I am not afraid of credible polls – Buhari
By Olisemeka Obeche
(With Agency Reports)
President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged his government’s commitment towards the conduct of free, fair and credible general elections in 2019. Buhari, who made the declaration during an interactive session with members of the Nigerian community on Sunday in the Chinese capital city, Beijing, stressed that as a beneficiary of free and fair elections in 2015, he was not afraid of conducting a credible electoral process next year.
According to Buhari, “I have no fear about free and fair elections because that is what brought me to the present position. I know what I went through and very few Nigerians could boast of trying four times [contesting for the presidency]. The incumbent president, who is sure to fly the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 presidential election, assured eligible Nigerian voters that they will be allowed to freely elect candidates of their choice during the forthcoming general election.
“Those interested in participating in the elections must get their PVCs, register in their constituency and elect anybody of their choice across ethnicity and religion.
The Nigerian police, law enforcement agencies and INEC must respect the people to express their wishes,’’ he said. Buhari cited recent elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi states respectively as a yardstick that the country had made progress in its quest to deepen democracy through free and fair elections.
On security issues, the president argued that his government has succeeded in curtailing Boko Haram insurgents in the country, adding that the terrorist group no longer controls any part of the country.
He was quick to attribute the success to operations of security agencies deployed to counter insurgency in the North-eastern part of the country. “You will all recall that we contested the last election basically on three issues, which includes security, especially in the North-east.
The Boko Haram used to occupy quite a number of local governments in Borno state but they are not in any one now. They have resorted to a very dangerous way of terrorism by indoctrinating young people, mostly girls, and attacking soft targets, churches, mosques and marketplaces,’’ he said.
On herders and farmers clashes in Nigeria, the president told Nigerians in the Diaspora that while security agencies are doing their best to curtail the clashes, the Nigerian media need to complement the efforts through objective and informed reportage.
The president appealed to the Nigerian media to make an attempt at understanding the cultural and historical implications of some of the misunderstanding between herders and farmers.
In the words of the president: ‘‘to my disappointment, there are a number of things which the members of the press in Nigeria do not make enough efforts, in my observation, to study – the historical antecedents of issues that are creating national problems for us.’’
According to the president, due to the effects of climate change, a farm that used to belong to 5 people now belongs to 50 people, the weather condition, particularly the rainy season, is now unpredictable.
Buhari partly blamed the farmers/herders controversy on the shrinking of the Lake Chad, which forced many cattle nomads to seek greener pastures for their herds in other parts of the country.
On Nigeria-China relations, the president applauded China’s generosity and contribution to the development of Nigeria, citing the successful completion of the Abuja-Kaduna railway line built by the Chinese and ongoing works on Lagos, Ibadan, Ilorin, Abuja, Kano railway routes. He added that Nigeria and China were also negotiating on the Mambilla project.
President Buhari advised Nigerians planning to travel abroad for ‘‘greener pastures’’ to do so legitimately and not to expect too much from their countries of destination.
“You cannot seek greener pastures in a place where you are not respected because of the colour of your skin or your lack of education or other things. Personally, I think you will earn more respect when you remain at home and get a job,’’ he said. On Nigeria-China relations, the president applauded China’s generosity and contribution to the development of Nigeria, citing the successful completion of the Abuja-Kaduna railway line, built by the Chinese, and ongoing works on Lagos, Ibadan, Ilorin, Abuja, Kano railway routes.
He said Nigeria and China are also negotiating on the Mambilla project. President Buhari advised Nigerians planning to travel abroad for ‘‘greener pastures’’ to do so legitimately and not to expect too much from their countries of destination.
‘‘You cannot seek greener pastures in a place where you are not respected because of the colour of your skin or your lack of education or other things. Personally, I think you will earn more respect when you remain at home and get a job,’’ he said.
Acknowledging the material and intellectual support of Nigerians in the Diaspora to the development of Nigeria, the president assured that his administration would remain focused and committed to providing the needed infrastructure and doing the needful for Nigeria’s prosperity.
Earlier, in his remarks, the Nigerian Ambassador to China, Baba Ahmed-Jidda, thanked the president for his support to the embassy which led to the completion of the ambassador’s residence. The ambassador praised Nigerians resident in the various provinces of China for being law-abiding with the exception of a few.
On consular matters, the envoy told the president Nigerians still faced difficulties in the process of obtaining Chinese visas – an issue he thinks the president should take up with the Chinese authorities.
Also speaking, the president of the China Chapter of Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation, Brian Akiti, while wishing the country successful elections in 2019, pledged the support of the organisation to the present administration’s development agenda.
In a separate event, the president also met with Nigerian students on scholarship in China. He told the students: “I hope you will make the best use of this opportunity given to you. Nigeria is grateful to China for extending this generosity to us.
‘‘The Chinese are helping Nigeria greatly with building infrastructure; it is very much appreciated. We are pleased with the training they are providing for our Nigerian students.” President Muhammadu Buhari also met with the executives of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) during which he lauded the construction group for their immense contribution to infrastructure development in Nigeria.