By G9ija

The Southern and Middle-Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has condemned the conducts and utterances made by President Muhammadu Buhari, before and after the recently concluded presidential elections.

In an open letter signed by the leaders of the Forum – Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, OFR, CON – Leader; Ayo Adebanjo – Leader, Afenifere; Pogu Bitrus – President, Middle Belt Forum; Chukwuemeka Ezeife – former Governor of Anambra State and Ambassador Okey Emuchay, MFR – Secretary General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide – the group said more worrisome than the poor conduct by INEC was the president’s posture after the polls.

“On Saturday, February 25, 2023, during the Presidential and National assembly elections, Mr. President was seen in a viral image displaying your ballot paper after thumb printing, to show who you voted, certainly to influence other voters, before casting your vote at your polling unit in Daura, your hometown. That was an absurd and brazen violation of provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC’s voting procedures by no less a person than the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The question is what example was Mr. President providing?

“It must be noted that Section 50 (1) of the Electoral Act of 2022 stipulates that “(1) Voting at an election under this Act shall be by open secret ballot and that “(2) Subject to section 63 of this Act, voting at an election and transmission of results under this Act shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission.”

“Furthermore, the 2023 general election procedures released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) state that voting is by secrecy; “You will go to the voting cubicle to mark your choice on the ballot paper in secret… and then drop the marked ballot paper into the ballot box in full view of all present. A voter is not allowed to take photograph of the ballot paper when in the voting cubicle.

“It is worthy to note that the “Presidency” did not issue a disclaimer over the said viral picture, and dismally, Mr. President has not shown compunction for that action in any way. Like the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Kalu, who also posed for pictures with their ballot papers after thumb printing before casting the ballots at their respective polling units.

“Mr. President did not only mute himself in the face of allegations of irregularities and compromise against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during and immediate aftermath of the Presidential Election, but, as usual, embarked on an international journey soon after.

“The recent open declaration by Mr. President through a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, that he will inaugurate President-elect, Bola Tinubu as President of Nigeria on May 29, 2023 and that there will not be a repeat of the June 12, 1993 Presidential poll saga,” the statement partly read.

The forum reminded the president that the nation is not in a military junta, adding that his actions and avowals are detrimental to national tranquility.