President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday assured Nigerians that he will ensure a level playing field for all contestants into political offices in the general elections in 2019.
He said this while receiving a delegation from the International Republican and National Democratic Institute, United States of America, at the State House in Abuja.
“I am glad you are here to assess our pre-election preparations,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his media aide, Femi Adesina.
“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.”
The President added, “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.”
President Buhari informed the 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.
He stressed that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would keep faith with its priorities of securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption.
The President noted that he was happy that the opposition has not been able to successfully fault the focal areas of the government.
He said, “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.”
The President further explained why he decided not to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
He cited the situation where Russians were accused of tampering with American election, saying the amendments to the act would be effected in subsequent elections.
“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,” President Buhari said.
“We will remain conventional and use electronic transmission in subsequent elections.”
The leader of the American delegation, Ambassador Linda-Thomas Greenfield, told the President that they had met with the media, civil society, and political parties.
According to her, 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 Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the non-signing of the electoral bill.