President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday threatened that anyone planning to snatch ballot boxes in Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly election will be doing so at the “expense of his own life,’’ and directed security agents to be ruthless with miscreants.
The president, who barely subdued his anger at the shift in casting of the ballot from last Saturday, spoke at the opening of the National Caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, promising those minded to foment trouble during the rescheduled polls a hard time.
He said: “The security agencies have identified hot spots and flashpoints and should be prepared to move.
“We have made as much arrangement as possible for them as much as the country can afford.
“Anybody who decided to snatch ballot boxes or lead thugs to disturb the process may be that will be the last unlawful action you will take.
“We have directed the military and other security agents to be ruthless. We are not going to be blamed that we want to rig elections.”
Two governors, Ibikunle Amosun and Rochas Okorocha of Ogun State and Imo State respectively, were conspicuously absent at yesterday’s meeting. They are currently engaged in a running battle with the national leadership of APC.
Buhari said that having gone round the country and witnessed the enormous support by Nigerians, he was not afraid of defeat at the election.
“I want Nigerians to be respected and let them vote whoever they want across the parties.
“I am not afraid of that. I went round the 36 states and the FCT and I think I have enough support across the country.
“So, I want to warn anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturb the voting system, he will do it at the expense of his own life,” he said.
The president described INEC as ‘’incompetent’’ for failing to meet the expectations of Nigerians last Saturday, adding that the electoral commission had all the time and all the resources it wanted and didn’t have to wait for only six hours to cancel the election.
He vowed to seek the reason for such incompetence, adding that the leadership of the commission would have to explain to the nation after the election.
He stated: “After the elections, we have to know exactly what happened and who is responsible. Otherwise, our efforts to make sure that this system is acceptable would have been eroded.
The constitution and the law protected INEC. But they must not take us for granted.
“If for example, the National Assembly refused to approve what they wanted; INEC would have had moral reasons for why they couldn’t perform. If the time of four years of the election was not constitutionally obeyed by the government, INEC would have a case.
“But we don’t understand the reason for this inefficiency and we have to go into details after the elections to find out who is responsible.”
The president, who narrated the efforts made by the party and his campaign team to ensure water-tight monitoring of the poll, charged party leaders to go back to their loyal members in all constituencies to encourage them to come out to vote on Saturday.
He said party members should exhibit maturity and be peaceful as they go to vote.
While addressing the party leaders at the meeting, Oshiomhole said shifting the polls was as repugnant as the reasons INEC gave for its action.
He accused the electoral umpire of working with PDP by sharing relevant information about the shifting of poll hours before the decision was made public.
A visibly enraged APC’s national chairman described INEC’s explanations for the postponement of the election as not only disgusting but provocative.
He said the party would not obey INEC’s order on stoppage of campaigns and would go ahead with further campaigns.
He said: “I shall put my hand on the Holy Qur’an that the electoral body shared information with the PDP that they were going to postpone the election.”
Oshiomhole told the president that it was the collective responsibility of the APC and his administration to put to shame all those responsible for what happened last Saturday.
Oshiomhole also demanded the redeployment of certain INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners in the South-south states who he accused of exhibiting a bias towards the PDP.
According to Oshiomhole, the PDP has betrayed its connivance with the INEC in the various contradictory responses from its party leaders.
Earlier, he stated that the caucus meeting was very crucial in order to restore hope to party members who may have been shocked or disillusioned by the postponement of the presidential poll.
At the end of the meeting, the party leaders expressed deep regrets over the unfortunate death of party members due to stampede as a result of overwhelming crowds during the presidential campaigns in some parts of the country.
Reacting to Buhari’s warning to miscreants, the PDP yesterday warned that it could trigger a widespread political crisis that could derail the nation’s democratic process and plunge the country into anarchy.
It described Buhari’s comment as a direct call for jungle justice and attempt to divert public attention from the caucus’ closed session where details of its alleged plot to truncate the democratic process would be perfected.
The party in a statement by its spokesman, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said it hoped that the president’s directive to security agents was not “camouflage for the fake soldiers mobilised by the APC to shoot at innocent Nigerians, snatch ballot boxes and execute their rigging plans on the Election Day.”
It said: “President Buhari must, however, bear in mind that his resort to threats and scaremongering will not deter Nigerians from coming out en-masse to vote him out of office on Feb. 23.”