The United States' top diplomat on African affairs, Amb.Johnnie Carson, says he regrets the violence that plagued the ongoing elections in Nigeria and he is urging authorities there to do whatever they can to ensure that nationwide voting for governors is free, fair and peaceful.
First came legislative elections in Nigeria, then presidential and now voting for governors in most of the country's 36 states.
"It's definitely not over until all three elections take place," Carson said.
The U.S. diplomat recently returned from Nigeria after observing the parliamentary vote earlier this month. He says this last leg of elections is even more important than the previous polls.
"We will be watching those elections more closely and even more attentively than we have done in previous elections. If we see governors and regional election commissioners who are attempting to rig the elections or inciting violence//we will take action as we've done before with respect to people who've tried to undermine democracy in other parts of Africa," Carson said.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s victory last week over Muhammadu Buhari in presidential elections sparked riots in the predominately Muslim northern part of the country. International observers said the voting appeared to be free and fair.
But Buhari, a Muslim and Nigeria's former military ruler, is challenging the results in court. The post-election violence is blamed for the deaths of 500 people. Thousands of others were forced from their homes.
"We are here now. We don’t use or see food to eat. We are hungry and our children are hungry," said Ikena Onyema, a displaced person.
Security concerns about ongoing violence led Nigerian election officials last week to delay gubernatorial elections in two northern states. President Jonathan, a Christian from the south, warned that continued violence threatens stability in this west African nation and has stepped up security.
"I have ordered the deployment of security personnel to troubled parts of the country. I have also directed the reinforcement of security in all parts of the country," Jonathan said.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer and its most populous nation with 150 million people. It is divided about evenly between Muslims mostly in the north and Christians mostly in the south.
Full interview with Amb. Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of African Affairs: