Ahead of the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly polls slated for Saturday, President Muhammadu Buhari has issued a marching order to the military and other security agents to deal ruthlessly with anyone caught violating the electoral process.
In what has been interpreted as a shoot on sight order, he said: “Anybody who decides to snatch ballot boxes or lead thugs to disturb it (election), maybe that would be the last unlawful action he would take.
“I have directed the Police and the military to be ruthless.”
He added: “…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 spoke after the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Caucus emergency meeting in Abuja, yesterday, which was attended by the top echelon of the party including national officials, state chairmen, governors and other elected officials.
However, national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu denied that the president’s directive was a license to security agencies to shoot indiscriminately.
“I was in that meeting; the president was just reinforcing the fact that if you are out there snatching ballot boxes, and causing destructions, you are at risk of your own life. No president will give an order that his own citizens should be shot summarily, No! No, its okay, emotions are running high these days. Any individual including myself can be misinterpreted.
“These are not his words; he is a law abiding person and he understands categorically and clearly what rule of law is and the lives of individual citizens that he is in that office to protect. Now, let me run this; he has been fighting Boko Haram, kidnappers and all these before this election, did you hear him asking them to be shot and execute summarily? If he has gone through that in the last three years, please give him a benefit of the doubt.”
On the postponed elections and INEC’s stance on campaigns, Tinubu said the electoral act allows for campaigns 24 hours to elections.
“By law we should continue to energise our people; it depends on our resources because the Electoral Act allows us to do that. And once you have changed the date to February 23, you have given us the opening to campaign and energise. If you have a garden and you don’t nourish with water, the grass will remain dormant; we don’t want our party to remain dormant.”
Buhari who is also the standard bearer of the party has given the hint that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may be probed over its shoddy handling of preparation, which led to the postponement of the polls.
“I think my statement at the airport said it all. I don’t want to go into too many details but I have to say that INEC has all the time and all the resources they wanted. INEC had all the time and all the resources they wanted and didn’t have to wait for only six hours to cancel the elections and tell us it was impossible.
“Definitely, the reason why such incompetence manifested has to be explained to the nation. 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 why they couldn’t perform. If the time of four years of 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 election to find out who is responsible.
“I thank the party leadership for their commitment. That was why we sat and said we must have committed leaders in all constituencies to be our agents. We also sat down and worked out the least the party should do for our agents so that they will not depend on anybody or say I am going to drink water or I am going to toilet.
“We made all those arrangements and put it before the governors and chairmen of the parties and where the APC has no governors, the governorship candidate and state chairmen were given that assignment. I am satisfied that this instruction has been passed down. Right now, we have so much to do and so, we should now go back to our loyal committed members in all constituencies so that if anything happens, we will know who to blame.
“We have told our constituents to be patient and react in a very responsible way by going peacefully. I do not expect anybody to cause any disturbance. I have briefed the law enforcement agencies and the military to identify hot spot and flashpoints and should be prepared to move.
The APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, also faulted the reasons given by INEC. He described it as disgusting.
The former Edo State governor who claimed that the electoral umpire informed the PDP of the postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly poll demanded the redeployment of the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), just as he called for the resignation of the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu.
Oshiomhole revealed that APC will formally write to demand for a meeting with the electoral umpire to know the arrangements for the weekend’s poll.
“Just to say that INEC chairman briefed us on some of the things they need to do day-by-day until Saturday when elections will take place. My people say if a man or woman has been caught in adultery and he or she says, ‘I won’t do it again’, it has to wait and see. You can no longer assume.
“INEC, having violated our confidence, must earn it or re-earn it and sustain it every inch of the way. So, we are going to write INEC to demand a small meeting, not the meeting of more than 1,000 people in a conference hall, face-to-face, to speak to specific details.
“One, we have been told that they would re-configure card readers and we were told that they were like about 180,000. There are two issues, namely: has INEC started? When will you finish this configuration? If they are 180,000, it means the extra is only 4,000 since we have 176,000 polling booths.
“Is INEC assuring us that from their own projections and past experience across the country that the failure of card readers is only 1 or 2 per cent? What is the basis for making allowance for only 4,000? Is this based on past experience?
“In the absence of incident forms, should there be more failing over and above 4,000, what is INEC’s contingency plans to deal with that?
Why we need concrete answers to all these questions. We don’t want staggered elections. We want nationwide elections, same time, same day all over the country. So, INEC needs to brief the basis of this small addition.
“All we have fought for is that, every card reader should have a spare. So, if we have 176,000 polling units, we want to have 176,000 spares. So, whenever one fails, the other one can be used. What they have done creates rooms for suspicion. Many have said they might do it in the areas they feel we are strong because we are responsible for the discretion on where to deploy these devices,” he said.
“From what we have all known, in some states, INEC materials have been distributed. Some people have sighted some of the result sheets. Some have sighted some of the ballot papers before they ordered them to stop. Now my question, having sighted a copy or a sample of the ballot papers and the result sheets, what is INEC doing differently to ensure that those who have already seen those samples will not go to Trans Amadi Industrial layout to print a sample of the one they have seen,” he queried.