Again, Buhari Promises Free, Fair Polls in 2023

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Muhammadu Buhari

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday night in Abuja said having benefitted from the conduct of a free and fair election, he would also ensure that his successor also enjoys the same benefit in 2023.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said Buhari made the promise while hosting members of his 2019 presidential election petitions’ legal team led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) to a dinner.

According to the statement, Buhari reasoned that the turnout of Nigerians during his presidential campaigns in the 36 states of the federation last year, convinced him that his declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the February 23 presidential poll was genuine and not fabricated.

‘‘The number of people that turned out in every state across the country was more than anybody can buy or force.

‘‘This gave me so much confidence and the election proved that with the votes I got.

‘‘That is why I insist that elections must be free and fair because I am a clear successor to a free and fair election,’’ he was quoted as saying.

Shehu said Buhari also told the team that he was looking forward to a peaceful hand over in 2023 and was morally obliged to fulfil his desire.

‘‘Morally, I want to have a clear conscience. I

 swore by the Holy Book that I will abide by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

‘‘I will continue to do my best and I hope that by 2023, I can handover quietly to whoever succeeds me and I wish him the best of luck,’’ he said.

Buhari also commended the legal team for what he described as its outstanding legal successes in the pursuit of the presidential election petition.

According to him, the team showcased its deep understanding of the law, commending it for effective legal strategy which he said was deployed to prosecute the election petition.

‘‘You creditably demonstrated a deep understanding of the law and its practices and I am indeed proud of you all.

‘‘I am confident that by securing a convincing and unanimous legal victory at the Supreme Court you have by so doing ensured that the political mandate of the Nigerian electorate is now firmly secured,’’ Buhari said.

Olanipekun, in his remarks on behalf of the team, said the legal victory was won on the basis of pure law, saying Buhari did not use his position or office to influence court decisions.

“The courts were allowed to do their job, Mr. President and I must commend you for that Sir. Nobody whispered to anyone of us, how we are going to see Judge A or Judge B.

“That’s the way it should be. Judges must be allowed and be given free hand to do their job. Mr. President, we are happy to have been called upon and we are happy that we delivered,” he was quoted to have said.

The statement said Olanipekun also spoke on electoral reforms, submitting that even though the National Assembly was already working on the Electoral Act, the Act still requires some ‘‘rejigging and cleansing,” adding: “We are happy to know that the National Assembly is doing something about the Electoral Law.

‘‘We are ready to cooperate with them without taking a dime, whether as consultants, whether as legal practitioners, whether as experts. If the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) will co-opt us, we are ready to give assistance,’’ he said.