From Okwe Obi, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has been implored to be neutral and provide a level-playing field for all contestants in the 2023 general elections.
Under the aegis of Coalition of Nigeria Elders for Electoral Reforms (CNRER), the group, spoke against the backdrop of President Buhari’s comment during the visit of the vice presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Kashim Shettima, to the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The president had said: “I will respond to your speech when I am handing over to you and your boss. God willing, you are going to win.”
But CNRER faulted the president’s remarks, arguing that he should not have spoken that way.
The group tasked Buhari to emulate former president, Goodluck Jonathan, who was candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 poll, but did not allow the process to be compromised and even conceded defeat.
CNREP National President, Hassan Funtua, and National Secretary, Yemisi Abiola, in a statement, claimed there might be plans to compromise the electoral process to favour the APC.
“We are extremely worried over the President’s declaration that he will answer the vice presidential candidate when he is handing over to him and his boss, Bola Tinubu in 2023. We hold strongly that the statement is grossly unpatriotic, and suspicious to the extent, that the APC may be planning to compromise the electoral process in favour of its presidential candidate in the 2023 general election.
“The president’s statement, by inference, suggests that he may have prepared a handover note waiting for the APC candidate, and this is not in line with global best practices, especially when campaigns have not started.
“While we appreciate the president’s fundamental right of freedom of expression, as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), as it relates to his personal support for his political party and its candidate, we hasten to add that the president must remember that he is the President of Nigeria, and all the candidates contesting for the election are in other political parties and not APC alone.
“The president is hereby urged to remain fair-minded, as well as impartial in his speeches and dispositions, as these will engender confidence in the polity, while also giving all contenders the needed sense of belonging. Permit us, Mr. President, to remind you, that you are a product of a level-playing ground, free and credible election, leading to the defeat of a sitting President. You, therefore, cannot be seen, or perceived to be subverting the electoral process, as the minimum that is expected from you, is to leave a legacy of an enduring electoral reform.”