The Presidency yesterday joined issues with the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the opposition party’s position on ballot box snatchers.
At the PDP National Executive Council (NEC), its presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and National Chairman Uche Secondus urged the military and other security agencies not to obey presidential order asking them to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers.
But the Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Garba Shehu, said President Buhari’s remark on ballot snatchers had unsettled the PDP.
The party chieftains described the order as unlawful and insisted that there are enough provisions in the nation’s laws for the prosecution of ballot box snatchers.
Speaking at a national caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja on Monday, President Buhari had said: “Anybody who decides to snatch boxes or lead thugs to disrupt the election, may be that would be the last unlawful action you would take.
“I have given the military and police the order to be ruthless. I am going to warn anybody who thinks he would lead a body of thugs in his locality to snatch boxes or to disturb the voting system; he would do it at the expense of his/her own life”.
Atiku and Secondus cautioned the President.
The PDP presidential candidate said: “It’s shocking for any head of state to utter such words in a democracy and that Nigerians should not accept it from President Buhari.”
He accused the President of failing to uphold the rule of law, describing the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) as unconstitutional.
Atiku said: “When you people are talking about democracy, I have always said that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari is not a democrat, he has never been a democrat. We started the fight to drive the military, he was never there; he never participated. You can see that he just wore the garb of democracy so that he can come back to power.”
According to him, Nigerians should be allowed to elect the candidate of their choice, saying: “You owe it to the people to let them give their verdict in the same way that you were elected.
“If you do so and if you win, then the people will commend you for it. Otherwise, history will condemn you for it.”
Secondus carpeted the President for making such remark.
He said: “By that directive, ordering soldiers to kill our citizens without recourse to the law and with impunity, the President has unwittingly given license to APC leaders to carry military personnel on Saturday.
“The agenda of that directive is clear; to scare away voters and agents, that we have directed to defend their votes, so as to give way to a military-protected political thugs to come into the polling booths, and implement their result replacement strategy.”
Secondus said the President ought to have signed the amended Electoral Act Bill to demonstrate his commitment to free and free elections.
The party chair insisted on non-deployment of military or paramilitary units to electoral duties, as, according to him, elections are civil activities, which the police are best trained to handle.
He also sought assurances from the Federal Government that all communication assets – fixed and mobile, including the Internet, will not be interrupted or compromised during the elections.
The party chair similarly urged adherence to steps taken by the government to safeguard the conduct of the elections, including restriction of movements and closure of the nation’s borders with the Republics of Chad and Niger.
The meeting, which lasted several hours, was attended by PDP stakeholders, including governors, federal lawmakers, former cabinet ministers and members of the Board of Trustees.