President Muhammadu Buhari has declared dead the era in which democratic norms are brazenly subverted, with votes awarded to those favoured by the authorities, and the short-changed told to go to court if they were not happy.
The President made the declaration, on Monday, while receiving members of the Joint United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS Good Offices Mission on Elections at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“I am highly qualified to talk on this, having ended in Supreme Court three times, after participating in elections with disputed results,” he told his visitors, asking: “Where will a man looking for where his next meal would come from have money to hire lawyers, particularly senior advocates?”
Buhari added everything and assured that the 2019 polls would be free and fair. “The President has only one vote,” he submitted, “governors have a vote each, just like anybody else. Let the people vote for whoever they choose, without their will being tampered with.”
Thanking the joint team for being in touch with Nigeria’s institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the President said multi-party democracy gives lots of choice to the people, adding that Nigeria has a vibrant young population, “who trust us to handle their affairs and resources well. A lot depends on leadership.”
Buhari went down memory lane and recalled that the 2015 elections were run with three campaign objectives: securing the country, reviving the economy and fighting corruption. “And the opposition has not succeeded in faulting us,” he enthused. “We are doing our best with the resources available to us.”
Earlier, President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, said the team came on a solidarity visit to Nigeria before the forthcoming elections, as it did with other countries like Senegal, Mali, Gambia, and others which recently held polls.
He appreciated the strong role Nigeria plays in the sub-region, while also thanking President Buhari for his strides in the fight against corruption and terrorism.
Speaking on behalf of the United Nations, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, appreciated what he called “the strong leadership of President Buhari in Nigeria, West Africa, and Africa.”
“You’ve always played politics according to the rules. We will do all that we can to strengthen the institutions. We’re convinced that INEC is ready to provide free and fair elections,” Dr. Chambas said.
‘How I Wish We Fixed Infrastructure When We Had Money’
Meanwhile, at another event also at the Presidential Villa, President Muhammadu Buhari lamented Nigeria’s infrastructural deficit and wished administrations since the return of democracy in 1999 had done something tangible on the matter when the country’s economy was buoyant.
With the humongous resources at the disposal of Nigeria between 1999 and 2014, he said, it was sad that infrastructure went to rot completely within the same period.
He made the assertion, on Monday, while receiving the outgoing British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, in a farewell audience at the State House.
“Our focus now is on infrastructure; roads, rail, power, and others,” said Buhari. “How I wish we had fixed all those when we had money. What we earned between 1999 and 2014 is on record, but nothing was done to infrastructure. Now, we are doing a lot more, with a lot less resources. And we shall continue to do our best.”
Buhari commended the outgoing High Commissioner for his warm and pleasant disposition, which has seen him traversing almost the entire country.
“I always see you all over the place,” the President noted.
Arkwright, who spent over three years in Nigeria, said he visited 30 of the 36 states, and found the people quite enterprising and engaging, adding that the British government would be glad to offer a helping hand as required in any part of the country.
He thanked President Buhari for his support, adding that the relations between Britain and Nigeria have improved tremendously in the past three years.