Electoral Bill: Still In The Abyss

Electoral Bill: Still In The Abyss

There appears to be some form of raging muteness over the signing into law of the electoral reform bill. The protracted disquiet hovering over the entire polity as political gladiators and a cross-section of interest groups express their displeasure over what appears to be an adamant standing of the APC administration and as a political Party regarding the issues surrounding the legalization of the electronic voting system which many have viewed as the panacea to the riotous nature of past elections in Nigeria’s political history seems to be waning, albeit the crucial need of putting in place a safe guard (s) towards ensuring a sharp departure from what is regarded as elections in our nation.

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 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 making many of Buhari’s critics to dismiss his promises of ensuring free, fair and credible elections in 2023 was his refusal 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 assent seeing it has been almost two years now since his inauguration on May 29, 2019 for a second term in office.

His critics also doubt his sincerity in ensuring free, fair, and credible election in 2023 given 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 elections of Osun and Kano States 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 characterised the March 2019 governorship election in the state wherein the incumbent governor Abdullahi Ganduje of APC was declared winner in what is clearly against the desire of the electorate.”

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.

Certain stakeholders are of the opinion that Buhari’s refusal to sign the Act into law for the 2019 election may be linked to the fear of losing meaning he cannot be trusted for what he promised ahead of 2023.

The lethargic posture of the Buhari government has been read by the public to amount to a failure to put necessary processes in place to ensure free and fair elections since he became president despite his numerous promises.

The ruling APC 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.

Buhari could not be trusted on ensuring a credible election in the future if a cue is taken from all the elections conducted under him which have been 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 there is little to suggest if APC will change.

If the electoral reform bill has been signed into law most of the litigations and the shenanigans that characterised the last general elections and subsequent ones wouldn’t have occurred or would have been drastically minimised.

Beyond the Electoral Reform Act 2018, Nigeria’s system of government needs a complete overhauling and that is why the various calls for restructuring without which nothing meaningful can happen to Nigeria should be heeded by those in authority.

Whenever the National Assembly transmits the bill to Mr. President once more, he should do due diligence by doing the necessary and he should also see to the agitations for a devolution of powers through restructuring which would make the centre less attractive, tame electoral violence and enhance the credibility of elections in the country.

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