By Uche Mbah
For Nigerians who would troop out on February 23 for the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly election, just be careful and cautious. Indulge in no troubles. Play straight. Don’t upset Security agents by trying to snatch any ballot box. If you do, the song for you will be Nunc Dimitis. You will be on your way to meet your Maker. Reason:
President Mohammadu Buhari has ordered soldiers to use maximum force. He has ordered them to shoot. And he says that will be your last assignment on mother-earth. He is not joking.
INEC Chairman and his members will also be in trouble. They will answer to him on why the election was rescheduled.
The President issued these threats at the All Progressives Congress, APC, emergency meeting summoned on Monday, February 18, to discuss the controversial rescheduling of the February 16th Presidential and NASS election. Security was tight. As early as seven o’clock in the morning, the Brigade of guards, the traditional protectors of the president, were seen in large numbers at the All Progressives Congress national secretariat. This, surprisingly, was in contrast to the normal meeting point at the conference hall in Aso Villa.
Besides the brigade of guards, other security Agencies were on red alert. The Army, Navy, Airforce, Police, all registered their presence.
By the time the president arrived, 11 governors – Zamfara, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Jigawa, Borno, Bauchi, Kebbi, Niger, Lagos and Kaduna states were already seated. Seated, also, were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, National leader, Bola Tinubu and Party Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole -were already seated.
President Muhammadu Buhari urged security agencies to shoot at sight any thug found snatching ballot boxes at polling boots.
“There is no explanation for what we went through. I was told about the decision of INEC at quarter to 5am in the morning of the elections”, he said. “INEC had all the time and resources, and didn’t have to wait six hours to the elections to announce postponement. Definitely, INEC must explain to Nigerians what happened, the constitution and the law protect INEC but they must not take us for granted. If we had failed to provide all what INEC wanted, then we would have been held responsible. So at least after the elections we will have to go into details to find out what happened,” he said.
Addressing Mr President, Oshiomhole, the APC said thay saw the INEC “Magic”. His words:
“We saw INEC’s magic, the worst had happened and they postponed the elections by one week without cogent reasons. If we and ordinary Nigerians were shocked, then we can only imagine how shocked you were, more as you are determined. This action was meant to frustrate our party and discourage voters. We are determined to put INEC to shame, and to reiterate that we are committed to free, fair and credible elections. We are not going to compromise on that.”
According to him, he suspects that there is a hidden agenda by INEC.
This was the first meeting since the postponement by the INEC, for one week, of the elections scheduled to hold on 16th February 2019.
Since that shift, there have been reactions, with most Nigerians condemning the action. Both major contenders for the presidency have been trading blames on who instigated the electoral umpire to shift the election. Allegations and counter allegations have become rife that it has become difficult to sift through the barrage of information uploaded in the social media to determine which is real and which is fake news . Even traditional media appear to be caught in the euphoria of breaking scoops, and armchair critics and analysts went to town.
This magazine, however, gathered that the plan to postpone the election has been on the table. It was alleged that the first suggestion from some powerful pressure group was to stagger the elections, and holding elections in allegef troubled spots at a later date. This allegation the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, latched on to accuse the ruling party of demanding for staggered elections in order to have enough security agencies to execute the (Osun Template). But the APC denied the allegations, saying they only follow instructions from the electoral umpire.
Part of the excuse given by INEC was that the weather was adverse, and could not allow aircraft to fly the electoral materials to desired destinations. The materials meant for Enugu, for example, were flown to Portharcourt.
But the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority debunked the story, saying that the weather was clear for flights to land.
In a statement signed by Khalid Emele and made available to the press, they insisted that there was no disruption in the provision of Air traffic services on the 1th of February, a day before the originally scheduled election date.
“The Management of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) hereby wishes to inform the general public that there was no disruption in the provision of air traffic services on Saturday, the 16th of February 2019 in keeping with the agency’s mandate to provide uninterrupted safe, effective, efficient, and economic air navigation services in the country. Furthermore, the agency in line with the directive of the Honorable Minister of State (Aviation), Sen. Hadi Sirika had earlier ensured 24-hour operation at all Nigerian airports on Friday 15th February 2019 to facilitate the transportation of INEC materials nationwide.”
Meanwhile, the PDP has requested for the audit of election materials returned to the Central Bank after the postponement.
“We believe it makes sense to appoint one company to verify both issues or, on the issue of sensitive materials, we can use the party officials and observers,” said Uche Secondus, the PDP chairman. He suggested two auditing firms, KPMG and Price Water House Coopers.