President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday says Nigerians deserve free, fair polls irrespective of party.

The President said he could not escape being held responsible for the loss of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), at the poll.

But he said it was important for him to develop in the country a political culture based on integrity and build his party on a “civilized basis, rule of law and respect for human rights and human beings.”

Buhari spoke in his Abuja office while receiving Governor Godwin Obaseki who won the election after defeating the APC candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

Obaseki, who was accompanied by his deputy Philip Shaibu and other Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders, ruled out a return to the APC from which he switched camps to the PDP.

Buhari, at the meeting with Obaseki and Shaibu, said it was his duty to “preside over all Nigerian interests, whether I like it or not.”

He said: “My single desire is to make sure that innocent people don’t suffer. That message I got across to the Inspector General of Police, that elections must be free and fair.

“If contestants have too much money and they decide to spray, so be it. But what I insist (on) is (that) nobody should go and raise a counter force to the government, arm heavily-drugged thugs to go and humiliate people.”

“I want Nigerians to appreciate that I respect them as Nigerians and that I am bound by the oath I have taken that their security is in the hands of God and in the hands of the government which I am leading.

”We have lost states across the country. Now I do not like to escape the responsibility, seeing as the leader of the country, I am also the leader of my party, that I am not leading the party very well.

“I am trying to make sure that the party is built on a civilized basis, rule of law and respect for human rights and human beings, right from polling units to local governments, to states up to Abuja, and that’s what I have been insisting (on) as my contribution to the National Working Committee and executive of the party.

“I know we are a developing country, a developing economy and trying to develop our political culture.

“I want the development of political culture to be based on integrity and accountability. Let people work very hard and earn what they are looking for through their hard work and through fair competition.”

He added jokingly: “I thank you for bringing your deputy and supporters to come and see me after beating my party.”

He also said he was congratulating Obaseki ”reluctantly” because he defeated the APC candidate.

In his remarks, Governor Obaseki thanked the President for ensuring fair play during the election.

He recalled how the President, a few weeks before the election, assured him that “we were going to have a free, peaceful and credible election.”

He said: “That is what we had during the election of September 19, and the whole world has acclaimed that Edo election was perhaps one of the best conducted in recent times in Nigeria.

“This could not have been possible without your insistence that the right things be done, and for that, we want to say thank you very much.”

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