With barely 18 months to the end of his eight-year rule, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday assured the international community of the readiness of his government to hand over the reins of power to winners of free and fair general election in Nigeria by 2023.
He also declared that democratic rule in the West African sub region is currently being threatened by undemocratic takeover of government by the military.
Speaking at a Virtual Summit for Democracy organized by President Joe Biden of the United States, President Buhari said necessary mechanisms will be strengthened to ensure that Nigeria witnesses another peaceful transfer of power by May 29, 2023.
He said: “As we count down to our next general election in 2023, we remain committed to putting in place and strengthening all necessary mechanisms to ensure that Nigeria will not only record another peaceful transfer of power to an elected democratic government, but will also ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner.
“I am proud to state that Nigeria has had over two decades of uninterrupted democratic governance and has unequivocally remained committed to upholding the core values and principles of democracy.
“Since assuming office in 2015, we have been able to introduce mechanisms to ensure free, fair and credible elections. We have strengthened our key anti-corruption agencies in collaboration with international partners and have undertaken several anti-corruption measures and initiatives.”
According to him, Nigeria continues to face security challenges which pose a threat to democracy, and therefore called “on global partners to support our efforts in tackling insurgency and terrorism”.
President Buhari thanked President Biden, the government and people of the United States for hosting the summit.
“As you are aware, democracy has remained the most popular and universally recognised way of governance thus far. It is one governance system that guarantees freedom of speech, rule of law, respect for human rights and inclusiveness in governance. It also promotes social justice, economic and social development and national and global peace.
“However, in spite of these laudable qualities, more is required from us as members of democratic societies, particularly in ensuring that democratic institutions and processes are strengthened, particularly during this period of a global pandemic which has threatened social cohesion in most democracies.
“We, therefore, must remain resolute and enhance cooperation so that together, we build back better democratic institutions and sustainable democratic values,’’ the president said.
He also noted that the summit was taking place at a time when democratic institutions around the world were facing several challenges.
“This event will help promote a positive agenda for democratic renewal by focusing on some of the major challenges faced by democracies today. It is hoped that through our collective action, we can safeguard democratic values and principles,’’ he said.
The president said the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had made it impossible to convene the meeting face to face, had taken a heavy toll on economies, health and democratic processes around the world.
“Nevertheless, we have witnessed the resilience of democratic institutions in many countries that have held free, fair and transparent democratic elections under very challenging conditions,” he said.
While pledging Nigeria’s support for democratic governance in West Africa, President Buhari, however, expressed concern in the threat of undemocratic takeover of government in the sub region.
“Nigeria will continue to actively support the democratization processes in our region West Africa and the African continent at large. But regrettably, our democratic gains of the past decades are under threats of unconstitutional takeover of power.
“This unwholesome trend, sometimes in reaction to unilateral amendments of constitutions by some leaders, must not be tolerated by the international community. Nigeria fully supports the efforts by ECOWAS to address this growing challenge and appreciates the support of both the African Union and the United Nations,” the president said.