President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday warned would-be-ballot box snatchers —it may be your last unlawful action.
He spoke in Abuja at the opening of an emergency National Caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the party’s secretariat.
The President also warned politicians, who may be angling to sponsor thugs to disrupt the rescheduled elections. He said that such sponsors would be doing so at a great risk.
Besides, the last may not have been heard of the 11th hour postponement last Saturday of the Presidential and National Assembly polls by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Buhari hinted yesterday that the electoral umpire will have to explain what went wrong – after the elections.
The President, who got the news of the shift at 4.30am on Saturday described the action as “most unfortunate” because INEC had all the time and the resources to deliver on its mandate.
“After the elections, we have to know exactly what happened; we cannot accept incompetence,” Buhari said.
The APC Caucus is a statutory organ of the party chaired by the President.
Its members include the vice president and all the party’s former and serving governors and members of its National Working Committee (NWC), among others.
At yesterday’s meeting were: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan; Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; National Chairman Adams Oshimhole; governors and senators.
The President, who had ordered security agencies to ensure free and fair elections, said that such act would be the last unlawful act the ballot snatcher will engage in.
According to him, he had garnered adequate support of the electorate to guarantee his electoral victory.
He, however, stressed the need for APC members to reassure their constituents to come out and vote on the rescheduled dates.
The President said: “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.
“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 (Federal Capital City) and I think I have enough support across the country.
“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.”
The President also explained that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had all the time and resources and didn’t have to wait for only six hours to cancel the elections and tell the public it was impossible.
He said: “Definitely, the reason 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.”
Lauding the party leadership for its commitment, the President said: “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. 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 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 very mature way by going peacefully and vote and depend on party representatives in the polling units.”