By Ade Adesomoju and Eniola Akinkuotu
President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has assured President Goodluck Jonathan that he has nothing to fear.
Buhari, in his acceptance speech after being declared the winner of Saturday’s presidential election and presented with certificate of return in Abuja on Wednesday, said “despite the rancour of the elections,” he harboured no grudge against anyone.
To prove this, he extended “a hand of friendship and conciliation to President Jonathan and his team.”
Buhari read a prepared speech in which he also reiterated his determination to end insurgency in the North-East, rescue the economy and stem corruption which he described as an evil worse than terrorism.
The President-elect, who was Head of State between 1983 and 1985, said even though there could be a disagreement between him and Jonathan over governance, the President remained a great Nigerian.
He said, “Let me state clearly that President Jonathan has nothing to fear from me. Although we may not agree on the methods of governing the nation, he is a great Nigerian and still our president. He deserves our support and permanent respect by virtue of the office he has held.
“This is how an honourable nation treats its servants and conducts its affairs. I should be looking forward to meeting with President Jonathan in the days to come to discuss how our teams can make the transition of administrations as efficient as possible.”
On insurgency, he said, “No doubt, this nation has suffered greatly in the recent past, and its staying power has been tested to its limits by crises, chief among which is insurgency of the Boko Haram.
“There is no doubt that in tackling the insurgency, we have a tough and urgent job to do.
“But I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas. We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.”
Reiterating his readiness to fight corruption which, according to him, constitutes a threat to “our economic development and democratic survival,” he said, “no longer shall it( graft) be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this nation.”
He added, “We shall strongly battle another form of evil that is even worse than terrorism—the evil of corruption. Corruption attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character.
“By misdirecting into selfish hands funds intended for the public purpose, corruption distorts the economy and worsens income inequality. It creates a class of unjustly-enriched people.
“Such an illegal yet powerful force soon comes to undermine democracy because its conspirators have amassed so much money that they believe they can buy government.
“We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival. I repeat that corruption will not be tolerated by this administration.”
Appealing to Nigerians to join him in “ resolving these and the other challenges we face,” he stated that “along the way, there will be victories but there may also be setbacks.”
He added, “Mistakes will be made. But we shall never take you for granted; so, rest assured that our errors will be those of compassion and commitment not of wilful neglect and indifference.
“We shall correct that which does not work and improve that which does. We shall not stop, stand or idle.”
Buhari also said that his declaration as President-elect meant that the change many Nigerians had been yearning for had finally come.
“Today, history has been made and change has finally come. Your votes have changed our national destiny for the good of all Nigerians,’’ he said in the speech titled, ‘‘The die is cast.’’
Noting that the challenges ahead were many, the President-elect said, “We shall, if necessary crawl, walk and run to do the job you have elected us to do.”
He promised to deliver good governance and ensure that his administration did not rule Nigerians “as if they were subservient to government.”
Buhari also pledged that his government would respect the rule of law as nobody should be above the law.
The former military ruler said that he would treat those who voted against him and those who did not vote equally as those who voted for him on Saturday.
He said, “I pledge myself and our in-coming administration to just and principled governance.There shall be no bias against or favouritism for any Nigerian based on ethnicity, religion, gender or social status.
“I pledge myself and the government to the rule of law, in which none shall be so above the law that they are not subject to its dictates, and none shall be so below it that they are not availed of its protection.
“You shall be able to go to bed knowing that you are safe and that your constitutional rights remain in safe hands. You shall be able to voice your opinion without fear of reprisal or victimisation.
“My love and concern for this nation and what I desire for it extends to all, even to those who do not like us or our politics. You are all my people and I shall treat everyone of you as my own.
“ I shall work for those who voted for me as well as those who voted against me and even for those who did not vote at all. We all live under one name as one nation: we are all Nigerians.”
Buhari, who had previously contested three times said he had always enjoyed the support of Nigerians but their votes were only allowed to count last Saturday.
He said, “We will govern for you and in your interests. Your vote was not wasted. This is not the first time Nigerians have cast their votes for us, and this is not the first time they have been counted; but this is the first time that the votes have been allowed to count. With the help of God, we pledge to do our utmost to bring forth the Nigeria you seek.”
On his eligibility for the presidential election, he said he would never have sought to contest if he had adjudged himself incapable.
While he condoled with the families that lost their loved ones in the celebration that followed his victory on Tuesday, he also thanked Nigerians for reposing confidence in him.
He said, “Most of all, I thank the people of Nigeria for reposing their confidence in me at this trying moment. Our nation wrestles many challenges including insecurity, corruption, economic decline. I pledge to give you my best in tackling these problems.
