The Presidency has said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment on ballot box snatchers is a “strong message’’ against the long history of savagery associated with elections in the country.
Buhari had on Monday, during the emergency caucus meeting of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, warned that anyone who dared to snatch ballot boxes during Saturday’s elections would be doing so for the last time.
Speaking to State House Correspondents on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu, said that the president had the safety and security of Nigerians uppermost in mind when he made the comment.
He said, therefore, that the president should be praised rather than criticised for issuing “the stern warning to potential ballot box snatchers’’.
Shehu recalled some past elections in parts of Nigeria, during which voters lost their lives while ballot boxes were being snatched by armed thugs.
He said: “Snatching ballot boxes often entails putting the lives of innocent Nigerians at risk.
“About 10 years ago, evidence was brought before an election tribunal from one of the states in North Central of the gruesome killing of 26 prospective voters by ballot box snatchers.
“Their modus operandi is well known. They storm election venues in commando style, overwhelm the law-enforcement agents and seize ballot boxes, leaving a trail of death and injury.
“Anyone who dares to put the lives of innocent citizens at risk in their desperation to rig elections must be prepared for the possibility of losing their own lives.
“This is because our security agents will certainly not stand by, clap for them and watch them kill and maim.’’
The presidential aide expressed concern about those attacking the president’s comment, and their worry over the fate of anyone caught snatching ballot boxes.
“This sounds like members of the opposition, specifically the Peoples Democratic Party who have perfected plans to rig the elections and to snatch ballot boxes.
“They can tell that President Buhari is not prepared to tolerate their antics this time around, and they are afraid. They have shown their intent.”
He noted that no one had anything to fear from the president’s comments if their consciences and intentions were clear.
Shehu added: “Let’s just have free and fair elections and no one need worry about anything.”