Buhari Throws The Electoral Amendment Bill Back to The National Assembly, As He Declines Assent

By Suleiman Umaru

Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, may have prepared his mind how he will supervise the registered  political parties primary to select their Presidential and  Candidates for other elective offices if President Muhammadu , a retired Army General, signs the National Assembly  November 2021, electoral bill into Law.   The INEC Chairman, had boosted  that  that ‘’the electoral body would ensure  implementation  of the direct primary as  passed by the National Assembly as soon as the Katsina state born Nigerian President passes within the 30 days stipulated by law.  The INEC, had been one of those that had piled up pressure on the Nigerian to sign the bill into Law to get back to work.

He may have read the handwriting on the wall that the retired Army General may not assent to the bill because of the delay that he was forced to meet him on December 9, 2021 .The duo were said to have held closed door meeting. Informed sources told The Value News that the INEC helmsman had kept mute on details of the discussion  with Buhari   on the adoption of direct primaries in the Electoral Act (amendment Bill), 2021 passed by the National Assembly.

The INEC boss had met with the Senate Committee on Appropriation behind closed door on Monday,  December 20 2021,  where he was said to have told them that N305 billion would be needed to conduct  the 2023 general elections.  He may have been working on the premise that the Nigerian President would bow to pressure to sign the Electoral Act and that that the Committee would appropriate the N305 billion for the Commission to conduct the election.

Unknown to him, the Army General who had just returned from Istanbul, Capital of Turkey, where he had attended the 3rd Turkey –African Summit, organized by Recep Erdogan, the country’s President, had made up his mind not sign the Electoral Bill into Law because of perceived anomalies.  It was a matter of time of time for him to drop the bomb shell.

Lawan: Senate President

On Tuesday, December 21, 2021, what initially appeared to be speculations making the rounds that  the President would  not assent to the bill was made public as he was  to have sent a letter to the National Assembly  giving reasons why he why he had refused to sign the Electoral Act into Law. The President was said to have frowned at the direct primaries recommended by the Lawmakers, describing it as’’ too expensive and a burden on the country’s megre resources’’.  The Nigerian President who could not hide his feelings in the Letter sent to the Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila,  the Speaker of House of Representatives,  had said that ‘’conducting direct primaries  will be tasking’’, stating that such mode of election  means a large turnout of voters, that would overstretch the security agencies personnel’’.

 More so, he fears the adoption of the direct primaries approach for the 2023, general election  would amount to a violation of the rights  of the rights of the citizens to vote during elections , noting that the smaller Political parties also jostling for power would face marginalisation’’. He would want the Political  to decide on the best way to pick their Candidates for the elections,   His may worry was that the Bill if signed into Law would scuttle the 2023, general elections as aggrieved party members  might drag the INEC to Court, which might not be too good for Nigerian nascent Democracy.

Many believe that the President may have acted on’’ the advice of his Advisers, careful review and Consultations’’  to  turn down  the  Bill to force the Lawmakers to go back to the drawing board and expunge that aspect of the direct primaries from the Act. The refusal of the Nigerian President not to sign the Electoral Bill into Law may have jolted the Lawmakers who are yet to recover from the shock. They had expected the President to sign the Bill because of the robust relationship between the National Assembly and Executive arm of government as the Buhari have had all his Executives Bills and request  to borrow from International Financial Organisations and the World Bank  approved. It was therefore not very surprising why they were disappointed that their major r political ally has turned his back on them, fueling speculations making the rounds that the Lawmakers may fight back.

Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House  may have given an insight to what would happen  next year year in the working relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive  in 2022,  when he said the House will’’ adequately  address  the refusal  of President Buhari  to assent  the Electoral (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2021, next year.  He may have spoken the mind of Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President.  Hear him: the Bill has not received Presidential Assent and it falls on the National Assembly to decide on the way forward’’, stressing  that  when they resume next year, their efforts  would be centered on the reform of  the electoral system  in the country , stressing that the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government would do it together’’.

Gov. Ortom Backs Buhari For Not Signing The Electoral Bill Into Law

Samuel Ortom, a former minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, during former President Goodluck Jonathan Administration and now governor of Benue state and a trenchant critic of the Buhari Administration may have surprised Nigerians as he has thrown his weight behind his arch-enemy for refusing to assent the electoral bill into Law.  ‘’I want to use this opportunity  to commend  Mr. President  for withholding  assent on the process of primaries  of the various registered political parties’, he had said at the state Executive Council meetinglast Tuesday, meaning that the governor criticizes the Nigeria President when he finds  him the wrong way  on issues bordering on security and political and gives kudos to him when he does the right thing that would benefit the general public and entire political class, irrespective of their political leaning. 

Apealling to the National Assembly Lawmakers,  to reconsider  the clauses that allows for only direct  primaries  and all the other reasons  adduced by the President for declining to assent to the Bill’’, which political Observers believe  to guarantee a hitch -free 2023, general elections.  He was emphatic that that ‘’the issue of primaries should be the responsibility of the various political parties and not for the Yakubu led INEC to supervise.  He may have alluded to the fact that as a  vetran politician  who had witnessed  direct, indirect and consensus primaries, in the various political parties he had been a card carrying member in the past,  it was unanimous  that that the issue of primaries is the responsibility of the parties to decide on.

Nyenson Wike, a former minister of State, Education, during Jonathan Administration, and governor of Rivers state was not amused that Buhari refused to sign the Electoral Bill into Law. The Rivers state governor who had been a major critic of Buhari, had said that’’ the signs were there that he will not sign the Electorral Bill into Law’’.

 He had described ‘’the Bill as dead on arrival’’ . He noted that in 2019, the retired Army General had refused to sign the electoral amendment  Act  that calls for electronic transmission of results because he knew his party would be defeated in the polls. He reiterated that what Buhari has done now was not different from what he did in 2019, as he has consistently promised to leave a legacy ‘’ to conduct transparent elections in Nigeria’’.

Falana: SAN, Says Reasons Adduced By Buhari For Not Assenting Electoral Bill Was Misleading

Femi Falana, a legal luminary and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, did not see any reason why the retired Army General should withhold assent to the Electoral Bill, describing him as a beneficiary of the direct primaries process. The Lagos based legal luminary had said that that the ruling All Progressive Congress , APC,  had adopted the  direct primary  for the emergence  of Buhari as its Presidential Candidate in 2019. He lamented that the Nigerian President has successfully ‘’thrown out the baby and the bathwater’’.   He opined that ‘’the reason adduced by the President for the rejection of the Electoral Amendment Bill is grossly misleading’’. He had said that that Daura born Politician had rejected electronic voting which he had finally endorsed when he admitted that he is a beneficiary of electronic accreditation of voters by the use of card readers. 

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