The vice presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Peter Obi on Wednesday in Abuja met with delegations from the European Union (EU) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) to discuss the need to conduct free and fair elections in 2019 and also how to grow the nation’s economy through collaboration.
Obi who stood in for the presidential candidate of the party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar at the separate meetings, told the EU delegation that efforts should be made to stop the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from intimidating candidates of opposition political parties who, he said, now live in fear.
A statement released in Abuja by the Atiku campaign office said that the EU should insist on a level playing field for all candidates and parties during the 2019 elections in Nigeria, adding that “there is a need to get the country back to its feet and make it better for our children”.
Obi was also quoted to have said that campaigns should be based on issues so that the electorate and the international community can come to grasp with the problems of the country, as well as the solutions being proffered by each of the political parties and their candidates.
Has was similarly quoted to have said that there was need for agencies like the EU to strengthen and support the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The former Anambra Governor said that judging from what happened during gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states, INEC needs to show that it remains an unbiased umpire in future elections in the country.
On the issue of vote buying, Obi described the incidence as a new phenomenon that must be stopped.
“I contested and won elections when I was in a smaller party. Where would I have gotten the money to buy votes if it was the case then and how would I have gotten back the money especially when I am going to serve the people”, Obi was quoted to have said.
On the new found unity of the PDP, the vice presidential candidate said the evidence could be seen from the outcome of the party’s free and fair presidential primary election conducted in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State on October 7, 2018 where all the presidential aspirants agreed that it was the best so far.
On whether there was need for a fresh EU election observer group following the impending expiration of the tenure of the present group, Obi said that Nigeria deserved a replacement based on the role EU would play in ensuring free and fair elections in Nigeria in 2019
In his comments, the head of the EU delegation, Ketil Karlsen was quoted to have said that the election observer group has been consulting stakeholders in Nigeria to ascertain whether or not it would be necessary for the Union to send a new EU election observer mission.
He said that the EU mission had been operating in Nigeria since 1999 and that the Union had invested over 100 million Euros in Nigeria’s election processes since then.
While speaking with officials of WEF at a separate meeting, Obi emphasised the need for closer working relationship with African countries, especially Nigeria, saying that most governments in the continent do not want to work with the forum for fear of being criticised.
He said that many governments in Africa implement activities that are “transactional instead of transformational” and therefore needed help to shape their policies.
“A lot of work needs to be done in Africa because things are tough. The presidential and vice presidential candidates of the PDP have a clear picture of what the economic priorities are and what the international community feels about the country”.
“Nigeria needs to do something immediately for its economy to be put back on track and something has to be done immediately”, Obi was quoted to have said.
Leader of the WEF delegation, Nontle Kabanyane was quoted to have said that the Forum was ready to strengthen relationships and to implement more activities in Nigeria through a collaboration that would lead to national transformation.