The Minister of the Federal Capital, Nasir el-Rufai and Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Aminu Bashir Wali, addressed the press at the United Nations as part of the ongoing Federal Government’s new initiative to address the negative media coverage and international pressure on Obasanjo’s administration to conduct a free and fair election next month (April).
The Minister, Nasir el-Rufai in a press conference that lasted 27 minutes and 9 seconds told gathering press that his role is similar to that of a mayor of a big city and he briefing highlighted the history of the nation admitting that Nigeria had not performed well in terms of development and setting example for the rest of Africa.
However, Nasir el-Rufai told correspondents at the UN Headquarters that, the administration is “working around the clock to assure that the upcoming elections in April would be free, fair and clear, so that Nigeria could assume its responsibility as role model for democracy in Africa”. In a clear message to the US Government, he told his audience that the Nigerian government will use the April election to convince the international community that it is a “role model in democracy better than the election you had in Florida (a) few years ago”. The Minister was referring to the controversial Florida election that won President George Bush the White House.
He went further to explain that in the last seven years, Nigeria has become a leading peacekeeping country in Africa with a democratic government. He attributed the underdevelopment of Nigeria to a “large dose” of bad governance but pointed to the economic reform of the government and its fight against corruption.
The Minister, Nasir el-Rufai who accepted that he is member of the ruling party stated that, contrary to some media reports, the elections will go ahead as scheduled in April. He said the country would have known an eight-year period of democracy for the first time in its history and there was a lot of interest in the elections, as the country provided 10 per cent of the United States’ oil needs and the stability and progress of Nigeria more or less will determine the stability of the West African sub-region, as well as whether the African continent would meet the Millennium Development Goals. The elections would “go ahead, no matter what you read”.
Minister el-Rufai explained the country would vote on 14 April for governors and legislators in 36 states, and on 21 April for a President, Senators and members of the House of Representatives at the federal level. He highlighted that there are 50 political parties and some 60 million people are registered to vote. He made it clear that there are “two-horse” race for the presidential election and both of them have integrity and are committed to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s economic reform.
He made it clear that the presidential election is between ANPP presidential flag-bearer and present Katsina State Governor, Ahmed Yar’Adua of PDP. During the Q & A session, he was asked while he has dismissed Action Congress (AC) Presidential Flag-bearer, Abubakar Atiku and he explained that Atiku has been disqualified and his party is fully aware of it. He however explained that the political map in the nation presently is such that AC does not have a chance.
Asked about Nigeria’s anti-corruption policy, Mr. El-Rufai said that policy had been encapsulated in the reform policies. The fight against corruption had been the current Government’s greatest achievement, as corruption was the source of all problems. In 1999, at the beginning of his tenure, President Obasanjo had sent the first anti-corruption legislation to Parliament. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission — established in 2003 — was perhaps the most successful anti-corruption agency in the world. In just four years, it had achieved 150 convictions for money laundering and had played a leading role in cleaning up politics in Nigeria.
He dismissed allegations that corruption charges were mainly targeting opposition politicians, saying that the People’s Democratic Party had sacrificed 52 candidates, more than any other party and more than 60 per cent of the list of corrupted politicians. The fight against corruption was a major war that would not be won in a short period of time, but the President had done very well. The policy would continue, no matter the victor in the elections, as both major candidates had agreed that the fight against corruption was the key to solving the country’s problems. He said that politicians complain that they are targeted and yet, none of them have denied to date that they are not corrupt.
Mr El- Rufai also stated that the government is aware that there would be violence in two or three states in the country but the government is prepared to handle the situation. The statement highlight the growing concern in Aso Rock that some elements might resort to violence and it explains why the president called on all politicians during the coronation of the new Sultan of Sokoto to shun violence.
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