Prominent Nigerians including Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), President of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu and spokesperson of the Coalition of Northern Youth Groups, Abdul Aziz Suleiman, have urged the National Assembly to override President Buhari on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.
Chief Ahamba said the president and his party were playing politics with the bill but noted that members of the National Assembly have a right to override Buhari in the overall interest of Nigerians.
“The Electoral Act Amendment Bill is acceptable to me but it may not be to the president or the APC. But if the NASS have the interest of the majority at heart, they know what to do.”
Also, President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus said the ball is in the court of the National Assembly members to do the needful but lamented that it lacked the spike to veto the president.
“We just have to put pressure on the system because Mr. President’s action is an indication that they don’t want free and fair elections. They don’t want to move democracy forward. They are afraid that signing the bill into law will expose so many ills which they were able to get away with in the past. So, let us continue to put pressure on them.”
Pogu said there should be no argument about the development procedurally because if the president fails to sign the Bill, there is another gateway in which the National Assembly can override his decision.
He said: “Even with the loss of confidence by Nigerians in the ability of the federal legislators to stand their ground, this Bill appears to be their baby.They are closer to the people than the presidency and they know what grassroots anger could translate into.
“There two major provisions in the Bill that are by all means fundamental to to the establishment of a solid democratic elections process and President Buhari will reclaim his statesmanship if he passes them. They are the electronic transmission process and the direct party primaries. Since INEC has said it will no longer fund party primaries, there should be no argument about how costly the process can be so long as that is what the parties and indeed a large majority of the electorate want.”
He said Nigerians should be focusing on the positive impact the direct primaries would have on the future leadership selection processes and on voter confidence.
“We all know that Buhari himself is a major beneficiary of fair electoral environment and should, therefore, not be expected to stand against the opportunity to leave behind a golden electoral legacy”, he said.
Yusuf Shehu, former member of the Katsina State House of Assembly, and currently, senior legislative aide to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said President Buhari should sign the bill into law because the legislators have spoken the minds of Nigerians.
“To me, this is what we call democracy in action in the sense that if the legislators could sit down to look at the loopholes in the current electoral bill and amend it, I wonder why the president should not respond by assenting to it. I am expecting the president to assent to the bill as requested by the National Assembly and if he fails, I expect the National Assembly to do the needful by overriding him and passing it into law,” he said.
The two major contentious clauses in the bill are the electronic transmission of election results and the direct mode of primaries for political parties to choose their candidates for elections.
Amid the debate on the two clauses, however, the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has repeatedly cleared the air, saying those were no issues.