President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday that his desire is to ensure innocent Nigerians, regardless of party affiliation, do not suffer.
To achieve this, Buhari said it is his sole wish to entrench a political culture based on integrity and accountability.
The president stated this when Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State led his deputy, Philip Shuaibu and other party supporters to the presidential villa on a thank-you visit following last Saturday’s governorship election in the state.
The president said, “I thank you for bringing your deputy and supporters to come and see me after beating my party. I am supposed to preside over all Nigerian interests whether I like it or not, but my single desire is to make sure that innocent people don’t suffer. That message I got across to the Inspector General of Police, that elections must be free and fair.”
“If contestants have too much money and they decide to spray, so be it. But what I insist is, nobody should go and raise a counter force to the government, arm heavily-drugged thugs to go and humiliate people.”
“I want Nigerians to appreciate that I respect them as Nigerians and that I am bound by the oath I have taken, that their security is in the hands of God and in the hands of the government, which I am leading.”
A statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, further quoted President Buhari as saying as the leader of the governing party, and despite the fact that the party had lost some states in elections, he wishes to leave behind a political culture based on integrity.
Buhari said, “We have lost states across the country. Now I do not like to escape the responsibility, seeing as the leader of the country, I am also the leader of my party, that I am not leading the party very well.
“I am trying to make sure that the party is built on a civilised basis, rule of law and respect for human rights and human beings, right from polling units to local governments, to states up to Abuja and that’s what I have been insisting as my contribution to the National Working Committee and executive of the party.
“I know we are a developing country, a developing economy and trying to develop our political culture. I want the development of political culture to be based on integrity and accountability. Let people work very hard and earn what they are looking for through their hard work and through fair competition”.
He added jocularly that he was congratulating the Edo governor “reluctantly” because he defeated the candidate of his party, the All Progressives Congress.
In his remarks, Governor Obaseki thanked the president for ensuring that fair play reigned during the election which saw him emerge victorious.
The governor said, “You would recall a couple of weeks before the election, I came to see you and you assured me that we were going to have a free, peaceful and credible election.
“That is what we had during the election of 19th September and the whole world has acclaimed that the Edo election was perhaps one of the best conducted in recent times in Nigeria. This could not have been possible without your insistence that the right things be done, and for that, we want to say thank you very much.”
He also thanked the president for his congratulatory message, assuring him that the message “has been internalised, that it is God that made this election possible, therefore I should be humble about the election and also magnanimous in victory.”
He pledged his unalloyed loyalty and support and that of the people of Edo State to the President and the federal government.
But Obaseki dismissed insinuations that he was planning to return to APC, stressing that it would be immoral to do so.
Obaseki said this while speaking with State House correspondents shortly after he led his deputy, Shuaibu and other party supporters to thank President Buhari for ensuring that last Saturday’s election was transparent.
The governor dumped the APC for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following his disqualification from the party’s gubernatorial primaries.
But while fielding questions from journalists, Obaseki said he will lose his integrity if he returns to the APC.
He said, “To answer to your question, gleaning from the comments of Mr President, he said that he wants to leave a democracy that is built on integrity, accountability and hard work.
“Those were his words and I subscribe totally to that. It will not show integrity; it will not demonstrate somebody that has ethical or moral foundation to do what you asked about. I couldn’t have contested on a party, won on that party and then considered moving to another party. It is not the kind of thing to do; it’s not the right thing to do and I am sure you will not encourage me to do that”.
The governor also said he will not attempt to replace former APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as the new godfather of Edo politics.
He noted, “In the case of godfathers in our politics, I have said in several fora that the whole concept of godfatherism is very dangerous to our democracy.
“And that is why when we came into the political fray 2006/2007, the mantra then was to get rid of godfathers from our political life. The reason is simple: the godfather has no constitutional responsibility; the godfather acts outside the constitution and controls people who are constitutional players.
“So, if we allow that sort of situation to continue, it will be worse than military rule. When people who have nothing at stake, no checks and balances just arbitrarily decide that this is the way the constitution should be interpreted or constitutional players should operate, that’s why problems come in. God forbid I become a godfather, I should be dealt with accordingly because it’s dangerous to the concept of democracy”.
Obaseki explained that his visit to the president was to express gratitude for ensuring the poll was credible and transparent.
He added that the president’s insistence on ensuring the right thing is done during the election has deepened the nation’s democracy.
He said, “This morning we were privileged to meet with the President, essentially to express the gratitude of Edo People, myself and my deputy for the role for the conduct of gubernatorial elections in Edo State. He insisted that Nigeria should have proper elections, credible elections, free and fair elections and that is what happened.
“So, this morning we are here in the villa to show our profound gratitude and appreciation for this, which on the surface will look normal but the implications are very far reaching.
“This is a sitting president whose party was contesting an election and insisted that the right thing be done and a level playing field be created for contestants. By doing so, that singular action has deepened our democracy far beyond what we can understand and imagine today.
“So, for that act alone, we felt we must come and say ‘thank you’. I am not just coming alone with my deputy; we came to say thank you with the representatives of Edo people – our senators, members of the House of Representatives, our senior citizens and party leaders. Mr President, in his characteristic humorous manner, said he reluctantly congratulated me for beating his party.
“He also pointed that his role first and foremost as president of Nigeria is to be president of all regardless of your party, race, tribe and creed. We couldn’t ask for more from Mr President. He really played the role of statesman”.