Receiving a delegation at State House, Abuja, on Monday from International Republican and National Democratic Institute, United States of America, the President, according to a statement by Femi Adesina, his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) said:
“I am glad you are here to assess our pre-election preparations. It reminds me of the visit by the then Secretary of State, John Kerry, before the 2015 polls. We appreciate the concern of America for stability in developing countries.
“Having run for president three times, ending up at the Supreme Court all three times, before God and technology made a way for me the fourth time, I know what it is to be cheated at the polls. What they used to do was just to award votes, and tell anyone who was dissatisfied to go to court. But we won’t do that. I am prepared to give the opposition the opportunities I was not given in the past.”
This is as President Buhari was given a surprise 76th birthday treat by his aides and an equally surprise birthday parade by the Guards Brigade, all in the State House Abuja, December 17, 2018.
President Buhari assured his US visitors that he had told the heads of the security agencies not to be partisan, but to do their work professionally, and allow the will of the people to prevail.
Stressing that the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) would keep faith with its priorities of securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption, the President said he was happy that the opposition has not been able to successfully fault the focal areas of the government.
“We have done fairly well in the areas we focussed on. We know how many local government areas in the North-east were under Boko Haram occupation before we came.
That does not happen again, save for cowardly attacks, using young girls as suicide bombers. Other areas of security challenge like farmers/herdsmen clashes are receiving attention, and would be sorted out as much as possible.”
On the Electoral Bill that was not assented to, the President said: “Time is against us. We are extremely vulnerable, and need to be careful that messages are not hijacked and figures tampered with, while being transmitted electronically. Even the Russians were accused of tampering with American election, so we will remain conventional, and use electronic transmission in subsequent elections.”
Leader of the American delegation, Ambassador Linda-Thomas Greenfield, said they had met with the media, civil society, and political parties, and concerns expressed include fears of security agencies being partisan in the forthcoming elections, suspected non-commitment to free and fair elections by key stakeholders, delayed budget for the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the non-signing of the new Electoral Bill.
Meanwhile, President Buhari would depart Abuja Tuesday on a one-day official trip to Zinder, the Republic of Niger to participate in the programme of activities marking the 60th anniversary of the formal Proclamation of the Republic of Niger.
At the invitation of President Mahamadou Issoufou, President Buhari will join fellow West African leaders as Special Guest of Honour as Nigeria’s northern neighbour commemorates December 18, 1958, the date of its founding as a Republic and the creation of the Presidency even before it gained complete Independence from France on August 3, 1960.
The participation of the Nigerian leader, according to another statement by Mr. Adesina, is in furtherance of the deep historical and cultural relations between the governments and peoples of both friendly nations.
Activities lined up for the celebrations in the ancient south-central town and former capital of Niger which lies 240km north of Kano, include military parade, cultural and artistic displays.
President Buhari will be accompanied by Governors Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai and Adegboyega Oyetola of Jigawa, Kaduna and Osun States, respectively.
Also on the delegation is the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim.