President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday expressed his readiness to receive Bola Tinubu to the State House as President on May 29.
The President also declared that the handover of power from him to the President Elect on that date is sacrosanct.
Buhari and Tinubu spoke on the phone to exchange pleasantries on the occasion of the Eid el Fitri.
The president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said his principal assured Tinubu that he was ready to welcome him as his successor in the Presidential Villa on May 29.
“President Muhammadu Buhari and the incoming President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Friday morning exchanged Eid greetings in a phone call to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan,” Shehu said in a statement.
“Both leaders thanked God Almighty for seeing this day and prayed for the stability and the wellbeing of the nation.
“President Buhari expressed his readiness to welcome Asiwaju Tinubu to the State House as President on May 29th.”
And fielding questions from journalists at the Eid grounds in Abuja after the Sallah prayers, Buhari said Nigerians have fully embraced and demonstrated their love for democracy, hence the handover of power to Tinubu is not negotiable.
“Nigerians appreciate the stability of democracy,” he said.
“The outcome of the elections, in which more than 10 governors failed to make it to the Senate, sent a clear message that ordinary Nigerians know the power of their votes and how to use it.
“Nigerians cherish democracy. They have shown their love for it and will defend it against real or perceived threats.
“They will continue to vote one way or the other depending on their preferences.”
Reiterating the sanctity of the handover date, the President said, “God willing, nothing will stop it.”
Buhari, who later hosted the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja community as part of his last Sallah celebration as President in the Villa, apologised to those he might have hurt with his actions during his eight years in the saddle.
Buhari, while tendering the open apology, also pledged to be far away from Abuja after his tenure to avoid distracting his successor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
“There is no doubt I hurt some people, and I wish you will pardon me and those that think that I have hurt them so much. Please pardon me,” he said moments after returning home from the Abuja Eid grounds where he had joined other residents for the Sallah prayers.
Buhari told his guests, led by FCT Minister Mohammed Bello, that God has been kind to him, having served the country in various capacities.
He said once his tenure is over next month, he will be as far away from Abuja as possible to allow the incoming administration run without any interference from him.
He said: “I think this is a very good coincidence for me to say goodbye to you and to thank you for tolerating me for more than seven and a half years now.
“I assure you, I have deliberately arranged to be as far away from you as possible, not because I don’t appreciate the love you’ve shown to me, but because I think I’ve gotten what I have asked and I would rather quietly retire to my hometown.
“Having been a governor, minister and president twice, I think God has given us an incredible opportunity to serve as your president, and I thank God for that. So, please, whoever feels I have done wrong, we are all humans.”
He said he could not wait to go home after eight years as president.
His words: “I can’t wait to go home to Daura. If they make any noise to disturb me in Daura, I will leave for Niger Republic.
While thanking Nigerians for tolerating him since 2015, Buhari described himself as lucky to have led Nigeria in various capacities.
Describing democracy as the best form of government, Buhari said without it, he could not have been President, having already served as military head of state and given the side of the country he hails from.
His words: “I am counting the days. Democracy is a good thing, otherwise how can somebody from the other side be a president for two terms? My home town to Niger Republic is eight kilometres.
“I honestly consider myself very lucky. I was made a governor, minister of petroleum, head of state in uniform, then after three attempts, God, through technology and PVC, I became president.
“I tried in 2007, 2011 and 2015 and ended up at the Supreme Court three times.”
He took a swipe at those who claim they cannot get justice at the courts, recalling that all the Supreme Court justices that heard all his election petitions were not only from the north but were also Muslims, yet he lost.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha, Chief of Staff Ibrahim Gambari, Senator Philip Aduda, Christian Association of Nigeria Chairman in the FCT the Reverend Timothy Amakum and Umaru Shagalinku, the man who started one of the oldest restaurants in Abuja, were also at the Sallah homage.