Romanus Ugwu and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has arrived for the All Progressives Congress (APC), national caucus emergency meeting at the party secretariat in Abuja.
But the governors of Imo and Ogun states, Rochas Okorocha and Ibikunle Amosun respectively were conspicuously absent at the forum.
Buhari arrived at the venue at 11:30 am alongside the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo; the meeting went into a closed door at 12: 22 pm.
The gathering is to discuss national issues, following last Saturday’s postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections.
President Buhari disclosed that he had ordered security agents to deal ruthlessly with party thugs who might try to snatch ballot boxes.
Buhari who said he was confident that he had garnered enough supporters having gone around the country to campaign and urged party members to reassure their constituents to come out and vote on the rescheduled dates.
The President urged party agents to watch out for the party interests at the polling units.
He disclosed that he had directed the security agencies to identify hotspots and be ready to move should they suspect any attempts by anyone to cause any problems.
The president said there was no explanation for what the country went through regarding the election postponement. “I was told about the decision of INEC at 4:45 am in the morning of the elections.
“INEC had all the time and resources and didn’t have to wait for six hours to the elections to announce the 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 that INEC wanted, then we would have been held responsible
“So at least, after the elections, we will have to go into the details to find out what happened,” he said.
Before the commencement of the meeting, a minute silence was observed in honour of the dead supporters at various campaign venues across the country.
In his opening remarks, the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, described the meeting as “all important.”
He commended President Buhari for going around the country talking Nigerians.
The ruling party chairman said, in the course of electioneering, “we saw a lot of very fanatical supporters, some of whom were looking underfed, but because of their faith that Buhari is the only one who can deliver the dividends of democracy, they came out.”
Oshiomhole said the ruling party was determined not to disappoint supporters and Nigerians.
According to him, the party did what was expected to ensure successful elections including providing all logistics to all those involved in election exercise including party agents.
“We saw INEC’s magic; the worst happened and the elections were postponed by one week without cogent reasons.
“If we and ordinary Nigerians were shocked, then we can only imagine how shocked you were.
“This action was meant to frustrate our party and discourage voters.
“But 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.
He said apart from being disgusted about INEC’s postponements, he was curious and suspected there was a hidden agenda.
He described as rubbish, INEC’s excuse about Nigeria’s population and challenges of moving materials around.
He called on INEC to transfer state commissioners who had been compromised and become institutionalised and who might compromise the outcome of the elections.
Oshiomhole insisted that INEC knew that the elections were not going to hold and leaked the information to the main opposition party. He said all early-warning indicators showed that INEC had something up its sleeves.
He alleged that INEC was working with anti-democratic elements to frustrate free and fair elections.
He said INEC had no right to stop the campaigns, insisting that voters needed to be reminded as the move might result in low voter turnout. He said that they were ready to go to court.
Oshiomhole also said that the ruling party was going to write to INEC to explain if the card readers had been reconfigured and the guarantee that it won’t fail, and why the electoral umpire should deploy only 4,000 card readers, saying that what were expected were 176,000 card readers and spares.
He said the ruling party did not want staggered elections but elections conducted simultaneously across all pulling units.
He said INEC needed to assure Nigerians that the samples of sensitive materials already in circulation would not compromise the process.
“We must not allow this shock to affect our voters; we need to renew our campaigns and reassure the voters especially APC voters.”
He called on President Buhari to ensure that those involved in what he called national sabotage were punished using the rule of law.
Also in attendance at the meeting were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, and the Director-General of Buhari Campaign Organisation, Rotimi Amaechi.
The governors in attendance as at the time the meeting went into closed doors were those of Zamfara, Edo, Ekiti, Borno, Bauchi, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Niger, and Nasarawa states.
Others were governors of Plateau, Kaduna, Kogi, Kano, Lagos, Jigawa and, Kebbi states.
Some National Assembly members in attendance included Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Godswill Akpabio.
Also in attendance were the governorship candidates of Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Adamawa, and Rivers states.
The ministers in attendance were those of Information and Culture, Power, Works and Housing, Education, and Agriculture.