President Buhari and the Electoral Bill

The controversy surrounding the withholding of assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari may have to some extent, subsided by now, after the president’s failure to assent to the bill as at December 19, 2021, deadline provided by Nigeria’s constitution.

The bill was presented to the President on November 19, 2021, after being passed by both both houses of the National Assembly. The constitution gives Mr President 30 days within which to assent to not only the Electoral Act bill, but any other bill passed by the National Assembly into law.

A bill can, however, become law even when the president withholds his assent, but when overridden or passed by each chamber of the National Assembly by two-thirds majority, thus the bill shall become law and no assent of the president is therefore required constitutionally.
So, with the presentation of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which sought to provide for direct primary by the nation’s registered political parties, that could give credible, real, not imaginary candidates, unlike indirect primary where undesirable candidates could simply be picked through consensus or proxy, to fill our legislative seats, only to be rubber-stamp to the executives or self-aggrandised.

The president would have fulfilled his pledge of providing through the electoral umpire, a credible, free, fair and transparent general elections in 2023, having been opportune to be presented the Electoral Act Amendment bill by the National Assembly that worked thoroughly on the Act to the advantage of the electorate and the nation’s nascent democracy.

Buhari had, however, during his 2015 electioneering campaign, promised electoral reforms that would entrench a legacy of fair, free and credible elections, which Nigerians have for decades been yearning for, when he assumes the mantle of leadership of the country, which apparently paved the way for his victory at the polls that year.

The Electoral Act Amendment bill by the National Assembly, therefore, presented President Buhari the opportunity to fulfill his promise to Nigerians and ireduce to the barest minimum or completely eliminate electoral malpractices in the nation’s electoral psyche.
This is not the first time the Electoral Act would be amended, passed and presented for Mr President’s assent. The opportunity was first afforded him in 2018 prior to the conduct of the 2019 general elections, but he declined assent on the flimsy excuse that the document was perfected close to election year, 2019, but which turned out to be the worst in the history of the country.

Incidentally, the president has, seemingly wasted an opportunity to leave to Nigerians an indelible legacy of free, fair credible elections which he publicly pledged and vowed to conduct, at an international forum with global leaders.. Buhari’s pledge of strengthening democratic institutions such as the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) is also illusive.
Another envisaged setback for the country to have free, fair and credible elections is the temperament of both the upper and lower chambers of the National Assembly to the Electoral Act. These are the 469 supposed wise democrats, representatives of over 200 million Nigerians who are christened to chart the course of citizens and salvage them in terms livelihood but they simply succumbed to the antics of the executive arm just as mere rubber-stamp.
With the withholding of presidential assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill, the supposed democrats would have overrode the president’s veto to pass the bill with two-thirds majority of each of the two chambers to bequeath a lasting democratic legacy to Nigerians, thereby making their representation felt globally, as well as sure tickets not only to 2023, but till eternity.
The so-called predictions of free, fair, transparent and credible forthcoming general elections by my octogenarian president may just simply come and pass like a running water. After all, they could be perfect to ease the 17 months ride conclusion to safer landing that he always prays with the foreseen exit to his farm.
It is, perhaps, an appropriate time, when our law-makers are on recess, to pray that when they resume, they would reconsider and override the president’s veto with the sole objective of entrenching not only democratic reforms and norms but also a legacy of enduring democracy of free, fair, transparent, and credible elections in the country.
The scope, range or array could be evidence that the president’s recent predictions on the conduct of the 2023 polls could hold influence, authority or not, taking into cognizance his 2015 electioneering campaign pledges and promises, particularly of ending the menace of Boko Haram, position the nation’s economy on a sound footing, and salvage the down-trodden masses from the shackles of poverty, want, idleness have either materialised or botched.
Think twice my brothers sisters, the president’s think-tank are now lording it over over the masses – their envisaged or planned rises in taxation, the day-to-day massacre of citizens across the country, the galloping inflation, the bodily stricken poverty among the masses, the siphoning of public funds by powers that be, coupled with unprecedented unemployment among youths, as well as foreign indebtedness that not even the so-called planned labour strike could relax. So by God’s grace, we need a positive attitude. Khalid Idris Shehu,Bauchi, Bauchi state[email protected]