By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend in Beijing, the Chinese capital, said he was not afraid of free and fair elections in 2019 because he himself was a beneficiary of credible polls in 2015.
He told the Nigerian community in China that he was committed to making sure that the 2019 polls, under his watch, would be credible, adding that Nigerians eligible to vote in the next general election would be allowed to freely elect candidates of their choice.
‘‘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…
‘‘Those interested in participating in the elections must get their PVCs and register in their constituencies and elect anybody of their choice across ethnicity and religion. The Nigerian police, law enforcement agencies and INEC must respect the wishes of the people,’’ he said.
A statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the president, while citing recent elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi States, said the country had made progress relative to elections conducted in the past years.
According to him, the president reaffirmed that his government had succeeded in curtailing Boko Haram insurgents in the country, claiming that the terrorist group no longer controls any part of the country.
He said the president attributed 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 quoted him to have said.
On herders and farmers clashes in Nigeria, the statement said Buhari told Nigerians in the Diaspora that while security agencies were doing their best to curtail the clashes, the Nigerian media needed to complement the efforts through objective and informed reportage.
The statement also said Buhari expressed his disappointment in the Nigerian media, accusing them of failing to study the historical antecedents creating misunderstanding between herders and farmers.
‘‘To my disappointment, the members of the press in Nigeria do not make enough efforts to study the historical antecedents of issues that are creating national problems for us,’’ he said.
The statement added: “According to the president, due to the effects of climate change, a farm that used to belong to five people now belongs to 50 people, the weather condition; particularly the rainy season is now unpredictable.
“The president partly blamed the farmer’s/herders’ controversy on the shrinking of the Lake Chad, which has forced many cattle nomads to seek greener pastures for their herds in other parts of the country.”
On Nigeria-China relations, he said 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.
Noting that Nigeria and China were negotiating on the Mambilla project, the statement said Buhari also 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 was quoted to have said.
Acknowledging the material and intellectual support of Nigerians in the Diaspora to the development of the country, the president promised that his administration would remain focused and committed in providing the needed infrastructure and doing the needful for Nigeria’s prosperity.
The statement added: “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 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 authority.
“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 Buhari also met with the executives of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), during which he lauded the construction group for their immense contributions to infrastructure development in Nigeria.”