“The good people of Nigeria, your obligation does not end with casting your ballot. I seek your voice and input as we tackle these problems. This will not be a government democratic only in form. It will be a government democratic in substance and in how it interacts with its own people.”
He also thanked his party, the All Progressives Congress, INEC, past leaders of the nation, world leaders, civil society organistations for their roles in successful conduct of the elections.
Buhari said, “Here, I want to thank my party for selecting me as its candidate. I thank our party leaders and members for the steadfast contributions they made to bring our dream to fruition. I thank INEC, the police and all other government agencies for performing their tasks in a proper manner and for refusing to be induced to undermine the election and the democratic process.
“I also wish to thank religious leaders, traditional leaders, the media, labour unions, civil society organisations, organised private sector, youths and students for their roles in this election.
“I give special thanks to President Obama and his timely intervention and support for peaceful and credible elections in Nigeria and for sending Secretary of State John Kerry and other United States officials. The European Union – especially the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other nations that were actively involved in ensuring the success of this election are equally appreciated. My sincere thanks to the United Nations Secretary General Mr Ban-Ki moon. The Commonwealth, China, India and other Asian and Gulf states are also hereby appreciated.
“Finally our brothers in the African Union and ECOWAS have truly and clearly shown and demonstrated their commitment to our democratisation process. Former Presidents John Kuffour, Amos Sawyer, Bakili Muluzi and his team are well appreciated. I must also add my appreciation for the role played by civil societies, national and international observers, other world leaders in ensuring that Nigeria holds free and fair elections.
“I assure all foreign governments that Nigeria will become a more forceful and constructive player in the global fight against terrorism and in other matters of collective concern, such as the fight against drugs, climate change, financial fraud, communicable diseases and other issues requiring global response. I want to assure our fellow African nations that Nigeria will now stand as a more constructive partner in advancing the matters of concern to our continent, particularly with regard to economic development and eradication of poverty.
“Former heads of state and presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan and Gen.Abdulsalami Abubakar, deserve commendations for their statesmanship and words of caution and counsel for peace during the tense moments of this electoral period.”
Earlier, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, in his capacity as the Chief Returning Officer for the presidential election, had declared Buhari the winner of the poll at 2.50am and 3am on Wednesday.
Buhari polled 15,424,921 votes to beat Jonathan, who received 12,853,162 votes in the election in which 12 other candidates participated.
Buhari won in 21 states and received 25 per cent of the total votes cast in 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Jonathan, who won in 15 states and the FCT and received 25 per cent of the votes in 25 states of the federation and the FCT.
Jega, who revealed that over 700,000 ad hoc staff were deployed for the March 28 and forthcoming April 11 polls, said there was the need to keep reforming and improving the nation’s electoral process.
He thereafter presented certificates of return to Buhari and Vice-President-elect, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and commended Nigerians for supporting INEC in the conduct of the polls.
I’m not surprised I won – Buhari
On Wednesday evening, Buhari told Cable News Network’s anchor, Christiane Amanpour, that he was not surprised that he defeated Jonathan at the polls.
He explained that the successful merger of the APC in 2013 signalled the beginning of the end of Jonathan’s administration.
The President-elect said, “I am not surprised because of how we came into the merger. The main opposition parties in Nigeria decided to come together to face the ruling party. That means we had an additional spread and politicians across the length and breadth of the country so I was not surprised.”
Buhari said immediately after his inauguration on May 29, he would begin a process of national reconciliation, especially in the violence-prone areas of the Niger-Delta and the North-East.
He said, “The actual division that is worth bothering about in terms of social instability and insecurity are in the North-East and the in the Niger-Delta which I think have been with this country long enough that we know how they started and what stage they are in now and we are confident that we will rapidly give attention to the insecurity in the country and I believe that we will deal with them within a few months in office.”
The former Head of State said the issue of insecurity would have been curbed long ago if the Jonathan administration had formed a regional alliance with Cameroon, Chad and Niger four years ago.
He said he would increase the tempo of the war against insurgency which, according to him, the President started getting right in January this year.
Buhari said, “If you recall, the Nigerian soldiers, out of all ethical expectations were giving interviews to foreign journalists that they were being sent to face the terrorists and were not doing well because of the lack of weapons, poor training and leadership.
“And the National Assembly attempted to conduct a hearing by finding out how much was approved by the National Assembly for budgetary allocation for weapons and training in the last four years and they wanted to invite the service chiefs and the chief of defence staff but the administration scuttled the hearing so the performance of the military is being affected by corruption in the system.”
Descibing himself as a converted democrat, he denied engaging in extrajudicial killings during his military administration.
When asked how he would cushion the effect of the drop in global oil price, the president-elect said he would revive the agricultural and mining sectors and block all holes through which public funds are siphoned.
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