President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to give the opposition opportunities in the coming elections, the type he himself was never accorded on the four occasions he had run for the presidency.
The president made the pledge when a delegation from International Republican and National Democratic Institutes, United States of America visited him yesterday.
The presidential election is due to hold on February 16 with about 74 candidates billed to participate. But the main contest is expected to be between President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).
President Buhari told the visitors: “I am glad you are here to assess our pre-election preparations. It reminds me of the visit by the then Secretary of State, John Kerry, before the 2015 polls. We appreciate the concern of America for stability in developing countries.
“Having run for president three times, ending up at the Supreme Court all three times, before God and technology made a way for me the fourth time, I know what it is to be cheated at the polls.
“What they used to do was just to award votes, and tell anyone who was dissatisfied to go to court. But we won’t do that. I am prepared to give the opposition the opportunities I was not given in the past,” he said in a statement released by his spokesperson, Femi Adesina after the visit.
He assured the visitors that he had told the heads of the security agencies not to be partisan, but to do their work professionally, and allow the will of the people to prevail.
He stressed that the governing party would keep faith with its priorities of securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption.
The President said he was happy that the opposition had not been able to successfully fault the focal areas of the government.
“We have done fairly well in the areas we focused on. We know how many local government areas in the North-east were under Boko Haram occupation before we came.
“That does not happen again, save for cowardly attacks, using young girls as suicide bombers. Other areas of security challenge like farmers/herdsmen clashes are receiving attention, and would be sorted out as much as possible,” he said.
On the Electoral Bill that was not assented to, the President said it was because time was against the country.
“Time is against us. We are extremely vulnerable, and need to be careful that messages are not hijacked and figures tampered with, while being transmitted electronically. Even the Russians were accused of tampering with American election, so we will remain conventional, and use electronic transmission in subsequent elections,” he said.
Leader of the American delegation, Ambassador Linda-Thomas Greenfield, said they had met the media, civil society, and political parties, and concerns expressed include fears of security agencies being partisan in the forthcoming elections, suspected non-commitment to free and fair elections by key stakeholders, delayed budget for the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the non-signing of the new Electoral Bill.