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‘Fear of defeat behind Buhari’s refusal to sign Electoral Act amendment’

By Leo Sobechi (Assistant Politics Editor) and Seye Olumide
10 December 2018   |   3:16 am
As mixed reactions continue to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act amendment bill, stakeholders, including one of the frontline presidential candidates for next year’s election, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, NCP presidential candidate, Dr. Yusuf Tanko...

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

•APC, PDP playing games,Olawepo-Hashim alleges
As mixed reactions continue to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act amendment bill, stakeholders, including one of the frontline presidential candidates for next year’s election, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, NCP presidential candidate, Dr. Yusuf Tanko, among others, have blamed President Buhari action on fear of losing the 2019 election.

Tanko said Buhari was only acting out of selfish interest by not signing the bill, stressing, “If that Bill is not assented to, there is no way the country can conduct free, fair and credible election next year.”He disclosed that other political parties would take the issue up with the National Assembly, remarking that if expected result is not achieved “we will go on protest and even appeal to the international community to impress on Buhari to sign the Bill into law. I don’t think the president is ready for a free and fair election.”

However, Olawepo-Hashim blamed both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the ignoble fate that has befallen Nigeria’s electoral system.The Peoples Trusts presidential standard bearer asserted that the two major parties were not only toying with the destiny of Nigerians, but also playing politics with the nation’s stability through the way and manner they handle a serious bill such as the Electoral Act.He lamented that rather than presenting themselves as statesmen, APC and PDP candidates were rather obsessed with immediate partisan gains.

Speaking during an interactive session with journalists in Lagos, Olawepo-Hashim recalled that although the PDP-controlled National Assembly passed the Electoral Act, the perceived top actors are falling below standards.He stated: “The president is conducting himself like a typical Nigerian politician of the era of political decline, rather than behaving as a patriot that I have always thought he is. By his actions, he is simply saying, “let me benefit from the fraudulent process for my 2019 bid. You can push for the new law in 2023 when I will not be contesting?

“In the task of nation building, political leaders sometimes have to rise above the fray and take decisions in the national interest, even when they do not seem to benefit from them. Some of us did this before. In 2000, when some of our colleagues wanted to change our two-year tenure to four years, I led the opposition to this, even though I would have been a beneficiary of that exercise as a National Executive Committee (NEC) member.”

A founding member of APC, who pleaded anonymity, expressed concern that Buhari’s refusal to assent to the bill portrays the fact that his party has something to hide, insisting that there is no reason to justify Buhari’s adamant position against the bill before next year’s election.He expressed fears that the National Assembly could muster the 2/3 majority in the parliament to veto the Act into law, which according to him, will not be good for the image of the ruling party and the president himself.

He said: “Taking a look at the way things are going, if the Act is peradventure signed into law, the issue of underage voters that has always been in contest in the northern part of the country would be completely removed with some other grey areas. I think the Act should be signed into law if we are really determined to sanitise our electoral process in this country.”

On his part, President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shetimma, said the attitude of APC to the bill shows obvious attempt to massively rig the next election.
Shetimma added: “But we will ensure that the necessary thing is done. For instance, if the use of card reader were not applicable in 2015, would Buhari have won? Why is he now trying to truncate the system he benefited from?”

Also, a delegate to the 2014 National Conference, Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd) said: “I do not know much about the contents of the Act, if according to the Constitution the National Assembly has the power to veto Mr. President it should go ahead as far as it is in the interest of the country.”

The national chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, described Buhari’s action as highly embarrassing, arrogant and uncalled for, saying: “The same president that went to court severally to challenge the outcome of elections that did not favour him is behaving this way. It is an obvious fact that if the Bill is signed into law, the next election will be free, fair and credible. This shows how shallow those managing Buhari are.

“The APC has failed in every area it is supposed to show character. For instance, look at what happened in the Edo, Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, where the ruling party manipulated the entire processes to suit it. I do not see reasons why Buhari as a contestant like others, would because of his selfish disposition, refuse to sign the Act into law.”

One of Atiku Abubakar Support groups, YES ATIKU 2019, regretted that less than three months into a general election the Electoral Act is not ready despite the fact that it was transmitted to the President for assent on November 7, 2018. In a statement yesterday, Deputy Coordinator of the group, Babatunde Idowu, said the president ought to carry out extensive electoral reforms if he is serious about fighting corruption. But, of course, we know he is afraid of the people voting him out. It is a dysfunctional electoral system that gives politicians the Leeway’s to foist themselves on the people in negation of their will.

However, lawmakers representing Lagos West and East in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Senators Solomon Adeola and Gbenga Ashafa lashed out at those urging the National Assembly to override the president’s declamation. The lawmakers said those making the call do not have the national interest and the safety and sanctity of the 2019 election at heart.

According to Adeola, “I will not support any such move on the floor of the Senate as it is counterproductive at this late hour to the crucial 2019 election, scheduled to start February next year. If the previous Electoral Act that is being amended can produce the democratic landmark of an opposition party winning a free and fair election from a ruling party in power for 16 years in 2015 under the then ruling party, then it can be relied on even now to deliver free and fair election.”He said any move to champion the override of the Presidential veto would amount to wasting precious legislative time and overheating the polity in place of other important legislative agenda.

Ashafa boasted that progressive senators in the Eighth Assembly would stand against any plan by the lawmakers to veto President Buhari’s refusal to once again sign the recent amendments to the Electoral Act. Speaking after a stakeholders’ meeting in Epe over the weekend, Ashafa said: “I have had the opportunity of looking through the well thought-out reasons adduced by Buhari for not assenting to the version of the Bill which has been forwarded to him and I am quite in agreement with him. Both the president and the National Assembly have shown good faith in the back and forth caused principally by drafting inconsistencies, that have delayed the bill till now. We must all understand that both sides must be dispassionately and painstakingly disposed to ensuring that there is no loophole in the final result of the proposed amendments, considering the sensitive nature of the Electoral Act and overarching effect of same on National security and stability of the polity.
“It cannot be in tandem with any standard democratic ethos to introduce new rules to the field of politics less than two months to a general election; we must be fair to all concerned.”He noted that the call to veto the Bill could only be decided by numbers, saying, “To conduct a successful veto of the president’s position, the National Assembly would require a vote by two thirds of both houses. I am certain that the progressive block of Senators who have already seen reason with the president, would not be in support of such a veto.”