By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Abuja advised those planning to rig the 2023 general elections to perish the thought.
He vowed to use every legitimate means to protect the votes of Nigerians.
The president gave the advice at a dinner he had with members of the diplomatic corps in Nigeria to break Thursday’s Ramadan fasting.
“Those planning to rig the 2023 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,’’ he said.
He also cautioned against foreign interference at the elections.
“As you are all aware, the tenure of this administration ends on May 29, 2023. Typical of election years all over the world, the tempo of political activities is high.
“That is the nature of democracy. I am committed to bequeathing a stronger culture of credible elections to Nigeria than what I met.
“As Nigeria goes through this trajectory, I urge our friends in the global community, represented by you members of the diplomatic corps to adopt a positive role.
“A role that reinforces the doctrine of respect for our internal affairs and respect for facts, devoid of pre-conceived notions and bias,’’ he stressed.
On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Buhari called for greater consideration for humanitarian conditions in the affected areas, warning that “’the conflict will get worse, if an immediate resolution is not found.
“The war has lasted too long; costs 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.’’
Buhari welcomed the recent initiative of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres, who visited Moscow and Kyiv and commended his efforts in search of a ceasefire as a prelude to other enduring solutions.
“The UN must continue to actively lead the way for engagements that would ultimately unlock peace through diplomacy,’’ he said.
He urged the world, especially the Muslim community to use the solemn and rewarding month of Ramadan to intensify prayers for the de-escalation of the conflict and for the return of peace to the world.
He also used the occasion to apprise members of the international community of some critical issues currently on the front burner of his administration’s agenda and spirited efforts at handling them.
“We continue to make steady progress in the daunting tasks of combating insecurity; fighting corruption; diversifying the economy; promoting good governance; and containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In spite of the many challenges we face, and continue to face, we have instituted measures to plug leakages, improve the economy and enhance the achievement of the UN 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.
“They also include the launch of the National Development Plan (2021-2025) to spur economic growth and leverage science, technology and innovation.
“Other measures include the 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.
“Some more are the launch, in collaboration with the UNDP, of the Nigeria SDGs Implementation Plan (2020-2030), to prioritise and mainstream the SDGs into their medium and long-term development policies and plans,’’ he said.
The SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
The UN set them up in 2015 and they are intended to be achieved by 2030.
On COVID-19, the president, who restated Nigeria’s demand for vaccine equity, said the country would continue to expand its capacities for managing the pandemic.
The president, who also spoke on regional security, told the diplomats that the impact of the Libyan crisis on the countries in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, West and Central Africa were enormous and catastrophic.
He expressed concern about the proliferation of small and light weapons in the 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.
“I call on all your respective countries to reflect on this and collaborate with countries in the regions to combat this consequential spread of violence,’’ he stressed.
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 Northeast.
“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,’’ he noted.
Buhari commended Nigeria’s defence and security servicemen and women for their recent successes in routing the terrorists.
He said he was confident that insecurity in Nigeria would soon be brought under control.
He also acknowledged the support of Nigeria’s friends and partners in the global community, particularly the EU and the United States.
“This is for their understanding, support and agreement to allow us to procure vital equipment and resources to successfully propagate this war,’’ he said.
According to him, there is the need to intensify the cooperation and collaboration in spite of other major challenges confronting the international community.
Responding on behalf of the diplomats, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Amb. Ibrahima Salaheddine pledged that the international community would continue to support Nigeria before, during and after the 2023 general elections.
Salaheddinem is the High Commissioner of Cameroon to Nigeria,
“As Nigeria enters another electoral year, we pray Almighty God to put the electoral process under divine guidance for peaceful, free and fair elections,’’ he said.
He noted that COVID-19 truncated the tradition of meeting the president for the breaking of the fast for two years.
Salaheddinem congratulated the Nigerian government for curtailing the spread of the pandemic.
“The enlightened leadership of President Buhari largely brought its spread in Nigeria under control,’’ he said. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)