Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, cautioned soldiers and other security agents against obeying “unlawful orders” from President Muhammadu Buhari.
The leaders, who spoke at the 84th National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, were reacting to President Buhari’s directive to security agencies to deal ruthlessly with anyone found snatching ballot boxes during the rescheduled February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.
At the opening of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Caucus emergency meeting in Abuja on Monday, Buhari had warned that any attempt to snatch ballot box during elections would not be tolerated.
“I am going to warn anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch boxes or to disturb the voting system, he would do it at the expense of his own life,” he warned.
The statement has been greeted with outrage and condemnation.
Former vice president and PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara and the party chairman, Uche Secondus, who spoke separately, said the military and other security agencies were not bound to obey unlawful orders from the president and therefore urged soldiers to ignore the shoot on sight order on ballot box snatchers.
According to Atiku, the statement is a manifestation that Presiden Buhari is not a democrat. According to him, since his assumption of office, he has repeatedly engaged in unconstitutional actions.
“When you people are talking about democracy, I have always said that General Muhammadu Buhari is not a democrat. He has never been a democrat. We started the fight to drive the military, he was never there. He never participated. You can see that he just wore the garb of democracy so that he can come back to power and do whatever he is doing. So, General Buhari is not a democrat. He doesn’t believe in democracy, he is more of a power monger than a democrat.
“I am sure that you have followed with interest, utterances from the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, and General Muhammadu Buhari in particular, which is a painful reminder of the era of dictatorship and military rule. General Buhari has consistently violated the constitution; he failed to uphold the rule of law.
“Only yesterday, General Buhari said, ‘the military and police should be ruthless. Anybody who disturbs the voting system will do so at his own risk.’ That is General Buhari.
“It is shocking for any head of state to utter such words in a democracy. We shall not accept it from General Buhari. We have fought more ruthless dictators than himself.”
Atiku claimed the ruling party has equipped many of their members with devices that could slow down or hasten the Smart Card Readers during the presidential poll.
“So, if you are in the South-South, South-East and North-Central, you are likely to get your card readers slowed down by those APC operatives.
“We have seen the machines; we have interviewed some of those who have gone on this training, and we have passed that information to the campaign council to pass to you.
“But if you are from the North-West or North-East, the tendency is that they will use these machines to fast-track the readings of your card readers, so that many of their supporters can vote while disenfranchising the other three zones.”
The PDP candidate said Buhari owed a duty to the electorate to ensure that the presidential poll was free, fair and credible.
“If you do so and you win, the people will commend you, but otherwise, history will condemn you for it. Before history does that, we will condemn you for it,” he said. Saraki, who is director general of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, said the opposition party was not in support of rigging or ballot box snatching. However, he said the law must be followed in dealing with any form of electoral malpractices.
Saraki noted that Buhari won elections in 2015 because democracy was allowed to work by the previous government. He charged him not to ruin the country’s democracy because of his personal ambition.
Earlier, Secondus, in his opening speech, said being a peaceful and law abiding party, the PDP would not support snatching of ballot box during elections. Regardless, and urged security agencies to ignore directive to shoot ballot box snatchers, as it is unlawful.
“The agenda of that directive is clear; to scare away voters and agents that we have directed to defend their votes, so as to give way to a military protected political thugs to come into the polling booths and implement their result replacement strategy,” he alleged.
In his reaction, Dogara said: A lot has been said about the military. A lot of them know that unlawful order by the president cannot be obeyed. To kill a ballot snatcher is an unlawful order. I thought he would have said they would be dealt with in accordance with the law.”