President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria has gone beyond the era during which democratic norms were brazenly subverted, with votes awarded to those favoured by the authorities, and candidates shortchanged told to go to court for redress.
He stated this on Monday when he received members of the Joint United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS Good Offices Mission on Elections at the State House, Abuja.
“I am highly qualified to talk on this, having ended in Supreme Court three times after participating in elections with disputed results.
“Where will a man looking for where his next meal would come from have money to hire lawyers, particularly senior advocates?” the President asked.
While reassuring that the 2019 polls would be free and fair, Buhari said: “The President has only one vote, governors have a vote each, just like anybody else.
“Let the people vote for whoever they choose, without their will being tampered with.’’
He pointed out that multi-party democracy gives lots of choice to the people, stressing that Nigeria has a vibrant young population who trust his administration to handle their affairs and resources well.
According to him, “a lot depends on leadership”.
The President thanked the joint team for being in touch with the nation’s institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
He said the 2015 elections were run with three campaign objectives; securing the country, reviving the economy, fighting corruption,” and the opposition has not succeeded in faulting us. We are doing our best with the resources available to us.”
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, among others which recently held polls.
He appreciated the strong role Nigeria played in the sub-region, while also thanking President Buhari for his strides in the fight against corruption and terrorism.
Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, who spoke on behalf of the UN, appreciated what he called “the strong leadership of President Buhari in Nigeria, West Africa, and Africa.”
He said: “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.”