Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja promised to provide a level-playing field for all candidates vying for political offices in next year’s general election.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari gave the assurance while receiving a delegation of the International Republican and National Democratic Institute of United States of America in the State House.
He quoted him as saying, “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.”
Adesina said Buhari also assured the visitors that he had told the heads of the security agencies not to be partisan, but rather to do their work professionally, and allow the will of the people to prevail.
He also said the president promised that the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) would keep faith with its priorities of securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption.
The statement also said the president stated that he was happy that the opposition had not been able to successfully fault the focal areas of his 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,’’ Buhari was further quoted.
On the Electoral Bill which he failed to sign, Adesina quoted the president as saying, “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.”
The statement added that the leader of the American delegation, Ambassador Linda-Thomas Greenfield, said they had met with the media, civil society, and political parties, and concerns expressed included fear 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.