Respect peoples’ choices at the polls - Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari says African political leaders must respect the right of citizens to make their choices at elections.

President Muhammadu Buhari (Punch)

He warned that peoples’ right to vote and determine who leads them should not be treated lightly.

Malam Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesman stated in Abuja on Saturday that Buhari gave the warning at a bilateral meeting with Lazarus Chakwera, the President of Malawi.

Then duo met on Friday on the sideline of an Extraordinary Summit of the AU in Malabo.

Buhari told his Malawian counterpart that to strengthen democratic fabric and ensure smooth conduct of elections, “we must convince the people that we respect them.

“This is by allowing them to choose whoever they want as their leaders.’’

He acknowledged that the path to democracy in African countries had not been smooth, recalling that he went to the Supreme Court thrice to contest electoral process before he became president.

Buhari noted also that his predecessors, especially deceased Gen. Murtala Mohammed laid out the continental rule of engagement placing Southern African countries on Nigeria’s priority list.

“We are aware of the problems of Southern African countries, more than most others.

“Murtala virtually left Nigeria in the hands of his deputy, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, then, and faced up to Europe and America on the issue of apartheid in South Africa.

“He was very energetic and patriotic. We will continue on that path,’’ he said.

Buhari said he greatly valued his meeting with President Chakwera, and assured that he would pay attention to the issues brought to the meeting.

In his remarks, Chakwera described President Buhari as a statesman and a role model.

He said Malawi was willing to learn from Nigeria’s experience in agriculture, infrastructure development and in managing insecurity and violent extremism, which, he said, were creeping into the South African sub-region.

He stressed that Malawi’s wish was for a speedy trade relationship with Nigeria in the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Chakwera asked for the convening of a meeting of technical experts from both countries to discuss trade pacts.

“There is no way we won’t relate to the biggest economy in Africa. Our older brother should hold our hands and we walk together,’’ he said.

In another development, President Carlos Vila Novo of São Tomé and his spouse also met with the Nigerian leader and his wife, Mrs Aisha Buhari.

The Sao Tomean president got assurances that Nigeria would continue to play a brotherly role in the affairs of sister African countries.

President Buhari also hosted the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who came to thank him for honouring the invitation to the Extraordinary AU Summit in his country.

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