President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent, for the fourth time, the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 as passed by the National Assembly is generating ripples in the polity. The bill, which was passed on July 24, was transmitted to the president on August 3, 2018. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other opposition parties have condemned the president’s action and accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of a hidden agenda. They pointed out that the president’s action is a threat to democracy.
However, the APC and a few other political parties are of the view that there is not enough time to understand and implement the provisions of the new law. But, this position is not plausible enough. The president and the ruling party should listen to Nigerians and do the needful in signing the amendment bill into law without further delay. In a letter to the National Assembly, the president explained that signing the bill into law now that we have gone far into the electoral process for the 2019 polls would “create some uncertainties about the applicable legislation to govern the process” of the 2019 elections in February next year.
Besides, there is also the concern that potential voters may be disenfranchised, when the card reader, the only means of accreditation as envisaged in the proposed law, fails to work. Would that not lead to avoidable confusion, disruptions and legal disputes that could truncate the elections? These are genuine concerns that should be urgently addressed.
It is disturbing that our politicians are busy politicizing the issue instead of finding amicable solution to the problem. The President’s refusal to sign the bill coming on the heels of three previous attempts to give the country an electoral law to improve the integrity of the 2019 elections, could portend grave danger for our nascent democracy. This is why we believe that instead of engaging in cheap politicking and throwing of brickbats on the issue, the executive and the legislature must come together and iron out the grey areas in the proposed law. They should do this in the interest of the nation.
Since the proposed law will enhance the sanctity and the integrity of the electoral process, the president and the lawmakers should find a way out. Alternatively, the leadership of all the political parties that fielded candidates for the presidential election and members of the National Assembly can meet and chart the way forward on how to get the bill signed into law by the president. In all this, the politicians should put the nation first before other considerations.
Indeed, the executive and the legislature must rise above their partisan interests, and do the best for the country. Anything that will jeopardise the sanctity of the 2019 elections must be avoided. On the other hand, anything that will improve the integrity of the elections must be done. On this matter, all politicians, irrespective of party affiliations, must work together to ensure that the electoral bill is signed into law as soon as possible.
History will be kind to them if they work to ensure a free, fair and transparent election in the country next year. The invaluable role of the card reader in enhancing the acceptability of the 2015 elections is not in doubt. In fact, President Buhari called it a game changer. It is widely believed that without the card reader, it would have been difficult for Buhari and the then opposition to win the election. Therefore, if he has concerns now about the new proposed law with regards to the electronic accreditation of voters and transmission of results, we think that they should be quickly addressed. These issues should not be politicized unduly.
Let the president’s reservations be addressed so that there will be a new electoral law before the commencement of the 2019 elections.