*Says whoever snatches ballot box will do so ‘at the expense of his own life’
*APC demands probe of INEC
* Amosun, Okorocha absent
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered security agencies on election duty to deal ruthlessly with thugs and anyone found attempting to snatch ballot boxes during next Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.
President Buhari who spoke during the meeting of the national caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja on Monday said there was no justification for what he described as incompetence exhibited by the Independent National Electoral Commission in the postponement of elections.
Buhari said he would ensure that the postponement of the elections by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was investigated after the conclusion of the general election.
Also, National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, said the party will be pushing for a probe of what led to the sudden decision by INEC to postpone last Saturday’s presidential election.
Two governors, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State and his counterpart from Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, were conspicuously absent at Monday’s caucus meeting.
The two governors are currently engaged in a running battle with the national leadership of APC.
Addressing the meeting, Buhari said having gone round the country and witnessed the enormous support by Nigerians, he was not afraid of 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 to look out for me. 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 did not hide his anger at what he described as inefficiency on the part of INEC for failing to meet up to expectations last Saturday.
He said that 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 to tell Nigerians it was impossible hold.
The president vowed that he would definitely seek the reason why such incompetence manifested, adding that the leadership of the commission will have to explain to the nation after the elections.
“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,” Buhari said.
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 next Saturday to vote.
He said party members should exhibit maturity and be peaceful as they go to vote.
“We have told our constituents to be patient and react in a very matured way by going peacefully and vote and depend on party representatives in the polling unit. I do not expect anybody to cause any disturbance.
“The security agencies have identified hot spots and flash points 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 decides 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,” he said.
While addressing the party leaders at the meeting, Oshiomhole said the postponement of the presidential election was as repugnant as the reasons INEC gave for the action.
He accused the election umpire of working in cahoots with the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by sharing relevant information about the shifting of poll hours before the decision was made public.
A visibly enraged APC national chairman described INEC’s explanations for the postponement of the election as not only “disgusting but provocative”.
He said the party will not obey INEC’s order on stoppage of campaigns and will go ahead with further campaigns ahead of the Saturday’s presidential election.
He said: “I shall put my hand on the Holy Quoran that the electoral body shared information with the PDP that they were going to postpone the election”.
He told the president that it is 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 exhibiting 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, Oshiomhole said 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.
He also used the opportunity to observe a minute silence in memory of the fanatical supporters of the APC that lost their lives in stampedes during campaigns.