Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale, Juliet Akoje, Deji Elumoye, Emma Okonji, and Nosa Alekhuogie in Abuja, and Emma Okonji and Nosa Alekhuogie in Lagos

Despite many senators’ determination and threat on Tuesday to overturn President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Senate backed down yesterday. Instead of proceeding with the signature gathering, the upper chamber decided to consult with the House of Representatives on how best to deal with the president’s rejection of the electoral reform bill.

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The Senate also agreed to engage their constituents in the consultation process over the holiday break before making a final decision in January.

Buhari had refused to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, citing concerns about the bill’s direct primary provisions.

The president’s reasons for not assenting to the bill, according to members of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives, were merely a ruse to prevent the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from transmitting results electronically, using direct primaries as a peg.

Dr. Bukola Saraki, the former President of the Senate, has identified two viable options currently before the National Assembly. Saraki suggested that the legislature either veto Buhari’s refusal to assent or remove the contentious provisions on direct primaries and resubmit the bill to the president for his signature.

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Some senators expressed their displeasure with the president’s rejection of the electoral bill at the end of Tuesday’s plenary, claiming they had gathered over 75 signatures ahead of a plan to veto the president at Wednesday’s plenary. However, the threat was not carried out, as Senate President Dr Ahmad Lawan said the senate would now consult with the House of Representatives on how to respond to Buhari’s letter on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, while summarizing the outcome of their closed-door session.

The provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), according to Lawan, do not allow the upper chamber to act solely on such matters in the absence of the House of Representatives, which had already gone on vacation. When both chambers reconvene in January after the Christmas recess, he assured Nigerians that a joint position with the House would be reached after due consultation with the people to determine the appropriate course of action.

“The senate in a closed session deliberated on matters relevant to the workings of the senate, in particular, and the National Assembly, in general,” the senate president said of the executive session.

“The Senate also discussed how to respond to Mr. President’s letter on the electoral bill amendment in closed session.” As a result, the Senate decided to meet with the House of Representatives in January, when both chambers will be in session.

“Right now, the House of Representatives is on recess, and as we all know, the Constitution requires the Senate and House of Representatives to work together to take appropriate action.

“During our January recess, the Senate also resolved to consult with our constituents.” The Senate believes that as major stakeholders in the laws that we pass in the National Assembly, our constituents have a role to play.”

In a statement released yesterday, the leader of the PDP caucus in the House, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, claimed that the president was attempting to avoid electronic transmission of results by using direct primaries as a ruse.

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When the matter was brought up for discussion, the caucus assured Nigerians that it would ensure that its members used their constitutional right to veto the president.

“The unspoken reason for declining is to avoid electronic transmission of results, which would improve the electoral system’s credibility,” Chinda said. Though contemplated, this refusal has left Nigerians perplexed by a president who continues to show utter contempt for the constitution and the reform of state institutions.

“Under him, our state institutions have regressed to the point where the gains of previous institutional reforms undertaken by Our Great Party while in power have either been lost to his inaction or to his deliberate ploy to leave our country in a worse state than when he arrived.” We are not convinced that he is interested in electoral reform based solely on this point.

“As an opposition caucus, we will ensure that our members exercise their constitutional right to veto the president under Section 58(5) whenever the National Assembly deems it appropriate to debate the issue.”

Before the legislature, Saraki identifies options.

Dr. Bukola Saraki, the former President of the Senate, spoke out against Buhari’s decision to throw out the entire amendments to the electoral bill, saying that federal lawmakers have two options.

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Saraki said in a statement that lawmakers could override the president’s refusal to sign the bill or remove the contentious provisions on direct primaries and send it back to him for signature.

“Now that Mr. President has conveyed his decision to decline assent to the Electoral Act [amendment] Bill, I am confident that I speak on behalf of millions of Nigerians in urging the National Assembly to act quickly,” the former Senate president said. This is because we cannot sit back and allow a single contentious clause in the proposed Electoral Act (amendment) Bill to negate all of the Bill’s positive aspects.

“At this time, the National Assembly has two options. They can either override the president’s veto or remove the contentious provision on direct primaries and send it back to him for his signature. Regardless of which option our legislators choose, it can be completed in the shortest amount of time possible. In January 2022, we may have a new electoral law.

“Anyone who has been paying attention to the mood of the country knows that Nigerians want a new electoral law that will lead to a credible, free, fair, and peaceful election process.” They want a system that ensures that their votes in the election of those who govern them are truly counted.

