President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday told Nigerians to see the peaceful conduct of the February 23 presidential election as a victory for the nation.
Noting that an election should not be seen as a war, the President said the “victory is enough cause for joy without deriding those in the opposition now that election is over.”
The President’s message was contained in his remarks at the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja, after receiving the Certificate of Return as the president-elect from the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu.
Buhari’s deputy and running mate Prof Yemi Osinbajo also got the Certificate of Return as vice president-elect.
Besides, the President urged Nigerians to stand in brotherhood for a bright and fulfilling future, assuring that his administration will be inclusive and open.
Buhari, whose second term in office will begin on May 29, also assured Nigerians of seeing the country moving to the “Next Level”.
The ICC, which was being used as the Collation Office for the presidential election, also hosted governors, ministers, members of the private sector and supporters of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The President also reached out to his opponents at the poll, urging them to join him to build the country that will be a pride to all.
He said: “I am grateful to God for sparing our lives to witness another milestone in Nigeria’s democratic development, namely conclusion of the presidential election in an overwhelmingly peaceful manner.
“I wish, Mr Chairman, to congratulate all the presidential candidates and their teams on a hard-fought campaign. We may have had different views during the campaign, but the one thing most of us have in common is love of our country and our desire to improve conditions for Nigerians.
“From the comments of several observers both local and foreign, it is obvious that the elections were both free and fair.
“Now that the elections are over, and a winner declared, we must all see it as a victory for Nigeria, our dear country. That was why I encouraged my teeming supporters, in a speech I read earlier today, not to gloat.
“Our God-given victory is enough cause for joy, without deriding those who were in the opposition. All Nigerians, going forward, must stand in brotherhood, for a bright and fulfilling future.
“I, therefore, want to assure that we will continue to engage all parties that have the best interest of Nigerians at heart. Our government will remain inclusive and our doors will remain open.
“That is the way to build the country of our dream; safe, secure, prosperous and free of impunity and primitive accumulation by those entrusted with public offices.
“The hard work to deliver a better Nigeria continues, building on the foundations of peace, rule of law and opportunities for all. We will roll up our sleeves afresh, and give it our all. We have no other motive than to serve Nigeria with our hearts and might, and build a nation which we and generations to come can be proud of.
“I am very grateful to the over 15 million citizens who voted for me, those who contributed in many ways in the running of our successful campaign, and those at home and abroad who expressed confidence in me and the APC government. I thank you all.
“I can assure that you will see a country moving to the Next Level, as we consolidate on our fundamental areas of securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption. Many other focal areas, as stated in our campaign manual, will be added, to the good things we plan for our country.
“Let me pay tribute here to those who lost their lives either through accidents or mindless violence during the course of these elections. My heart and thoughts are with the families of the victims. May God comfort and give them the fortitude to bear the loss.
“Election is not war, and should never be seen as a do or die affair. I pray that we all accept this democratic approach to elections, however contentious.”
Buhari and Osinbajo were declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at exactly 4.39am yesterday, having scored the highest number of votes, 15,191,847.
They defeated their closest rivals – former Vice President Abubakar Atiku and his running mate, former Anambra State governor Peter Obi, who polled 11,262,978.
The PDP and its candidate have resolved to contest the results at the tribunal.
Buhari and Osinbajo arrived at the ICC in the company of their spouses, Hajia Aisha and Dolapo at 2:11pm.
They got the Certificates of Return from the INEC boss at about 2:20pm.
In a short remark, Prof Yakubu described the presentation of the certificates as a statutory requirement based on the Electoral Act which requires winners of elections to be given their certificate of return within seven days.
The vice president, decked in a white native attire, was all smiles as praise singers sang “Oke Oke la oma lo” (meaning we will always make progress).
The praise singers changed the tune to Sai Baba when it was the turn of the president to receive his certificate.