…As ex-lawmaker expresses optimism
Despite appeals from different quarters to President Muhammadu Buhari, including the diplomatic community, to sign the amended Electoral Bill forwarded to him by the National Assembly on November 19, the president has continued to keep the people in suspense even when it is barely three days to the 30-days deadline within which he is constitutionally mandated to assent to the Bill or return same to the Legislature.
Although the president has not hinted at any possibility since he received the Electoral Bill, the Bill has, however, been mired in controversy between those urging the President to sign it in order to enhance participatory democracy, as indicated through the approval of direct primaries, and those who have reservations about that model of electing candidates by political parties.
However, while a political party, the National Rescue Movement (NRM), has accused the president of failing to assent, a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Timothy Golu, has expressed optimism that Buhari would sign the Bill eventually.
Recently, some newspapers’ reports had alleged that the president might have caved in to pressure from some governors of his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), and withheld his assent to the Bill, because of the excuse that direct primaries would be too expensive to run.
But the presidency and the National Assembly had quickly come out to dismiss it as untrue. While one of Buhari’s spokespersons, Garba Shehu, said he had not been briefed about such a development and therefore not correct, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, too said it was untrue.
Interestingly, those believed to be pushing for indirect primaries were said to have recently reactivated their agenda, seeing that the president had a few days more to the deadline.
According to sources, they have reached an understanding with a section of the National Assembly leadership that they would convince the president to return the Bill to them on the grounds that he wanted certain clauses amended, but that once that was done, they should file it away and not treat it till the time of the elections.
Although the president, sources claimed, was being convinced to inform the principal officers of the National Assembly that he would withhold his assent for them to also reconsider the timing for the submission of candidates’ list by political parties from 180 days to 90 days as it currently stipulated in the 2010 amended electoral act, it is a decoy to scuttle the whole process.
Yet, those who want the president to leave a legacy of sound and enduring electoral system, have insisted that even if he would return the Bill on the grounds of a few contentious clauses, including direct primaries, he must ensure that the current effort at reforming the electoral system through many other clauses did not go to waste.
Curiously, however, those in support of the president assenting to the Bill as it were and also convinced he would sign it eventually, have argued that the process of returning a bill to the Legislature was much longer than merely signing it hence their conviction that the president had only kept the decision to himself.
According to one source, the fact that the National Assembly would proceed on recess yesterday, Thursday, further contended that “If there was going to be any communication rejecting the Bill, he would have triggered the process before they embark on their recess, of which they wouldn’t be back until later in January, and by which time, the process for the Ekiti and Osun States governorship elections would have begun.
Besides, the source, who equally quoted the president at a recent virtual Summit for Democracy organised by the United States President, Joe Biden, where he reiterated his commitment to leaving behind a lasting legacy of credible polls for the nation’s democratic development, added that Buhari was mindful of his commitment to the diplomatic community.
Meanwhile, a political party, the National Rescue Movement (NRM), has accused the president of failing to reciprocate the usual cordial relationship between the Executive and the present National Assembly by his refusal to assent the Electoral Act amendment bill sent to him.
Its National Chairman, Senator Sa’idu Dansadau, who spoke at the end of the party’s National Executive Committee, (NEC), meeting on Tuesday in Abuja, said the executive was not fair to the National Assembly by President Buhari’s action.
Also, Golu, while calling on the National Assembly to encourage Nigerians and assure them that the Bill would be signed eventually, said the president has been in touch with various people from the villa regarding the bill.
Golu, who spoke on a television programme, said he believed that the National Assembly would stand its ground as they were not doing it for the president or the party but in the interest of democracy.
While calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), witness primary elections as provided by the current provision of the electoral act, noted that political parties contributed to maintaining these things as it was going to be a systematic process with due accreditation.