“This proposed electoral law is expected to reassure youths, many of whom avoid participating in politics because they lack faith in the system.” They believe that the system is frequently rigged and tainted. Enacting a new law that gives them hope in our country is one way to bring this active demography into the political system. This Electoral Act [Amendment] Bill accomplishes this goal.

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“This is why the National Assembly, as the representatives of the Nigerian people, must make a decision in the best interests of our country and its long-term democracy.” The option of doing nothing after the president’s refusal of assent is not an option. Our legislators in both chambers of the National Assembly, as well as Mr. President, must work quickly to make it a law.”

For Fear of 2023, the APC is scuttling electoral reform, according to the PDP.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of sabotaging the Electoral Act Amendment Bill because it contains key provisions that would prevent them from rigging the general election in 2023. According to the PDP, its investigations revealed a fear of failure in the 2023 general election, as well as the positive implications that the electoral bill would have by ensuring electronic transmission of election results.

The opposition party recalled that the APC had been wary of the Electoral Act amendment because it included provisions for electronic transmission of election results, which would completely eliminate election manipulation and alteration.

The PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, said in a statement that it was clear that the APC and the Buhari administration were never committed to amending the Electoral Act to ensure credible elections. The PDP accused the APC of instigating a debate over the mode of political party primaries as a ruse to kill the entire amendment, which included provisions for electronic transmission of results.

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“It is imperative to remind Nigerians of how the APC, in collusion with their leaders in the National Assembly, fought hard to stop the bill’s electronic transmission of results provision, but were resisted by Nigerians, supported by the courageous action of the PDP Caucus in the House of Representatives, which staged a walkout only for the APC to orchestrate controversies and set the stage for Mr. President’s withholding of assent,” the PDP said.

“The APC’s main motivation for manipulating the legislative process is to prevent the electronic transmission of results, allowing it to continue its culture of rigging and electoral impunity, which includes altering results at collation, snatching ballot boxes, and destroying data, among other things, in order to cling to power against Nigerians’ will.”

“This is consistent with the APC’s well-known machinations in the last six years to undermine every genuine effort to instill credible, transparent, free, and fair elections in Nigeria.” The APC thrives on electoral fraud, deception, shady dealings, violence, and political brigandage as part of their heinous plan to enslave Nigerians in perpetuity.”

PDP claimed that the APC had completely lost its capacity and goodwill for electoral contest after being rejected for its failures and having also self-decimated its structures across the country, and as a result sought to subvert any process that could guarantee credible elections in 2023.

The fact that the APC obstructed the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill further validated the fact that the party was opposed to Nigerians’ aspirations and did not believe in democratic principles of fair elections, according to the PDP.

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More Nigerians are reacting…

Meanwhile, Nigerians from all walks of life have continued to express their displeasure with President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the electoral bill into law.

Henry Nwawuba, a member of the House of Representatives, said he didn’t see any power struggle in the situation.

“It is part of the process that as it goes through the rounds in the House, we expose the law to public dialogue, and then we send it off for access,” Nwawuba said on the ARISE NEWS Channel’s Morning Show yesterday. The speaker has stated that “when we return in January, we will take another look at the electoral bill because it is not yet finished.”

In response to reports that nearly 80 senators had agreed to override the president, Nwawuba emphasized that the bill was in the hands of the National Assembly, which would come together and make the best decision in Nigeria’s best interests.

“This is a critical piece of legislation on our legislative agenda, and we are determined to see it through,” he said. By the grace of God, we’ll deal with the Electoral Act when we return in January.”

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Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, a lawyer who also spoke on the Morning Show yesterday, clarified the issue of indirect primaries, saying that each political party has the right to choose between direct and indirect primaries.

Direct primaries, according to Osaze-Uzzi, allow every member of a political party to vote and choose the candidate for a specific election.

“There are many positive aspects of the bill,” he said, “and we must not overlook them.” There are also some issues that the president did not address, which some people find concerning. The deadlines for holding primaries have been extended to allow for all of the legal steps to be taken.”

Kunle Adegoke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said on the ARISE Morning Show that political parties had complete autonomy over their internal affairs. Adegoke explained that the legislature’s recent intervention to regulate political party affairs stemmed from the fact that the power granted to political parties to regulate their internal affairs had been widely abused, resulting in a lot of agitation.

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“The National Assembly knows that the Nigerian constitution recognizes only the legislature to make a final decision in this regard,” Adegoke said. We can simply pass the act again, and the president will be forced to make a decision. We can’t just say we have power and are free to use it; we have to consider all factors that are relevant to the process we’re trying to undertake.”

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