The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has asked the chief of army staff, Tukur Buratai to quit “dabbling into politics” and concentrate on handling his assignment of protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
This was in reaction to Buratai’s response to PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar’s call for the military not to obey President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive dealing ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers during the elections.
Buhari, at a meeting of APC leaders in Abuja, warned that anyone planning to snatch ballot boxes or rig the forthcoming elections will do so at the expense of his own life.
This has since generated mixed feelings among Nigerians with Atiku saying that the directive is inconsistent with the laws of the land and military commanders were not meant to obey such order irrespective of the status of the person who issued it.
However, Buratai, while briefing army commanders and principal staff officers on Wednesday, wondered why “persons who are aspiring to rule this country are inciting the army to disobedience.”
Buratai added that a direct and public incitement of the “Nigerian Military against democracy and constituted civil authority will not be tolerated.”
Reacting, the party, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Wednesday, reminded Buratai that the loyalty of the military is to the state and not the president.
He said: “Gen. Buratai’s allusion to the people’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as well as his threats to officers and ranks to execute the unlawful order by President Muhammadu Buhari to participate in the electoral process is an aberration of our laws and a recipe for crisis.
“Gen. Buratai is counseled to note that the loyalty of the military is to the state and that the President lacks the powers, under our laws, to deploy soldiers for the conduct of elections.
“Our party urges Gen Buratai to concentrate on his very demanding assignment of protecting the territorial integrity of our nation and ending insurgency rather than dabbling into partisan politics at the risk of our national cohesion.
“It is imperative to state that by trying to drag the military to participate in the February 23 Presidential elections, President Buhari plots to suspend our constitution, assume the position of an emperor, trigger unrest, subvert our electoral process and derail our democracy.”
The PDP asked Buhari and Buratai to end their rationalising of military option as the courts have summarily dismissed the arguments that soldiers are needed to guarantee peaceful elections.
“It may interest President Buhari to know that the judgment was sequel to a suit filed by the APC Leader in the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, seeking a declaration that deployment of soldiers during elections is illegal and unconstitutional, ” Ologbondiyan said.
“In case, President Buhari is not aware, as usual, the court directly held that “the Armed Forces have no role in elections” and if soldiers must vote, they must do so in their barracks.
“The PDP therefore cautions President Buhari not to allow his desperation to push him to corrupt the patriotism of our military and use them against innocent Nigerians, whose only demand is for a free, fair and credible election.”