By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA — President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) yesterday, reassured Nigerians that the incoming government of All Progressives Congress, APC, will not fail them.
Buhari, who hosted a delegation from Taraba State, also said by the end of his tenure in 2019, Nigerians would be confident of a society where elections would be free, fair and credible.
Buhari’s assurance was sequel to lamentations from the governorship candidate of APC in Taraba State, Senator Aisha Alhassan, who led the Taraba delegation told Buhari that she was robbed of victory at the last gubernatorial election in the state.
Alhassan’s story, however, took Buhari down memory lane as he encouraged the candidate, who had earlier informed him of her journey to the courts to challenge the outcome of the election in court.He recalled that he was in courts for several years over electoral frauds to fight for his rights.
My many election journeys
He said: “It is a battle well fought and I am very pleased that you have taken the honourable way out. According to the Nigerian constitution, you may go to court. I was there three times and ended up in the Supreme Court.
“Sometimes, people wonder why I tried so hard. I tried so hard because it is a system I believe in. I believe that multi party democratic system is the best form of governance with a big caveat that election must be free and fair.
“Really, this is why I am in it. I was in APP, I joined partisan politics in April 2002 and on that date, at my ward, those who knew me, and have been following my career antecedent in the military, would not believe it that I will participate in partisan politics and I will not also believe it. But I found myself in it and I never turned back.
“Within one year, APP gave me the ticket. There were governors, senators and much older people than me, but all the same, I got the ticket. I lost, I was in court for 30 months. In 2007, we tried to have a limited merger and became ANPP and again, I participated and was told I lost.
“I went to court for 20 months up to the Supreme Court and I felt that my party was not fair to me. While I was in court, the leadership of the party proceeded and took two marginal ministries in late Yar’Adua’s cabinet and an Adviser. For that disgraceful behaviour by the party leadership, I left the party and we floated the CPC.
“Again, I attempted in 2011 and lost and again and I was in court for about eight months. I contested now for the fourth time under APC having successfully gone through with the merger of the three legacy parties.
“So, Aisha, don’t give up. You are younger and this is your first attempt. I contested three times and this is my fourth attempt. I hope that you succeed in court. I am impressed by the quality of Taraba people you brought here.”
2015 elections, a landmark
The President-elect also said the advent of the technology of card reader and the will of the Nigerians have redefined the electoral system in Nigerian.
He said: “I think that 2015 will go down in Nigeria political history as a glorious year. Nigerians have deliberately understood what is multi party democracy. But we thank God for technology, PVC and card reader and the insistence of constituencies to make sure they are used.
“However, in two political zones where they were subverted, the people wanted to vote, but they were not allowed to vote and they continued with what they used to do in their party offices or their sitting rooms, where they would write the results, go to radio house and television house and announce the result and say whoever does not accept the result should go to court.
“How many people can go to court when they are struggling to get the next day’s meal? Where will they get the millions to give to those Senior Advocates of Nigeria. I was able to do it because of the goodwill of Nigeria which again demonstrated itself this year.
“People agreed that I am not a very rich man, but I was lucky that Nigerians believe in me and they put their strength together, voted and made sure that their votes count. I say thanks to the technology. Please continue to support those among you that you feel will go and work for your state and for the country. I assure you that the government of the APC, when eventually put in place, will be a competent Nigerian government.
“We will never betray the people because they have risked everything. Some even lost their lives in this course to make sure that APC succeed and that we have a leadership in place that they can trust and that is what multi party democracy is all about.”
How I became born-again democrat
Buhari also gave an insight into his conviction to become a democrat, saying: “I will tell you what made me a multi party democrat. In 1991, after coming out of detention, I was sitting at home and the Soviet Union collapsed. They were the world power fighting the western world. They had more sophisticated weapons, but something happened.
“There was confusion and everybody went away. Today, there are 18 countries from the former Soviet Union. That was when I believed that multi party democratic system is a superior form of governance and that is why I joined democracy.
“We have made a big stride this year and I assure you, God willing, if we survive the next four years, Nigerians will be in a position to confidently raise their head and elect their representatives and leaders.
“They will choose those they want as their representatives from local government, states and to the centre. I will fight for free, fair and credible election because that is why I remain in politics. I thank you very much for the sacrifices you have made to make sure we succeeded.”
I’ll obey traffic regulations as president — Buhari
Meanwhile, to underscore his inclination to the rule of law, Buhari has directed security personnel attached to his convoy to always heed traffic regulations and stop at red lights at traffic points.
“Without leadership by example, the ordinary citizens would become copycats of the lawlessness of their leaders,” Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his media office last night.
The President-elect, who currently stops at every traffic light, promised to continue with the tradition as president as a way of demystifying the arrogance in power.
Buhari was further quoted as saying that the “arrogance of power, lawlessness and disregard for the rights and convenience of fellow citizens would have no place in his government.”
The statement quoted Buhari as saying that for leaders to inspire respect, they must obey the laws of the country, adding that when leaders treat the country’s laws with contempt, they send the wrong message to the citizens.
Buhari lamented a situation where fellow citizens are punished at traffic points and public roads because of the “arrogant lawlessness of the leaders.”
Anyaoku to Buhari: Expectations of Nigerians are high
In a related development, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, yesterday, told Buhari that the expectations of Nigerians from the incoming government were high, urging him not to fail the people.
The expectations, Anyaoku said, were hinged on the campaign promises of the president-elect.
Speaking to journalists during his congratulatory visit to Buhari at the Defence House in Abuja, Anyaoku also extolled the virtues of the incoming president, saying he is a disciplined man who is averse to corruption.
He said: “I had useful discussions with President-elect, congratulated him on his victory and told him he’s coming in as president on a very high wave of expectations throughout the country. I also told him that the high expectations are based on the promises he made during his campaign to the people but more importantly on the general perception of his character.
“He is perceived as a man with very strong sense of discipline, a man who is truly averse to corruption, a man whose lifestyle has been frugal not ostentatious or opulent and above all a man who is very committed to the welfare of the masses. I believe that if his administration reflects these qualities that the country’s challenges and problems would be effectively tackled.”
Asked by journalists to offer a diplomatic advice to the incoming government with regards to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Anyaoku said the president-elect should continue to work with the South Africa president.
He advised Nigerians living in South Africa to be law-abiding in their host country.
He said: “I think that Nigeria’s relations with the world at the moment is quite good. We have had a tiff with the South African situation but not with the South African government. I think the xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa has been condemned by the South African government.
“I believe that the way President Jonathan has handled the issue has been very good. So I would suggest that the incoming president will continue the personal relationship with the President of South Africa so that when incidents like that occur, the two governments will have a dialogue.”
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