By Thompson ABISOLA
President Muhammadu Buhari said as a beneficiary of free and fair elections, he is not afraid of a credible process in 2019.
To this effect, the president reaffirmed his commitment to making sure that the 2019 polls would be free, fair and credible.
The president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said in a statement in Abuja on Sunday that Buhari gave the assurance at an interactive session the Nigerian community in China.
Buhari pledged that Nigerians eligible to vote in the general elections would be allowed to freely elect candidates of their choice.
He said: ‘‘I have no fear about free and fair elections because that is what brought me to the present position. I know what I went through and very few Nigerians could boast of trying four times.
‘‘Those interested in participating in the elections must get their PVCs and register in their constituencies and elect anybody of their choice across ethnicity and religion. ‘The Nigerian police, law enforcement agencies and INEC must respect the wishes of the people.’’
Citing recent elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi States, the president said the country had made progress relative to elections conducted in previous years.
On security issues, he reaffirmed that his government had succeeded in curtailing Boko Haram insurgents in the country, adding that “the terrorist group no longer controls any part of the country.’’
He attributed the success to operations of security agencies deployed to counter insurgency in the North-eastern part of the country.
‘‘You will all recall that we contested the last election basically on three issues, which includes security, especially in the North-East.
‘‘Boko Haram used to occupy quite a number of local governments in Borno State but they are not in any one now.
“They have resorted to a very dangerous way of terrorism by indoctrinating young people, mostly girls and attacking soft targets, churches, mosques and marketplaces,’’ he said.
On herders and farmers clashes, the president told Nigerians in the Diaspora that while security agencies were doing their best to curtail the clashes, the Nigerian media needed to complement the efforts through objective and informed reportage.
He appealed to the media to make attempt at understanding the cultural and historical implications of some of the misunderstanding between herders and farmers.
‘‘To my disappointment, the members of the press in Nigeria do not make enough efforts to study the historical antecedents of issues that are creating national problems for us,’’ he said.
According to the president, due to the effects of climate change, a farm that used to belong to five people now belongs to 50 people, the weather condition, particularly the rainy season, is now unpredictable.
He partly blamed the farmers/herders controversy on the shrinking of the Lake Chad, which had forced many cattle nomads to seek greener pastures for their herds in other parts of the country.
On Nigeria-China relations, Buhari lauded China’s generosity and contribution to the development of Nigeria, citing the successful completion of Abuja-Kaduna railway line, built by the Chinese, and ongoing works on Lagos-Ibadan-Ilorin-Abuja-Kano railway route.
According to him, Nigeria and China are also negotiating on the Mambilla project.
The president advised Nigerians planning to travel abroad for ‘‘greener pastures’’ to do so legitimately and not to expect too much from their countries of destination.
‘‘You cannot seek greener pastures in a place where you are not respected because of the colour of your skin or your lack of education or other things.
“Personally, I think you will earn more respect when you remain at home and get a job,’’ he added.
He acknowledged the material and intellectual support of Nigerians in the Diaspora to the development of the country, and assured that his administration would remain focused and committed in providing needed infrastructure for Nigeria’s prosperity.
Earlier in his remarks, the Nigerian Ambassador to China, Baba Ahmed-Jidda, had thanked the President for his support to the Embassy, including the completion of the Ambassador’s official residence.
He praised Nigerians resident in the various provinces of China for being law-abiding, with the exception of few.
On consular matters, the envoy told the president that Nigerians were facing difficulties in obtaining Chinese visas, and urged the president to take it up with the Chinese authorities.
On his part, President of China Chapter of Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation, Mr Brian Akiti, wished the country successful elections in 2019 and pledged the support of the organisation to the present administration’s development agenda.
In another event, Buhari charged Nigerian students on scholarship in China to ensure that they made the best use of the opportunity, and said that Nigeria was grateful to China for extending “this generosity to us”.
‘‘The Chinese are helping Nigeria greatly with building infrastructure; it is very much appreciated. We are pleased with the training they are providing for Nigerian students.”
The president also met with the executives of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), during which he lauded the construction group for their immense contributions to infrastructure development in Nigeria.