A new dimension has been brought into Nigeria’s polity and raised apprehension among the masses as the world was taken by surprise when Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), ordered Feb. 18 the military and police officers to shoot any Nigerian found to have snatched or unlawfully be in possession of ballot boxes.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemned the Nigerian leader’s instruction. And a Nigerian first class monarch, the Olowu of Owu-Kuta, Oba Adekunle Oyelude Makama, Tegbesun III, has warned politicians not to drag the Nigerian military into politics. This has raised fears of pressure being mounted on the army, thereby over-heating the polity. Certainly, the presidential election coming up in Nigeria this Saturday, Feb. 24, is expected to further deepen Nigeria’s democracy and it will be a challenge between the will of the people to freely vote their conscience and a threat by law enforcement operatives to ruthlessly attack vote riggers.
During his party’s emergency meeting on the postponed general election, President Buhari repeatedly said he had issued a standing order to the military and law enforcement officers to be ruthless with those involved in election fraud following the postponement of the country’s general elections. “I actually gave the military and police officers orders to deal ruthlessly with any vote rigger. Yes, I want Nigerians to be respected, they should vote whoever they want as their leader across the parties,” Buhari said.
Buhari spoke in Abuja, the country’s capital, at an emergency meeting called by his ruling party, the APC. He added: “I’m going to warn anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturb the voting system, will do so at the expense of his own life.”
Buhari, 76, is standing for re-election and will be running against 71 other candidates for the country’s highest office. His main challenger is Atiku Abubakar, 72, of APC who is a business tycoon and former vice president.
Buhari’s critics, led by the PDP, have called the president’s comments a “direct call for jungle justice.” “It is indeed a license to kill, which should not come from any leader of any civilized nation,” PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said in a statement.
The royal monarch explained that the majority of traditional rulers in the country believe in the abilities of Nigeria’s chief of army staff and chief of air staff for their various innovations, transparency in the running of the military affairs and sustaining a continuous battle against terrorists’ activities in the northern part of the nation.
“Based on my status as a traditional ruler who must always be seen as father of the nation, I will not go into the specifics on different pressures allegedly mounted on the military, especially the army, but which the military persistently resisted,” states the traditional ruler of Owu–Kuta, Osun state.
“Through my consistent observation of our political activities since the return of civilian rule in 1999, I have come to a realization that opposition parties are fond of accusing incumbents of using the military to suppress it before, during and after general elections, with the army being the worst hit. There is no doubt that this development is unhealthy for our nascent democracy and nation building. It is noteworthy that it creates unnecessary tension in the polity just as it also reduces the military to a dispensable tool in the hands of political class,” said the King.
The Olowu of Owu-Kuta appealed to every Nigerian irrespective of religious, political and ethnic leanings to support the military in the fight against insurgency, in order for the strides made in the war to be visible to all.
“As I have said before now, our troops need our individual and concerted support through prayers and positive comments. A situation whereby their efforts are greeted with scornful remarks would naturally kill their morale and also incapacitate their spirit to fight and get desired results,” he said.
Makama also warned Nigerians to be wary of external forces who masquerade as human rights organizations but are agents of destabilization while he challenged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be fair in their conduct of the forthcoming general elections.
Buhari campaigned vigorously under APC, climbed on the mantra of “change” to win the nation’s 2015 presidential election, where the then-incumbent president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of PDP, conceded power to him to ensure peace reigned supreme in the country. Even international media outlets unanimously quoted Jonathan then when he said: “My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.”
The military-turned-civilian president certainly feels that Nigerians can easily be taken for a false ride, as he launched the Muhammadu Buhari presidential campaign organization with the mantra: “I will take Nigeria to the next level” in preparation for the 2019 election period. Throwing his hat-in-the-ring Atiku launched “I will get Nigeria working again.” Even though there were over 50 political parties, it became clear to everyone that the real contest for Nigeria 2019 president squares on the shoulder of these two septuagenarian, meaning any youth hoping to run as Nigeria’s president should bury the dream.
Nigerians react to Buhari and Atiku…
But Shola Adedipe, an undergraduate of University of Lagos studying mass communication was different in his remark, “President Buhari is trying on his own, only that he is surrounded by cabal, Shylock politicians and sharks that want to see him fail. We were all waiting for him to probe all those corrupt politicians in APC if he is truly a non-corrupt leader. He shielded all of them from prosecution. I will still vote for APC because I believe in Buhari’s ideology.”
Christopher Chike, a painter was furious and angry: “How can you come to equity and your hands are not clean? Buhari has succeeded in deceiving Nigerians since 2015. Our eyes are now opened. He can no longer deceive us, the masses are voting him and APC out. Even if Atiku of PDP is a Judas, Lucifer, Nigeria want him now to come and rescue the nation in the 2019 election.”
In other interviews this reporter conducted with a few Nigerians here in the United States, and in the United Kingdom, choices were divided between Buhari and Atiku. Iyiola Opeolu, a Nigerian undergraduate in Washington State University said: “It is a shame I call myself a Nigerian here in America, even though I am a Nigerian-American. Our leaders have ruined our nation. They have turned Nigeria into a laughing stock. What is Buhari still doing in power? Nigerians should vote him out. He is undeserving of re-election.”
Halim Nureni, a Nigerian-American pharmacist working in a Super Wal-Mart in Arlington, Texas noted, “I will only say let’s all try and give Buhari the benefit of the doubt, vote for him in 2019 election and see if he will prosecute all the thieves around him.”
Members of the international community are in panic mode in noting the various campaign methods, election-statistics and violence-prone areas in the country. If Buhari wins the 2019 election, feelers are that Atiku will accept the defeat but may later pursue a legal court challenge if the PDP notices or has enough evidence of voting fraud allegedly committed by APC.
But if the reaction by Buhari’s supporters that greeted the 2019 election is anything to go by, if Atiku wins the 2019 election, there are fears that Buhari may out rightly reject the outcome of the election even before the release of the final result collation, which may trigger lawlessness, crisis and un-ending violence. The world will be waiting for the members of international community to back up their promises against anyone that causes or stirs violence in Nigeria’s 2019 election.