The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has said that as a beneficiary of free, fair elections, he will ensure the 2023 general elections are free and fair to all parties.
He said this was a legacy he eagerly wanted to bequeath to Nigerians, adding that he could not wait to hand over to a successor in 2023.
Buhari spoke in Abuja at a dinner he hosted for the 2019 Presidential Legal Team on Thursday night.
The team, which was led by the Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, had defended the victory of Buhari all the way to the Supreme Court.
The Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had challenged the victory of Buhari through a petition through to the Supreme Court before the apex court affirmed Buhari’s victory last August.
Speaking at the dinner, which was held to thank the team, Buhari said the victory proved that Nigerians wanted him to remain in office for a second term.
He said, “The number of people that turned out in every state across the country was more than what anybody can buy or force. This gave me so much confidence and the election proved that with the votes I got.
“That is why I insist that elections must be free and fair because I am a clear successor to a free and fair election.”
He also spoke on how he could not wait to hand over to a successor in 2023, though Buhari had yet to spend one year out of the current second term of four years.
The President said he had a moral obligation not to interfere with the process of the emergence of his successor, but would do his best to protect democratic principles.
“Morally, I want to have a clear conscience. I swore by the Holy Book that I will abide by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I will continue to do my best and I hope that by 2023, I can handover quietly to whoever succeeds me and I wish him the best of luck.” his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, quoted him in a statement on Friday.
Buhari praised the Olanipekun-led team, noting that the performance was outstanding.
“You creditably demonstrated a deep understanding of the law and its practices and I am indeed proud of you all. I am confident that by securing a convincing and unanimous legal victory at the Supreme Court you have by so doing assured the people that the political mandate of the Nigerian electorate is now firmly secured,” added.
In his remarks, Olanipekun said the case was won by relying on facts and not by Buhari influencing any decisions.
“The courts were allowed to do their job. Buhari, and I must commend you for that Sir. Nobody whispered to any one of us, how we are going to see Judge A or Judge B. That’s the way it should be. Judges must be allowed and be given free hand to do their job.
“Mr President, we are happy to have been called upon and we are happy that we delivered,” he added.
However, Olanipekun admitted that the Electoral Act required some “re-jigging and cleansing,” promising to support the National Assembly to carry the fresh amendments proposed to the law.