President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Abuja advised those planning to rig the 2023 general elections to perish the thought, vowing to use every legitimate means to protect the votes of Nigerians.
‘‘Those planning to rig the forthcoming elections should think twice because I intend to resolutely protect and defend the sacred will of the Nigerian people, to be expressed through the ballot box,’’ the President declared at an Iftar dinner with members of the Diplomatic Corps.
President Buhari also cautioned against foreign interference in the forthcoming elections.
‘‘As you are all aware, the tenure of this Administration ends on 29th May, 2023. Typical of election years all over the world, the tempo of political activities is often high.
‘‘That is the nature of democracy. I am committed to bequeathing a stronger culture of credible elections to Nigeria than I met.
‘‘As Nigeria goes through this trajectory, I urge our friends in the global community, represented by you the Diplomatic Corps, to adopt a positive role that reinforces the doctrine of respect for our internal affairs and respect for facts and devoid of pre-conceived notions and bias,’’ he said.
Addressing the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Nigerian leader called for greater consideration for humanitarian conditions in the affected areas in the ongoing crisis, warning that the conflict will get worse, if an immediate resolution is not found.
‘‘The war has lasted too long, cost so much and hurt too many people, well beyond the immediate theatres.
‘‘The rest of the world is progressively facing the impact of the conflict and this will certainly get worse, if an immediate resolution is not found, not least in the area of food security.
President Buhari welcomed the recent initiative of UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres, of visiting Moscow and Kyiv, commending his efforts in search of a ceasefire, as a prelude to other enduring solutions.
‘‘The United Nations must continue to actively lead the way for engagements that could ultimately unlock peace through diplomacy,’’ he said.
The President urged the world, especially the Muslim community, to use the solemn and rewarding month of Ramadan, and especially these last days of the fast, to intensify prayers for de-escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and for the return of peace to the world.
President Buhari also used the occasion to apprise members of the international community on some of the critical issues that are currently on the front burner of this Administration’s agenda and spirited efforts in handling them.
‘‘We continue to make steady progress on the daunting tasks of combating insecurity; fighting corruption; diversifying the economy; promoting good governance; and containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘Despite the many challenges we faced, and continue to face, we have instituted measures to plug leakages, improve the economy and enhance the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
‘‘These include: Renewal of vital infrastructure, including rail and roads; Implementation of the N2.3 trillion Economic Sustainability Plan to create jobs and provide support to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises; and Launch of the National Development Plan (2021-2025) to spur economic growth, leverage science, technology and innovation.
‘‘Other measures include: Establishment of the Office of the Senior Special Adviser to the President on SDGs with the responsibility for ensuring coherence between development policies, plans and strategies;
‘‘Launch, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, of the Nigeria Sustainable Development Goals Implementation Plan (2020-2030), to prioritise and mainstream the SDGs into their medium and long-term development policies and plans.’’
On COVID-19, the President, who restated Nigeria’s demand for vaccine equity and waiver of patents for manufacturing vaccines and approved drugs to treat the highly infectious disease, said the country would continue to expand its capacities for managing the pandemic.
On regional security, the President told the diplomats that the impact of the Libyan crisis on the countries in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, West and Central Africa is still enormous and catastrophic.
He expressed concern on the free circulation of small and light arms in these regions, made worse by the uncontrolled expulsion of foreign fighters from Libya without adequate consultations with the countries of the region.
‘‘The world needs to work together to combat these common challenges and I call on all your respective countries to reflect on this and collaborate with countries in these regions to combat this consequential spread of violence.’’
On the fight against Boko Haram, the President said: ‘‘As you know well, Nigeria has made significant progress in combating the Boko Haram group in the North East.
‘‘We are, however, recently confronted with new tactics deployed by the enemy to threaten our democratic values, as well as the common peace and freedom we enjoy in this country.’’
Commending Nigeria’s defence and security service men and women for their recent successes in routing the terrorists, the President said he was confident that the security situation would soon be brought under control.
He also acknowledged the support of Nigeria’s friends and partners in the global community, particularly the European Union and the United States ‘‘for their understanding, support and agreement to allow us to procure vital equipment and resources to successfully propagate this war.’’
The President added that ‘‘this cooperation and collaboration need to be intensified in spite of other major challenges confronting the international community.’’
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and High Commissioner of Cameroon to Nigeria, Amb. Ibrahima Salaheddine, pledged that the international community would continue to support Nigeria before, during and after the forthcoming general elections.
‘‘As Nigeria enters another electoral year, we pray almighty Allah to put the electoral process under divine guidance for peaceful, free and fair elections,’’ he said.
Amb. Salaheddine, who described this year’s Iftah as special, noted that due to COVID-19 the tradition of meeting the President for the breaking of fast did not hold for two years.
He, therefore, congratulated the Nigerian government for curtailing the spread of the pandemic, saying the ‘‘enlightened leadership’’ of President Buhari has largely brought its spread in Nigeria under control.
▪︎ By Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity)