Electoral Bill: Buhari’s withheld Assent and the way forwardPresident Muhammadu Buhari alarmingly declined assent to the long-awaited Electoral Act Amendment Bill through a letter to the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan and his counterpart at the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila
By Carl Umegboro
Irrepressibly, the president’s action has continued to generate controversies in the polity with the civil society organizations (CSOs) threatening fire and brimstone and many public commentators seething over perceived mischief and insensitivity. On the whole, three categories of thoughts exist. Whilst one backs the president against mandatory Direct Primaries, the second group; mostly from opposition parties, endorsed it. Then, the third category which includes Nyesom Wike, Rivers state governor admitted the flaws but argued that the assent ought to scale through notwithstanding the defects for a review later as Buhari handled the PIB Act. This idea isn’t bad, however, the big question is; what will be the fate if after giving assent, the anticipated review hits the brick wall? It must be carefully noted that the Electoral Act, if flawed, can set the polity ablaze unlike the Petroleum Industry Act due to vast interests.
Buhari’s divergence is the clause for mandatory Direct primaries for political parties citing the financial implications on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor primary elections across all the wards. There are 8,809 wards in the federation. Buhari also argued that political parties must be given a free hand to determine how to elect their flag-bearers within their strength, and also, that security factor must be put into consideration underlining that security agencies could be overstretched in ensuring hitch-free primaries which may overheat the polity.
Possibly, the lawmakers didn’t look at with a broadminded. For instance, if signed into law, it will require INEC to seek a larger budget on logistics and allowances to monitor primary elections across the 8,809 wards in the country for each political party to validly choose a presidential candidate. Let’s say twenty political parties plan to field presidential candidates respectively, it will require INEC workforce to go round all the wards for each of registered political parties to ably elect a valid candidate which has a heavy financial implication. To conduct the 2023 general elections alone, INEC demands a whooping N305 billion from the treasury.
Another strong fear is beating the time frame for primaries by political parties. As known, primary elections follow INEC’s timetable, and it is rare to find any political party that produced its candidate without internal squabbles which most times, resulted in late primary election leaving members to resort to any possible means; direct, indirect or consensus to be able to field a candidate within time. If the law should exclusively endorse mandatory Direct primaries, practically, it will lead to inconclusive primaries in virtually all political parties. Thus, the Executive’s observation should be cheered. Government is a teamwork and that’s the strong reason laws must pass through the two arms – executive and legislature.
Umegboro, ACIArb, is a public affairs analyst and social advocate. (08173184542-SMS only)