Nigeria’s president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday said he was extending a hand of conciliation to President Goodluck Jonathan after a rancorous presidential election, with an assurance that Mr. Jonathan has “nothing to fear” after losing power.
Mr. Buhari spoke after receiving the Certificate of Return as the president-elect, from the Independent National Electoral Commission.
President Jonathan earned international praise Tuesday after conceding defeat and telephoning Mr. Buhari to congratulate him even before the official announcement of election results by INEC.
In his speech early Wednesday, President Jonathan said he kept his promise of credible and peaceful elections, and reaffirmed his commitment not to plunge the nation into bloodshed over his political ambition.
In what appeared a direct response to the president’s gesture, Mr. Buhari said the nation should put behind the turbulence of electioneering and accept the “change” his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, promises.
He said he holds no grudge against anyone, including members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the president’s team.
“But despite the rancour of the elections, I extend a hand of friendship and conciliation to President Jonathan and his team. I hereby wish to state that I harbour no ill will against anyone,” Mr. Buhari said.”
“Let me state clearly that President Jonathan has nothing to fear from me. Although we may not agree on the methods of governing the nation, he is a great Nigerian and still our president,” he said.
The president-elect said Mr. Jonathan deserves the support and “permanent respect” of all Nigerians by virtue of the office he has held.
“This is how an honourable nation treats its servants and conducts its affairs; and this is how Nigeria should be,” he said, adding that he will meet with the president for both sides to work out a smooth transition.
Mr. Buhari said Nigerians should put the past, especially the recent, behind, but must not forget to learn from “old battles and past grievances—and learn to forge ahead”.
Mr. Buhari said he has also put behind the controversy over his academic eligibility for the election.
“Some unfortunate issues about my eligibility have been raised during the campaign. I wish to state that through devotion to this nation, everything I have learned and done has been to enable me to make the best possible contribution to public life. If I had judged myself incapable of governing I would never have sought to impose myself on it. I have served in various capacities and have always put in my best,” he said.
He said his government will be a listening one and will treat all Nigerians equally.
“I pledge myself and our in-coming administration to just and principled governance. There shall be no bias against or favouritism for any Nigerian based on ethnicity, religion, region, gender or social status. I pledge myself and the government to the rule of law, in which none shall be so above the law that they are not subject to its dictates, and none shall be so below it that they are not availed of its protection.
“You shall be able to go to bed knowing that you are safe and that your constitutional rights remain in safe hands. You shall be able to voice your opinion without fear of reprisal or victimisation. My love and concern for this nation and what I desire for it extends to all, even to those who do not like us or our politics.
“You are all my people and I shall treat every one of you as my own. I shall work for those who voted for me as well as those who voted against me and even for those who did not vote at all. We all live under one name as one nation: we are all Nigerians.”