The ping-pong the Presidency and the National Assembly have been playing for some time on the Electoral Act Bill has finally taken an ominous turn. Shadowing the annulled 1993 election season, the fate of this bill could either make or mar the nation depending on how carefully it is handled.
The Electoral Act Bill 2018 which has now been returned unsigned to the National Assembly a total of four times now, is on the verge of earning the spot of the most controversial bill in the nation.
On the periphery, statistics indicate that a high percentage of voters who voted in the 2015 elections did so without making use of their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) but had to use a special Incidence Form to indicate that they would be voting without using the card readers. It has also been confirmed that such glitches or inconsistencies as this could be exploited by determined vote riggers to manipulate election results and outcomes.
To digress, the last time the Electoral Act Bill was rejected by the presidency was when the document was said to contain fatal errors, among which were the omission of card readers as a necessary tool before any voter could cast their vote. The error was quickly acceded to and the lawmakers began work again to ensure the bill was ready for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to adopt in their 2019 plans. We should also not forget that throughout the lifetime of this bill, the INEC and the executive arm of government were involved in process of making this electoral bill perfect.
However, there were controversial grounds on why the executive and legislative arm were suspicious of the intention of passing the bill which sought to sanitise the electoral system. The presidency once accused the legislators that altering the elections timetable on the bill will tilt the balance of being re-elected in favour of the legislators; the legislators too accused the executive of wanting to tilt the wheel of election favours to themselves.
Also, the decamping of key politicians such as Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara from the APC to the PDP made the suspicions worse. These accusations and counter-accusations set the tone for the hostility as regards the electoral bills act 2018.
Now that there is a logjam and the President Muhammadu Buhari led executive would not assent to the bill, what fate remains of the much-touted free and fair elections coming in 2019? In a letter addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President mentioned that the time to implement the bill by the INEC is too close to the elections to avoid causing a chaos. The opposition party, PDP, however, insinuates that the INEC has shown readiness to abide by the Electoral Act Bill. There seems to be no workable middle ground in sight yet.
It thus appears that some politicians in high places are pulling all strings that they can lay their hands on in order to easily rig the 2019 elections. Not signing the Electoral Act Bill while offering an untenable excuse as INEC’s unreadiness already taints the credibility of the 2019 elections.
The only hope left for Nigerians to pursue now is to lobby the National Assembly to co-operatively veto the President’s assent. A legislative move to over-rule the President on a bill has never happened since the advent of the 4th Republic in 1999. If it succeeds this time around, it can only imply that not only has democracy won, the people may have finally retaken control of a powerful branch in governance- the legislature.
Featured Image Source: Independent