Buhari was born on December 17, 1942. Before his election in 2015, he had served as the nation’s head of state from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985.
“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”
– Arnold Bennett
President Muhammadu Buhari must have been sufficiently dazed by the seething cauldron of emotion that greeted his refusal to sign into law the new Electoral Act recently passed by the National Assembly. In declining his assent, Buhari explained that passing the new bill midway into the ongoing electoral process could create confusion as to the applicable legislation to govern the conduct of the 2019 polls. He, therefore, wants the National Assembly to specifically state in the bill, that the Electoral Act will come into effect and be applicable to elections commencing after the 2019 general elections.
A letter written to the National Assembly to justify the decision read: “I am declining assent to the bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general elections which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process. Any real or apparent change to the rules this close to the election may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion in respect of which law governs the electoral process.
“This leads me to believe that it is in the best interest of the country and our democracy for the National Assembly to specifically state in the bill, that the Electoral Act will come into effect and be applicable to elections commencing after the 2019 general elections.”
This is the fourth time the bill would be denied presidential assent. But this time around, neither the lawmakers nor the opposition is ready to take the excuse lying low. Just as legislators are threatening to override the president’s veto, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as a leading opposition, has also been engaged in virulent verbal duel with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Both sides of the divide have their arguments. In the argument of the critics of the president, since the amendment is intended to give INEC a legal basis to use the Card Readers, as well as electronic technology to transmit results from polling centres directly to the server in Abuja, to help curb electoral manipulation. But by his refusal to assent to the bill, the president has inadvertently created room for suspicion. And if need be, they said, they would not hesitate to take to the streets to ensure that bill is signed into law.
Conversely, the APC has accused the PDP of desperation to latch onto the new bill to perpetrate its rigging plot allegedly hatched in Dubai. The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, speaking to journalists in Abuja said that there was a plot by the PDP to hire Russian agents to hack into the Independent National Electoral Commission’s server during the 2019 general elections.
He said: “Normally, if you vote, the Electoral Officer is supposed to count the votes and announce them before transmitting to the collation centre. But now you are telling us that they do not need to announce the votes, that they should just transmit. That is all part of their Dubai plan, trying to bring in Russian agents to hack the system. That is their joker. To hack into the system and manipulate true figures before transmitting them.”
It has become a regular pattern for the National Assembly to thinker with the electoral act any time a major election like this is approaching. For the current electoral brouhaha, one may want to agree with the president for the apprehension he raised about the likelihood of confusion that may result from engaging a system that has not been tested in a general election that is as critical as this. Now at a critical juncture in the nation’s democratic journey, only a time tested, fool-proved technology can guarantee the stability of the process. Regrettably, the timeline to the election is too short for any trial and error method. But the President himself must also accept his own share of the blame for the delayed passage of the bill. Report has it that the National Assembly had sent the revised version of the bill to the presidential team for its perusal, but no objection was raised before it was passed. If the team had done the needful, perhaps, it would have saved the nation of the needless controversy.
Expectedly, Buhari must have watched with painful discomfiture the way and manner tongues wagged over the decision to withhold his assent for what he described as interest of democracy. By his body language, the iron-willed Daura-born General is not leaving anyone in doubt that the electoral bill would have to wait till after 20119 general elections.
Any further furore about it will only scare away foreign investors and make the nation’s fragile economy more vulnerable.
Known for his seeming obstinacy, Buhari has been heavily criticized for his uncompromising attitude to issues.
Buhari, a retired major general in the Nigerian Army, was born on December 17, 1942. Before his election in 2015, he had previously served as the nation’s head of state from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985, after taking over power in a military coup d’état. He unsuccessfully ran for the office of president of Nigeria in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 general elections. In December 2014, he emerged as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the March 2015 general elections. Buhari won the election, defeating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. This marked the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent president lost to an opposition candidate in a general election. He has described himself as a “converted democrat”. The onus lies on him to conduct a free, fair and credible election in 2019.