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2023 general elections must be free, fair, Buhari tells Nigerians in Democracy Day broadcast

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Sunday morning, promised to facilitate a “free, fair and transparent electoral process” in next year’s general elections.

This, the President said, would be a way to honour the memory of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the late MKO Abiola.

President Buhari made the pledge in his 2022 Democracy Day broadcast to the nation.

The President called on political parties, candidates and the electorate not to regard the elections as a do-or-die affair, adding that democracy is about the will of the majority and therefore, “there must be winners and losers.”

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Speaking in a televised broadcast, Buhari expressed his satisfaction with the primary elections conducted across various political parties ahead of next year’s general elections, saying the primaries had set the tone for peaceful polls next year.

He said, “Fellow Nigerians, this is my last Democracy Day speech as your President. By June 12, 2023, exactly one year from today, you will already have a new President. I remain committed and determined to ensure that the new President is elected through a peaceful and transparent process.

“It is important for all of us to remember that June 12, 2023 will be exactly 30 years from the 1993 Presidential elections. In honour and memory of one of our national heroes of democracy, Chief M.K.O Abiola, GCFR, we must all work together to ensure this transition is done in a peaceful manner. I am hopeful that we can achieve this.

“The signs so far are positive. Recently, all registered political parties conducted primaries to select their candidates for the 2023 general elections. These primaries were peaceful and orderly. Those who won were magnanimous in their victories. Those who lost were gracious in defeat. And those aggrieved opted to seek judicial justice as opposed to jungle justice.

“I followed the party primaries closely from the state level to the presidential level. I was very impressed to see across all the political parties that most candidates ran issue-based campaigns. The language and tone throughout were on the whole measured and controlled.

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“I am promising you a free, fair and transparent electoral process. And I am pleading with all citizens to come together and work with government to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.”

The President also called on candidates in next year’s elections to imbibe issues-based approach and desist from character assassination as campaigns officially begin in September.

“As we move into the general election campaign season, we must sustain this mature attitude to campaigning and ultimately, voting. We must never see it as a do-or-die affair. We must all remember democracy is about the will of the majority. There must be winners and losers.

“I will therefore take this opportunity on this very special day to ask all candidates to continue running issue-focused campaigns and to treat opponents with dignity. As leaders, you must all showcase high character and never forget that the world is watching us and Africa looks up to Nigeria to provide example in governance. The tone you set at the top will surely be replicated in your followers,” President Buhari said.

He said his government, in the last seven years, had made “significant investments to reform and enhance our electoral laws, systems, and processes to safeguard votes.”

While saying that his government was doing all within its power to safeguard the nation and protect citizens, Buhari urged Nigerians to play their part as security agencies could not shoulder the burden alone.

He added, “On this special day, I want us all to put all victims of terrorist activities in our thoughts and prayers.  I am living daily with the grief and worry for all those victims and prisoners of terrorism and kidnapping. The security agencies and I are doing all we can to free those unfortunate countrymen and countrywomen safely.

“If we all unite, we will be victorious against these agents of terror and destruction. I will conclude this Democracy Day speech, my last as President, by assuring you of my commitment to protect Nigeria and Nigerians from all enemies from within and outside.”