Nigeria: As Nigeria Goes to Poll Saturday, Buhari Disowns Threats to Foreign Observers

President Muhammadu Buhari.
15 February 2019

Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja, dissociated his government from threats of death and intimidation against international observers from some individuals in the country, saying such acts did not represent the position of the federal government.

Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, had recently threatened that international observers who dared to interfere in Nigeria's elections would return to their countries in body bags.

In the same vein, the spokesman of the president's campaign organisation, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, and presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, had persistently warned and threatened foreign countries not to intervene in the conduct of the elections.

Such remarks had generated reactions from both the international community and many Nigerians.

Consequently, Buhari promised to ensure the safety of foreign observers during the elections and restated his promise to ensure that this general election beginning tomorrow would be free, fair and peaceful, recalling how he had himself been a beneficiary of free polls by the former administration.

Buhari, who gave those assurances in a nationwide broadcast last night ahead of tomorrow's presidential election, appealed to Nigerians to turn out very well during the elections and cast their votes.

He recalled how he had signed the peace accord with other presidential candidates and assured stakeholders that he would guarantee the conduct of the polls in a peaceful atmosphere.

He urged citizens to be part of the commitment to peaceful conduct of the polls and admonished the youth not to allow themselves to be used to perpetrate election violence, saying those who may want to use them for such heinous act only want to discredit the elections because of their fear of losing.

Reiterating that citizens have the responsibility to promote peace in their neighborhoods during the polls, Buhari reasoned that this election period is not the time to allow their participation to be driven by ethnic, religious and sectional sentiments.

He said: "And as your president and a fellow Nigerian, I ask that you come out and queue to fulfill this important obligation you have to yourselves and your fellow citizens - and to our common future.

"Let me at this point; reaffirm the commitment of the federal government to the conduct of free and fair elections in a safe and peaceful atmosphere. Just yesterday, I signed the Peace Accord alongside 72 other presidential candidates.

"I want to assure all Nigerians, the diplomatic community and all foreign election observers of their safety and full protection. Any comments or threats of intimidation from any source do not represent the position of the Federal Government of Nigeria."

The president, who used the broadcast to appeal to the consciousness of Nigerians to re-elect him, reeled out what he termed the achievements of his administration and tasked Nigerians to evaluate such achievements.

He also charged them to interrogate themselves if another government could perform better if allowed to upstage his administration.

According to him, if the dream of another set of leaders is merely to do what his government had so far done, he should then be given the preference at the polls, as he advised the electorate to think very deeply, insinuating that tomorrow's presidential election is all about the choices of the electorate and not about the ruling party or the opposition.

He also said he remained committed to his election promises and would remain focused on improving the lives of citizens even as he highlighted some of the achievements he said he made in the last three years plus.

PDP: Speech is Subtle Campaign of Falsehood

In a reaction to the president's broadcast, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described Buhari's speech as a last gasp of a drowning administration, laced with fabrications and false performances claims

The main opposition party said Buhari should note that he has come to the end of the road and that Nigerians are no longer with him.

In a statement Thursday by the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, he said it was rather too late in the day for Buhari to redeem himself. He added that Nigerians have moved ahead with its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and are no longer ready to listen to his list of false promises and a long claim of non-existent achievements.

Ologbondiyan added, "It is ludicrous that at a time President Buhari should be remorseful and apologise for his failures that led to the biting economic hardship, hunger, job losses, and killings and escalated bloodletting in our country, under his watch, he chose to engage in a last minute attempt to sway Nigerians with falsehood.

"Nigerians watched a President Buhari, who, having seen the handwriting on the wall struggled with false economic growth figures and sought to blackmail the people with claims of non-existent food security and false assurances of safety in a nation heavily plagued by unemployment, loss of jobs, poverty as well as escalated insurgency.

Also reacting to Buhari's broadcast, a spokesman of the Presidential Campaign Council, Akin Osuntokun, said the president has lost all sense of political propriety.

He added that the broadcast was a misuse of the platform for shopworn campaign address.

Osuntokun noted that Buhari never saw anything wrong in inviting foreign nationals to invade the country and help mobilise against his fellow nationals. According to the statement, "Typical Buhari and APC. When the Nigerian public was advised to tune in to a national broadcast by the president, the country was expecting a presidential broadcast not a misuse of the platform for shopworn campaign address by the presidential candidate of the APC.

"But then what do you expect from a president who appears to have lost all sense of political propriety.

"Remember, he saw nothing wrong in inviting foreign nationals to invade the country and help mobilise against his fellow nationals. All the broadcast stations that were deceitfully made to believe they were hooking up to a non-partisan address should immediately proceed to charge the APC presidential candidate for the airtime they expended. "In the alternative, we are demanding a commensurate gratis exposure for our candidate, President in waiting Atiku Abubakar," he said.

Clinton Calls, Apologises for Cancelling Visit

Meanwhile, former United States president, Bill Clinton, on Wednesday night made a telephone call to Buhari, apologising for his inability to visit Nigeria on Wednesday as earlier scheduled.

Clinton had been scheduled to visit Nigeria and witness the signing of peace accord by presidential candidates in Abuja on Wednesday, but ended up cancelling the planned trip, saying it could be misconstrued.

He was also expected to meet with Buhari and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, ahead of tomorrow's presidential poll.

But Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said Buhari, during Clinton's telephone call, thanked the former US president, describing him as a friend of the country and commended him for what he described as his constant support for the peace, stability and progress of Nigeria under a democratic dispensation.

"President Buhari also assured him of his commitment to free, fair and credible elections in the weeks ahead.

"President Clinton, who regretted his inability to visit the country to witness the signing of the final peace accord before the general elections, wished Nigeria well as her citizens go to the polls," the statement added.

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