By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his intention not to contest the 2023 presidential elections but determined to help strengthen the electoral process both in Nigeria and across Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that several ECOWAS members will be going to the polls in 2020.
Buhari made his feelings known in a letter to Nigerians issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Wednesday to mark the commencement of 2020.
He said his decision to help strengthen the electoral process, particularly in Nigeria, was informed by the frustrations the nation’s electoral system had triggered.
“Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy.
“I salute the commitment of the millions who voted in peace last February and of those leaders who contested for office vigorously but fairly, submitting to the authority of the electorate, the Independent National Electoral Commission and judicial process.
“I understand very well the frustrations our system has in the past triggered. I will be standing down in 2023 and will not be available in any future elections.
“But I am determined to help strengthen the electoral process both in Nigeria and across the region, where several ECOWAS members go to the polls this year,’’ he said.
On security, the president said: “As Commander-in-Chief, my primary concern is the security of the nation and the safety of our citizens.
“When I assumed office in May 2015 my first task was to rally our neighbours so that we could confront Boko Haram on a coordinated regional basis. Chaos is not a neighbour any of us hope for.
“We have been fighting on several fronts: violent extremists, cultists and organised criminal networks. It has not been easy.
“But as we are winning the war, we also look to the challenge of winning the peace, the reconstruction of lives, communities and markets.’’
According to the president, the North East Development Commission will work with local and international stakeholders to help create a new beginning for the region.
He also expressed government’s readiness to continue to work with State Governors, neighbouring countries and the international partners to tackle the root causes of violent extremism and the networks that help finance and organise terror.
“Our security forces will receive the best training and modern weaponry, and in turn will be held to the highest standards of professionalism and respect for human rights.
“We will use all the human and emerging technological resources available to tackle kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery.
“The new Ministry of Police Affairs increased recruitment of officers and the security reforms being introduced will build on what we are already delivering.
“We will work tirelessly at home and with our allies in support of our policies to protect the security of life and property,’’ he added.
Buhari maintained that his administration’s actions would be governed by the rule of law as well as engagement with well-meaning leaders and citizens to promote dialogue, partnership and understanding.
“We need a democratic government that can guarantee peace and security to realise the full potential of our ingenious, entrepreneurial and hard-working people.
“Our policies are designed to promote genuine, balanced growth that delivers jobs and rewards industry.
“Our new Economic Advisory Council brings together respected and independent thinkers to advise me on a strategy that champions inclusive and balanced growth and above all fight poverty and safeguard national economic interests.
“As we have sat down to celebrate with friends and family over this holiday season, for the first time in a generation our food plates have not all been filled with imports of products we know can easily be produced here at home,’’ he said.
He also noted that the nation’s revolution in agriculture had become a reality in all corners of the country.
The president expressed the hope that the new agreements with Morocco, Russia and others would help access on attractive terms the inputs the country needed to accelerate the transformation in farming.
“A good example of commitment to this inclusive growth is the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the creation of the National Action Committee to oversee its implementation and ensure the necessary safeguards are in place to allow us to fully capitalise on regional and continental markets.
“The joint land border security exercise currently taking place is meant to safeguard Nigeria’s economy and security. No one can doubt that we have been good neighbours and good citizens.
“We have been the helpers and shock-absorbers of the sub-region but we cannot allow our well-planned economic regeneration to be sabotaged.
“As soon as we are satisfied that the safeguards are adequate, normal cross-border movements will be resumed,’’ he added. (NAN)