Those with the intent of rigging under whatever guise during the general elections should either have a change of heart or face the consequence.
President Muhammadu Buhari has said any person or group of persons found wanting during the polls would be dealt with decisively by security agents, saying he was not afraid to lose the poll.
Similarly, the president said the Independent National Electoral Commission must not take Nigerians for granted and should therefore provide further insight into the postponement of Saturday’s elections.
President Buhari said he would probe the poll shift after the general elections with a view to identifying those behind the acts and bring them to account.
The president stated these Monday at a national caucus meeting of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the party’s headquarters in Abuja over the postponement of the elections.
In attendance at the meeting were APC National Chairman, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, National Leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, some APC governors and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who is also the director general of Buhari campaign team.
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, announced the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections Saturday following some logistic challenges.
The elections earlier scheduled to hold February 16, now shifted to February 23, while that of the governorship and state House of Assembly hold March 9 as against March 2 earlier scheduled.
The development has generated some controversies among political parties and some Nigerians.
And addressing the APC caucus meeting Monday, President Buhari said he’s not afraid of losing the polls but asked that rigging in any form should not be condoned.
He said: ‘‘We are not going to be blamed of trying to rig the elections. I want Nigerians to be respected. Let them vote whoever they want across the parties. I am not afraid, I have gone to all 36 states and Abuja and I think I have enough support across the country,’’ he said.
While saying APC supporters to vote peacefully in the upcoming elections, he said: ‘‘We have so much to do and I think we should again go back to our loyal, committed people in all constituencies. If anything happens, we have nobody to blame. We have to tell our constituencies that they have to be patient and act in a very responsible way by going peacefully to vote again, and they should depend on party representatives at each of the 176,000 polling units.’’
On the postponement, he said INEC had all the time and resources at its disposal to get prepared and had no reason for changing the dates of the elections.
“INEC had all the time, all the resources, all they wanted. They did not have to wait for only six hours to announce the postponement.
“This incompetence has to be explained to the nation after the elections and who is responsible. What is the use if we accept incompetence? The constitution and the laws protected INEC but they must not take us for granted.
“If for example, the National Assembly did not approve what INEC wanted, then INEC could have had a moral reason why they could not perform. We do not understand this inefficiency, and we have to get the details after the elections.”
On security during the polls, President Buhari said he had directed security chiefs to deal with any person or group planning to disrupt the poll.
“We have to tell our constituencies that they have to be patient and they have to behave in a very responsible way by going peacefully to vote again. And they should depend on party representatives in each polling unit out of the 176,000 polling units and they should be there, those who have been given the responsibility to watch over the party’s interest.
“I do not expect anybody to make trouble. I have briefed the law enforcement agencies and military. They have identified hotspots, flash spots and they should be prepared to move.
And then secondly, they have made arrangements as possible and resources have been made as much as the country can afford it.
“Anybody who decides to snatch boxes or lead thugs to disturb the election, maybe that would be the last unlawful action you would take. I have given the military and police the order to be ruthless to anybody.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the APC has saidthe lists of presiding officers nationwide published by INEC before the postponed polls were card-carrying members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The party said this in a communiqué signed by its National Chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole after the APC caucus meeting Monday.
It said INEC should correct the “Anomaly to ensure fairness and credibility of the electoral process.”
The party also said security agencies should step up their activities by ensuring that all those involved in violence, ballot box snatching, and falsification of results face the full weight of the law.
The meeting, the communiqué said: “Observed that the list of presiding officers in the states and local government areas published by INEC prior to the aborted February 16 elections contained names of mostly the PDP card carrying members and urged INEC to take steps to correct this anomaly to ensure fairness and credibility of the electoral process.
“Resolved that the February 23rd election date must remain sacrosanct. Issues of logistics and other foreseeable challenges must be addressed to ensure the elections do not suffer any hitch whatsoever.
“The caucus expressed curiosity over the fact that certain leaders of PDP had full knowledge of the plan to postpone the elections several hours before INEC made the unfortunate announcement. The caucus therefore urged INEC to demonstrate its independence and neutrality beyond doubts in all of its activities before, during and after the period of elections.
“That the party leadership 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.
“The caucus received with shock and disbelief the last minute postponement of the February 16 elections. The party reiterated its disappointment over this unfortunate action, considering especially, the repeated assurances by INEC that all challenges would be overcome before the February 16th elections.
“Notwithstanding the disappointment over the postponement, the caucus urged all APC members across the country to rise above this temporary setback and recommit themselves to working with redoubled efforts for the victory of all our candidates in the February 23rd and March 9th dates for the elections.
“The caucus urged all APC members to immediately commence campaigns in line with the Provisions of Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act, which states clearly that campaigns shall stop 24 hours to the elections. Our party would therefore abide by the provisions of laws.”
APC’s claim untrue – INEC
However, INEC has faulted the claim by the APC, saying it was far from the truth and asked Nigerians to disregard it.
Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman Rotimi Oyekanmi debunked the allegation in an interview with Blueprint Monday night.
“It’s absolutely not true. The commission could not have engaged in that kind of action. For what purpose? Nigerians should please disregard.”
‘APC wants to disrupt polls’
Meanwhile, the PDP has said the ruling APC was planning widespread political crisis to “derail our democratic process and plunge our nation into anarchy with a direct call for jungle justice.”
PDP spokesperson and director media and publicity of the party’s presidential campaign organisation, Kola Ologbondiyan, said this Monday in a statement in Abuja.
He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari’s threat to the lives of Nigerians, at the opening of APC’s national caucus meeting in Abuja today, is a direct call for jungle justice and attempt to divert public attention from their closed session where details of their dastardly plot to truncate our democratic process will be perfected.
“We do hope that this call by President Buhari is not a 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 is indeed a license to kill, which should not come from any leader of any civilised nation.
On election postponement, Ologbondiyan said: “The underlining fact to the above is that President Buhari and APC leaders, upon getting to their voting constituencies last Saturday, realised that there is a nationwide rejection of Buhari’s re-election bid, and this has thrown them into a panic mode.
“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 February 23.
“We are aware that President Buhari, who had earlier boasted that nobody can ‘unseat’ him, is bent on using every dictatorial and tyrannical act to truncate the process of a free, fair and credible election.
“Intelligence available to us shows that the Buhari Presidency has directed the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately reshuffle the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in order to deploy compromised officials to manipulate the electoral process in President Buhari’s favour, as they did with the police shortly before February 16.
“Our party is also aware of the pressure being mounted by the Buhari Presidency on INEC to cancel elections in some states and make others inconclusive so as to achieve President Buhari’s objectives of a staggered election not minding the crisis such will trigger across the federation.
“We want Nigerians and the international community to hold President Buhari personally responsible for any electoral crisis, otherwise, he will as usual, claim that he was not aware of the plots and transfer the blame to Adams Oshiomhole and Rotimi Amaechi.”