President Muhammadu Buhari has been charged to provide a level-playing field, as well as equal opportunity for all presidential candidates in the 2023 election, irrespective of the parties they belong.
The Coalition of Nigeria Elders for Electoral Reforms (CNRER), made the call, Thursday, in reaction to President Buhari’s comment during the visit of the Vice Presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Kashim Shettima, to the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
During the visit, Buhari had said, among others, that: “I will respond to your speech when I am handing over to you and your boss. God willing, you are going to win.”
However, in a statement made available to Blueprint in Abuja Thursday, signed by Dr. Hassan Ibrahim Funtua, and Architect Yemisi Abiola, National President, and National Secretary, respectively (CNRER) urged Buhari to be decorous in his comments, insisting that, as president, his preoccupation should be how to deepen electoral reforms.
The Coalition expressed serious concerns over the part of speech where the President said he will hand over to the presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his deputy, Shettima, fearing that there may be plans to compromise the electoral process to favour the APC in 2023.
The statement reads thus: “Our attention has been drawn to a statement credited to the President and Commander-in-Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, during the visit of the Vice Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alh Kashim Shettima, to the Aso Rock Villa.
“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 Ahmed 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.”