President Muhammadu Buhari met with Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State on Friday, saying his single desire is to make sure that innocent Nigerians don’t suffer regardless of party affiliation.
The president stated this when Obaseki led his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, and other Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters, to pay him a thank-you-visit at the State House, Abuja.
Buhari pledged to ensure the development of political culture to be based on integrity and accountability, urging citizens to work very hard and earn what they are looking for through their hard work and through fair competition
He said: “I thank you for bringing your deputy and supporters to come and see me after defeating my party.
“I am supposed to preside over all Nigerian interests whether I like it or not. My single desire is to make sure that innocent people don’t suffer. That message I got across to the Inspector General of Police, that elections must be free and fair.
“If contestants have too much money and they decide to spray, so be it. But what I insist is, nobody should go and raise a counter force to the government, arm heavily-drugged thugs to go and humiliate people.”
“I want Nigerians to appreciate that I respect them as Nigerians and that I am bound by the oath I have taken, that their security is in the hands of God and in the hands of the government, which I am leading.”
The president noted that as the leader of the governing party, and despite the fact that the party had lost some states in elections, he wishes to leave behind a political culture based on integrity.
“We have lost states across the country. Now I do not like to escape the responsibility, seeing as the leader of the country, I am also the leader of my party, that I am not leading the party very well.
“I am trying to make sure that the party is built on a civilised basis, rule of law and respect for human rights and human beings, right from polling units to local governments, to states up to Abuja and that is what I have been insisting as my contribution to the National Working Committee and executive of the party.
“I know we are a developing country, a developing economy and trying to develop our political culture.
“I want the development of political culture to be based on integrity and accountability. Let people work very hard and earn what they are looking for through their hard work and through fair competition,” the president said.
He added jocularly that he was congratulating the Edo governor “reluctantly” because he defeated the candidate of his party, the All Progressives Congress, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
In his remarks, Obaseki thanked the President for ensuring that fair play reigned during the election on September 19 which saw him victorious.
“You would recall a couple of weeks before the election, I came to see you and you assured me that we were going to have a free, peaceful and credible election.
“That is what we had during the election of September 19 and the whole world has acclaimed that Edo election was perhaps one of the best conducted in recent times in Nigeria.
“This could not have been possible without your insistence that the right things be done, and for that, we want to say thank you very much.”
He also thanked the President for his congratulatory message, assuring him that the message “has been internalised, that it is God that made this election possible, therefore I should be humble about the election and also magnanimous in victory.”
He pledged his unalloyed loyalty and support and that of the people of Edo State to the President and the Federal Government.
Obaseki won the election with 307,955 votes to defeat his closest rival, Ize-Iyamu, who scored 223,619
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting with the president, Obaseki lauded Buhari’s stance before, during and after the election, saying such position would further deepen democracy in the country.
He said: “This morning, we came to visit the president, essentially to express the gratitude of Edo people, my deputy and myself, for the role he played in the conduct of our gubernatorial election in Edo State.
“He insisted that Nigeria should have proper, credible, free and fair elections and that is what happened.
“So, this morning, we are here in the villa, to express our profound gratitude and appreciation for this act, which on the surface will look normal but the implications are very far reaching.
“This is a sitting president whose party was contesting in an election and he insisted that the right thing be done and a level playing field be created for all contestants.
“That singular action has deepened our democracy far beyond what we can understand and imagine today.
“The President in his characteristic humorous manner, said he reluctantly congratulated me for defeating his party.
“He pointed out also, that his role first and foremost as president of Nigeria is to be president of all Nigerians, regardless of your party, tribe or creed and we couldn’t ask for more from him.
“He really played the role of a statesman,” he said.
On whether he plans to become the next godfather in Edo politics, Obaseki said he would not because according to him, the concept of godfather is inimical to democratic values.
“In the case of godfathers in our politics, I have said in several fora that the whole concept of godfather is very dangerous to our democracy and that is why when we came into the political fray in 2006, the mantra then was to get rid of godfathers in our political life.
“The reason is simple. The godfather acts outside of the constitution and he now controls people who are constitutional players.
“So, if we allow that to continue, it will be worse than military rule. So, God forbid, if I become a godfather, I should be dealt with accordingly because it will be dangerous to the concept of democracy,” he said.
Obaseki, who also dismissed the assertion that he might return to his former political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), pledged to consolidate on the achievements of first term of office in sectors like agriculture, health, education and economy.