Interestingly, I am getting to know more about the impressive, but silent aspects of President Muhammadu Buhari’s life and personage. I have never met him personally, but with his credentials as a retired army officer, and given the military culture, it was safer for me to believe he is rough and unapologetically ruthless.

President Muhammadu Buhari

But I was damn wrong! He is just a leader who is blunt and plain. He hates any brazen act of trampling on laws of the land or decency in conduct.

President Buhari, as Nigeria’s incumbent President, is running for reelection in 2019 for another term of four years, on the platform of the ruling APC. But he was enraged over INEC’s sudden postponement of the February 16, 2019, Presidential and National Assembly ballots. His party, the APC was equally angered and condemned the impromptu shift of elections, barely five hours to the commencement of the ballot. I think the electoral umpire knows better why the decision was taken. We are sad, but what else can anybody do?

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When I listened to INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu’s, address to the nation on the postponement of the election, I pitied him. From his facial scowls, it was clear to discerning minds that something terribly went wrong. And discontinuing the ballot as scheduled became inevitable.

Prof. Yakubu nicely concealed his anger in this official explanation; “Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair, and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible.”

But political actors and Nigerians did not swallow this excuse lightly. And it has sparked very profound reactions from all segments of the Nigerian community. I may not bother with every view expressed by every Nigerian. But at least, we can speak to our conscience and it will certainly prick us in glaring terms that the ballot was compromised even before the vote cast. And our leaders know this; INEC knows it; critical stakeholders in the Nigerian project are aware and Nigerians know everything dubiously contrived affected the ballot in focus.

President Buhari was more disappointed. And so, at the opening session of the National Caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, the President who is not oblivious of what crooked politicians planned in dark chambers and rigged the ballot before the vote fumed;

“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 decided to snatch ballot boxes or lead 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.”

This innocent comment from Mr President has provoked partisan outbursts, especially from PDP chieftains and stalwarts. These Nigerians have imputed very funny meanings into the comments, which are beyond any reasonable limits of decency. I understand the intention of antagonistic elements to spite and slight the President in order to diminish his electoral value in the eyes of Nigerians.

But in truth and to our conscience, what contents of the presidential statement allude to an order calling for the killing of Nigerians as propagated by the opposition? There is none! An election rigger is worse than an armed robber. Accepted, we are guided by laws, which presumes every person is innocent until pronounced guilty by a competent court. But why do we think, criminals should be allowed to ply their trade unmolested by security agents?

I do not buy the arguments of the vocal PDP analysts. They have repeatedly said the President has issued a direct order to security agents to kill Nigerians. Why would any decent Nigerian think the best thing to do is to foist a regime of electoral violence on Nigerians but gets offended when the President asks security agents to ruthlessly handle such miscreants or hoodlums? And why would anybody happily contemplate this absurdity? Is it because the potential culprits know there are elder statesmen and people who would rise up to their defense?

APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has been speaking on Buhari’s presidential statement. He has done what is humanly possible to deflect the misconstrued interpretations. But trust Nigerians! We are more comfortable promoting evil than good. But let me leave the mischief makers and the drugged or incensed partisans that President Buhari never wished the death of any Nigerian because he wants to continue as Nigeria’s leader.

Let’s get some sense in what Tinubu said on the misinterpretations of the President’s comments. He said: “These are not his words; he is a law abiding person and he understands categorically and clearly what rule of law is and the lives of individual citizens that he is in that office to protect. Now, let me run this; he has been fighting Book Haram, kidnappers and all these before this election, did you hear him asking them to be shot and executed summarily?”

However, we cannot pretend that elections results were written before the ballot. How can Nigerians explain the pre-ballot violence, deaths, and destructions in some states in Nigeria? Are we canvassing that President Buhari, as Chief Security Officer of the nation should be soft with such characters so that tomorrow, we shall gladly also blame him for degenerative insecurity in the country? This is not wisdom from any sane mind.

Let me leave these adversaries of Nigeria with the sound advice from my friend, Alhaji Aminu Musa. His words; “Those with ears have been so blessed. I believe, the words that made up the statement of Mr. President are unambiguous. We are by it advised staying clear of any form of malpractices in the forthcoming rescheduled election.”

So, those who have plotted violence and rigging are forewarned. Security agents would ruthlessly handle the destroyers of our nation’s democracy and the electoral process. Well done, Mr. President for this forewarning.

Ikpa is Executive Secretary, Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (CESJET) and wrote this piece from Abuja.


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