By; PETER NISAKHARE, Kaduna
President Muhammadu Buhari may have stirred the hornet’s nest as Nigerians are angry and amazed over his statement on Monday when he declared that death awaited ballot box snatchers during the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Buhari while speaking at a national caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress in Abuja, said ballot box snatchers would pay with their lives as security agencies had been given the go ahead to be ruthless.
The President said this at the meeting, which was convened by the APC to review the poll delay and discuss other plans by the party ahead of the elections on Saturday.
He said, “I do not expect anybody to cause any disturbance. The security agencies have identified hot spots and flashpoints 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 leads thugs to disturb the process, maybe 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.”
The President noted that he did not need anyone to cause violence on his behalf as he was popular enough to win the presidential election without ballot boxes being snatched.
In his reaction, Kaduna based journalist, Isaiah Benjamin, said the statement was barbaric and uncalled for.
“As first citizen of the country, Mr. President is expected to be civil and mind his statements especially at this period of violence and restiveness.”
On its part, Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has, however, asked Nigerians and the international community to hold the President responsible for any loss of lives during the elections.
It said the President’s statement was the most callous public statement ever made by a Nigerian President.
The coalition said this in a statement by its national spokesman, Imo Ugochinyere.
Ugochinyere asked all well-meaning Nigerians to condemn the President for the statement.
Also, some civil rights groups and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, have described Buhari’s order as a call for extrajudicial killings.
Dogara, at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, in his reaction, said, “The President said, ‘anybody who decides to snatch boxes or lead thugs to disturb the elections, maybe 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.”