Is a war of words brewing between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over President Muhammadu Buhari's comments on ballot box snatching?  

A day after President Buhari made the comment, he is insisting that the persons raising concerns over his statement that ballot box snatchers will pay with their lives must be of the opposition PDP.

The president had on Monday during the emergency meeting of the APC said that anyone who dares to snatch ballot boxes during next weekend's elections would be doing that for the last time.

Ballot box snatching in Nigeria has no death penalty, but a two-year in prison punishment, but the President is insisting that his comments should be seen as a strong message against the long history of savagery associated with elections in the country.

Addressing State House Correspondents on Monday on the issue that has been condemned by the PDP, presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, recalled that in some past elections in parts of Nigeria, during which innocent voters lost their lives while ballot boxes were being snatched by armed thugs.

"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,” Mr Shehu said.

According to him, "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 because our security agents will certainly not stand by, clap for them and watch them kill and maim".

He added that President Buhari had the safety and security of Nigerians uppermost in mind when he made the comment, and should be praised rather than criticised for issuing this stern warning to potential ballot box snatchers.

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Shehu further 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, PDP, 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 said.

The presidential spokesperson emphasised that no one had anything to fear from the President's comments if their conscience and intentions are clear.

"Let's just have free and fair elections and no one need worry about anything," he said.

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