Ahead of the 2019 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari has again given assurance that his government will do all that is necessary to ensure that the outcome of the vote reflects the will of the Nigerian people.
He made the statement yesterday when he welcomed the Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria, Dr Jyrki Juhani Pulkkinen, who had come to present his Letter of Credence to Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja.
This is even as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday said Nigerians would not be deceived again in the 2019 general elections as was the case in 2015 when they voted for the change mantra of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In a statement made available to journalists by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, President Buhari said he understands the yearnings of Nigerians and strongly believes in the collective dream for a greater country.
He assured the people that all will be done to ensure that the results of the 2019 elections reflect the will of the electorate.
President Buhari said it was the right of Nigerians to elect leaders at various levels in 2019, and all efforts will be made to safeguard the integrity of the process.
"I respect the people's feelings. I assure all that we will have free and fair elections next year", he stated.
The president further congratulated Finland on its 101st independence anniversary, which was yesterday (December 6, 2018) and commended the growing relations with Nigeria, especially in areas of Information Communication Technology (ICT), trade and education.
In his remarks, the ambassador of Finland said the areas of mutual benefit in relations with Nigeria can be extended to electricity, smart technology and crises management initiatives, pointing out that he would work hard to improve the trade figures and other exchanges between the two countries.
"We will like to contribute to Africa rising, and we know that Nigeria is the biggest country on the continent, so we are very interested in the growth of Nigeria," he said.
At the level of the United Nations, Dr Pulkkinen said his country would continue to support the restructuring of the multilateral institution to give greater roles to African countries like Nigeria.
President Buhari, who also received a Letter of Credence from the Ambassador of France, Mr Jerome Pasquier, said French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to Nigeria's capital, Abuja, and the stopover in Lagos, was really impressive in bolstering both countries' relations.
The president said he was impressed with relations between France and its former colonies in Africa, noting that France continues to play positive roles in promoting security and economic growth in the countries.
"France is investing so much in Nigeria and we are grateful", he added.
President Buhari, however, called for more support in the fight against terrorism as the networks keep expanding with fighters moving across borders to support insurgents.
In his response, the French ambassador said President Macron would continue to support Nigeria, especially in the ongoing war against terrorism, with specific interest in the gathering and sharing of intelligence.
He commended the president for Nigeria's role in resolving the crisis in Togo and Guinea Bissau.
President Buhari equally received the Letter of Credence from the Ambassador of Czech Republic, Mr Marek Skolil, assuring him of improved economic relations in the area solid minerals exploration.
On his part, Mr Skolil said his country will continue to support Nigeria's military in the fight against terrorism in the North East.
"Nigeria is a very important country for us. We look forward to stronger ties, particularly with the armed forces," he added.
Nigerians Won't Be Deceived Again - Atiku
Meanwhile, the PDP flag bearer in next year's presidential election, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, yesterday urged Nigerians not to be deceived again in the 2019 general elections as was the case in 2015 when they voted for the change mantra of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Atiku made this call in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital and political headquarters of the South West, where party leaders and members had gathered for the zonal presidential campaign rally.
He said, "In 2015, some people came to deceive us and we gave them the opportunity. They promised to create jobs but we have lost 12 million jobs.
"Since they came to power, the country has lost prosperity and it has become the headquarters of poverty in the world."
Atiku remarked that with the inception of democracy in 1999, the zone witnessed prosperity, peace and educational advancement during the PDP era, adding that if he is elected president next year, the zone will experience prosperity once again.
"I promise that we shall return your prosperity. Everybody knows that if given the opportunity, I will assemble the best hands so that we return the country to prosperity," he said, adding that as South West is known for its educational stride, his administration would continue to invest in education.
Atiku disclosed that one of his policies was the sharing formula of the country's resources, vowing that within six months of his assuming office, the country would be restructured.
"I am not a stranger in Yoruba land, neither am I a stranger in South West. Return PDP to power in the next election. If you give me your support, I will not disappoint the people of the zone", he added.
While calling on the people to get their Permanent Voter's Cards (PVCs), Atiku said, "Buhari must go".
Also speaking, Atiku's running mate and former Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi, noted that President Muhammadu Buhari did not go to school and urged the people of the zone to cast their votes for Atiku and PDP in the February presidential election.
On his part, the PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, called on the people of the zone to reject President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC at the poll, but they should instead troop out enmasse to cast their votes for the PDP and its presidential candidate, Abubakar Atiku.
"You should vote, protect your votes and you must not allow INEC and security agencies to manipulate your votes," he said.
Secondus added that it was unfortunate that President Buhari was not aware that there is hunger and poverty in the land.
The PDP chairman further described the ruling APC as the most corrupt party in the history of the country, even as he demanded the whereabouts of $25 billion and $8 billion which allegedly disappeared from government coffers.
He described Atiku as a man who meant well for Nigeria, "who, if elected in 2019, will rescue Nigeria from hunger, poverty and insecurity".
Catholic Bishops Ban Priests From Active Politics
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has banned Catholic priests and other ordained faithful from taking party in partisan politics.
The secretary general, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, announced the Catholic Bishops' order in Abuja yesterday during a press briefing.
He frowned at the altercation between Rev Fr Ejike Mbaka and Mr Peter Obi, the vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), at Mbaka's adoration ground in Enugu, on the issue of patronage in respect of the forthcoming general elections.
According to Fr Madu, the bishops condemn in totality the shameful scenario on an adoration ground, as contained in video recording that has gone viral on social media, that the reported incident does not have the support of the Bishops Conference of Nigeria.
He said: "As has always been our stand, the Catholic Church in Nigeria, as clearly stated in its August 7, 2018 directives, remains apolitical and does not support or subscribe to any political party.
"Our concern is for a peaceful election process seen to be free, fair, credible and just, and a democratic governance that guarantees peace, justice, equity, among others.
"On behalf of the Conference, we wish to reiterate their obligation, as teachers of faith and morals, to educate the faithful on their role in the political life of the country, mindful of the present charged political atmosphere of Nigeria.
"With the ongoing campaigns of political parties gathering momentum, we deem it necessary to again remind all priests and religious to keep to the position of the church on the issue of nonpartisan politics."
Ralph further stated that while the bishops are sure that Enugu Diocese where Fr. Mbaka is incardinated is taking the appropriate measures on this reported incident, the bishops wish to categorically reiterate that no Catholic priest or people of consecrated life should be actively involved in partisan politics in obedience on the Canon Law of the Catholic Church.
"Also, liturgical ceremonies must never be used as an occasion for political campaigns. The country is presently going through difficult times and we therefore call on all the faithful to continue to pray for spiritual intervention in the life of our country.
"We also enjoin the lay faithful to play their roles in the forthcoming elections premised on good conscience, play their roles at the election without prejudice or inducement and ensure that their votes count and the right people are voted into power for the common good," he said.