A constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Mike Ozekhome has said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the military to kill ballot snatchers during the incoming general election was inflammatory and unconstitutional.
In a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said President Buhari was quoted to have said ‘’snatch a ballot box at the expense of your life,” a declaration the commander- in-chief made in the presence of the military during a meeting with the All Progressives Party (APC) leadership.
He said the president, in his never fading military mindset to utter the most inflammatory and unconstitutional statement, was usurping the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and police, adding that the statement was not only outrageously unpresidential, but showed his extreme desperation and panicky mindset.
Ozekhome said: “For the records, it is the president’s own APC that has so far been involved, to the knowledge of the whole world, in bizarre acts of electoral malpractices during their primaries, leading to an implosively divided party of disparate and inchoate tendencies.
“APC’s leading lights have so far preached terror, body bags, mayhem, strife, stoned their president and leaders, booed others, killed some in cold bloodshed, denied themselves tickets, and generally engaged in acts of gangsterism, hooliganism and shameless “agberoism”, quite unbecoming of a ruling party,” he said.
He emphasised that presidents do not preach violence, nor engage in scare mongering as Buhari was currently doing at every turn and opportunity.
He said presidents were known to be extremely cautious and restrained, even when others do not, adding that this was because a president was supposed to approximate the highest ideals, morals and nobility of the national psyche, ethos and consciousness.
“PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari) still doesn’t appear to realise that he is no longer in opposition as he was between 2003 and 2015. He readily forgets, in his brazen desperation to cling on to power at all costs, that he is now the president of the largest black democracy on earth, made up of about 200 million people.
“Buhari must be told in clear and unmistakable terms that this is not 2015 when he got away with preaching bloodshed of bamboons being soaked in their own blood, an act that made gentleman Goodluck Jonathan voluntarily abdicate power as president.
“The statement is grossly reckless, incendiary, provocative, bellicose, belligerent and wholly condemnable. He even literally read the riot act to INEC chairman and staff, threatening them with fire and brimstone, if they do not do his bidding. This is to strike fear in them, as he has done to the judiciary, National Assembly, the press and voices of the opposition and critics.”
He said for the avoidance of doubt, the Electoral Act has already taken care of such matters in section 129(4) of the Act, which stipulates 24 years imprisonment for anyone who snatches ballot boxes at an election.
“Section 131 of the Electoral Act on the other hand prescribes N1 million fine or three years imprisonment for anyone who directly or indirectly inflicts injury on others, or causes harm, violence, or uses duress and undue influence for the purpose of winning an election. The law is quite clear. It never prescribes the death penalty as Buhari wants to force in,” he emphasised.