Renewed calls on Buhari to sign Electoral Amendment Act 2018 into law
• Kano’s Patriotic Citizens urge him to address issues in last guber election
When President Muhammadu Buhari recently warned politicians interested in contesting the 2023 general elections to work hard because he would not allow electoral malpractices, many Nigerians took his statement with a pinch of salt. He warned those who may be planning to use their offices or security agencies to subvert the will of the people to have a rethink because he would not allow them to have their way. However, his warning did not also go down well with several stakeholders, who believe that the Buhari administration made a lot of vague promises in the past that were not fulfilled.
One of the major factors that made many of Buhari’s critics to dismiss his promises of ensuring free, fair and credible elections in 2023 was the refusal of Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 into law for the 2019 general elections. It is yet to be seen what excuses he would give again when the Senate finishes with the bill’s processes and sends it to him again for accent.
His critics also doubt his sincerity in ensuring free, fair, and credible election in 2023 on the ground that not a single election conducted since his government came to power in 2015 has had a semblance of credibility using the Ekiti, Kogi, Bayelsa States’ polls as examples and the controversial rerun 2018 governorship election of Osun State where the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in a clear lead before the wheel was reinvented through ‘inconclusive’ election.
A group of concerned citizens from Kano State in a recent open letter to Buhari has also expressed concern that the incumbent does not possess the moral right to promise Nigerians free and fair elections in 2023 “as long as the shenanigans that characterized the March 2019 governorship election in Kano State wherein the incumbent governor Abdullahi Ganduja of APC was declared winner in what is clearly against the desire of the electorate.”
Some of the stakeholders who express displeasure with Buhari’s assurance include National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, President Arewa Youth Consultative Forum ((AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shattima, a chieftain of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Fred Agebyegbe, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT) member, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, a group of Concerned Citizens from Kano State and the presidential candidate, and Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria (GDPN), Dr. Davidson AkhiAkhimien.
In separate telephone conversations with The Guardian recently, they said it was not enough for Buhari to boast that he would not tolerate electoral malpractices come 2023 as long as he refused to sign the amended electoral act 2018 into law.
The ADC national chairman faulted Buhari and also described his statement as hypocritical, saying, “Considering all the anomalies that have characterised every election that has been conducted since APC came into power in 2015, including the last general polls, there is nothing to trust about the ruling party unless Buhari signs the new act to law.”
According to Nwosu, “For Buhari to have refused to sign the Act into law for the 2019 election for fear of losing shows he cannot be trusted for what he promised ahead of 2023.”
He said Buhari’s government has failed to put necessary processes in place to ensure free and fair elections since he became president despite his numerous promises.
Yerima on his part said the president must not be seen to only talk and make empty promises but must be ready to act on them, noting, “Mere talk alone cannot convince Nigerians any longer except he signs the reformed electoral act into law.”
The AYCF president said the ruling party has demonstrated enough desperation in previous elections, especially in the last Kogi, Ekiti, Osun, and Kano gubernatorial polls to endear anybody into taking their promises seriously if necessary steps were not put in place.
In an open letter to Buhari, the Concerned and Patriotic Citizens from Kano urged the Federal Government to do justice over the last gubernatorial election, saying, “we feel obligated to write you an open letter after we read a newspaper report saying you have vowed not to tolerate electoral malpractices in the 2023 election.
“This commendable declaration is of paramount concern to our group because of our strong belief that the fallout of the March 9th gubernatorial elections in Kano, its declaration as inconclusive, the violence that followed during the 23rd March rerun, and the judgments of the election tribunal and appeal court are all said to be linked to the ambition of some national leaders of your party, who are mainly from the south.”
The group claimed that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in a clear lead, but for the violence and terror unleashed on the innocent electorate with the election later declared inconclusive that thwarted that first lead. The group also expressed concern that Buhari’s stand negates what transpired in Kano, where government’s apparatus was allegedly deployed to intimidate the opposition and induce voters. This is in addition to the extensive electoral security problems witnessed as sponsored by the state government.
The group also expressed concern that its hope in the judiciary has been dashed as a result of the alleged interferences “witnessed in the election tribunals which have never been as obtrusive as the dilly-dally we saw in constituting the panel of justices that sat over Kano Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, and the setup of the Appeal Tribunal and the resultant judgments delivered. One can’t but have the impression that the two panels were compromised.”
The group wondered whether the true mandate of the people of Kano could be reinstated even in the Supreme Court, adding that the 2019 Kano gubernatorial election “does not give credence to the claimed integrity of Buhari or support his statement of not allow any form of malpractices come 2023.”
The GDPN’s presidential candidate said time would tell if Buhari was serious about his promises or not, noting, “it would, however, be desirable if he signs the Act into law and makes the election process electronic. This will make the 2023 elections more transparent and less cumbersome unlike what we witnessed in the 2019.”
Babatope and Agbeyegbe also said there was nothing to trust in the way the ruling party has behaved so far as long as conduct of election is concerned.
According to Babatope, “I don’t trust Buhari, not because we are from different parties, but all the elections conducted under him so far are worse than everyone Nigeria has conducted before. They are criminally rigged and now that he is no longer going to contest he is saying malpractices will not be tolerated, but I doubt if APC will change.”
Babatope specifically expressed concern about the Kogi governorship election just as he expressed worry over what happened in Kano and Osun States.
The PDP chieftain commended the 8th National Assembly led by former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, for a job well done on the Electoral Reform Act, saying, “If it has been signed into law most of the litigations and the shenanigans that characterized the last general elections and subsequent ones wouldn’t have occurred or drastically minimised.”
Agbeyegbe said the whole country has become a charade and President Buhari is not behaving differently from other politicians.
According to Agbeyegbe, “Beyond the Electoral Reform Act 2018, Nigeria’s system of government needs a complete overhauling and that’s reason we are insisting on restructuring without which nothing meaningful can happen to Nigeria.”
In an earlier conversation with The Guardian, civil war hero and Second Republic politician, Chief Guy Ikokwu, interrogated Buhari’s pledge to leave a legacy of free and fair elections in 2023. The octogenarian says the president should walk the talk by first signing the Amended Electoral Act whenever the National Assembly transmits the bill to him again. He also noted that devolution of powers through restructuring would make the centre less attractive, tame electoral violence and enhance the credibility of elections in the country.
According to him, “If we decide to take the right steps, the first thing is for the National Assembly to send to him the bill about electronic voting, which he had refused to sign three times, so that it should be signed now, not tomorrow.”
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