The national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, has defended President Muhammadu Buhari's strong comment against people hoping to disrupt the 2019 general elections.
While speaking during the opening of the party's caucus meeting in Abuja on Monday, February 18, 2019, the president said he's directed law enforcement agencies to be ruthless in dealing with people planning to disrupt the elections.
He said, "Anybody who decides to snatch boxes or lead thugs to disturb it, maybe that's the last unlawful action you'll take.
"I really gave the military and the police order to be ruthless. We're not going to be blamed that we want to rig elections. I want Nigerians to be respected. Let them vote whoever they want across the parties.
"I'm 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'll do it at the expense of his own life."
The president's comment has generated outrage from Nigerians, especially on social media. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has also slammed the president for giving security operatives the license to kill Nigerians indiscriminately.
However, after the end of the meeting, Tinubu said the president's statement was not meant to be an endorsement of extra-judicial punishment for trouble makers.
He said the president has conducted himself peacefully since he was inaugurated and would not encourage anything that would put Nigerians in harm's way.
He said, "I was in that meeting; the president was just reinforcing the fact that if you are out there snatching ballot boxes, and causing destruction, you are at risk of your own life.
"Whatever happens to you; no president will give an order that his own citizens should be shot summarily. No! No, its okay, emotions are running high these days. Any individual including myself can be misinterpreted.
"These are not his words; he is a law abiding person and he understands categorically and clearly what rule of law is and the lives of individual citizens, that he is in that office to protect.
"Now, let me run this; he has been fighting Boko Haram, kidnappers and all these before this election, did you hear him asking them to be shot and executed summarily? Please give him the benefit of the doubt."
The party chieftain also reiterated the party's decision to resume campaigns for the 2019 general elections despite the ban enforced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after it postponed the elections hours to its commencement on February 16.
"If you have a garden and you don't nourish with water, the grass will remain dormant; we don't want our party to remain dormant," he said.
The Presidential and National Assembly elections that were supposed to take place on February 16 will now take place on February 23, while the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections initially scheduled for March 2 have been moved to March 9.