of tackling banditry and other challenges by President Muhammadu Buhari.
She said, "I can’t stress this enough: voting is the way your voice can be heard, and to ensure that issues that concern you and your community become a priority for lawmakers and elective individuals...
"What happens when you don’t vote? Former First Lady Michelle Obama said this morning you are giving your power to someone else, someone who doesn’t necessarily see the world the same as you. You are letting them make some really key decisions and the truth is that they are hoping you would stay home for them to make key decisions about the way you live for you.
"I see this in my own country all the time, I know it’s easy to get discouraged and to doubt that your vote will make a difference, but again please remember that voting is your voice, it is only through voting that you can hold those for whom you vote accountable.
"It is you and your generation that has the future of Nigeria in your hands as you become the most significant demographic in Nigerian elections, and you owe it to yourself and to your country to demand an elected leader who will govern and provide security, justice and services for all Nigerians. This is the call to action 2023."
On Covid-19, the United States envoy announced a donation of 27 million vaccines to Nigeria. She however lamented that only a fraction of Nigerians were fully vaccinated against the disease.
"Before I conclude my remark today, I would say a few words about the importance of being vaccinated against Covid-19. You may have heard it from your leaders or the United Nations and from the media but despite efforts to move vaccines and I would add donations of more than 27 million vaccines from my country, so far only 14.6% of Nigerians are fully vaccinated; 36.5% have received 1 dose.
"The vaccine is becoming more readily available, and more are coming. I mentioned this also because you would be performing all 3 kinds of services if you decide to get vaccinated. You would of course be protecting your own health and that of your family. Second, you would be protecting those who are vulnerable in your community, your house, your favourite restaurant, and place of worship; all would become a safer place to be, and finally, if you have the Covid-19 vaccine, the sky is the limit; like literarily, you can board a plane and travel around the world. But even on a local level, you can travel around Nigeria and bring us all back to the state of normalcy," Leonard said.
She commended the AUN for offering admissions to students of all countries whose studies were disrupted in war-torn Ukraine.