By the pronouncement of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), exactly one year from today, Nigerians will be going to the polls in the next round of general elections in the country.
Chairman of INEC, Prof, Mahmood Yakubu, stated this in April last year during a one-day Public Hearing on the National Electoral Offence Commission (Establishment) Bill 2021, organised by the Senate Committee on INEC in Abuja, indicating in the same breath however, that a timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections could only be made public after the legal framwork for the elections had become law.
“ By the principle established by the commission, the 2023 General Election will hold on Saturday, 18th February, 2023 which is exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days or 660 days from today.
“We hope to release the Timetable and schedule of Activities for the General Election immediately after the Anambra Governorship election scheduled to hold on 6th November, 2021.
“ In order to do so, there should be clarity and certainty about the electoral legal frame work to govern the election. We are confident that the National Assembly will do the needful in earnest, Prof. Yakubu said.
“As soon as it (the Electoral Act Amendment Bill) is signed into law, the Commission will quickly, release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections based in the new law’’, the INEC Chairman said in Abuji during the Commission’s first quarterly on January 18, 2022.
Speaking at the same event, the Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and Chairman of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Yabagi Sani, lamented that a major impediment to the successful conduct of the 2023 general elections, is the lingering debacle between the executive and legislature on the fake of the electoral amendment bill.
While urging the President to sign the bill into law without further delay, the IPAC Chairman said ‘’We at IPAC are anticipating the emergence of an Electoral Act that will address among others, the lingering and fundamental issues relating to the legalisation of electronic accreditation of voters as well as the electronic transmission of election results; issues relating to substitution of candidates in the event of death in an election,; a redefinition of what amounts to over-voting; early release of funds to INEC; early commencement of campaigns by political parties and, the period that political parties are legally allowed to commence campaigns in the countdown to elections’’.
On December 30, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari transmitted to the National Assembly a letter declining his assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 earlier delivered to him for his statutory endorsement. This was after he had sat on the bill until the very last of the 30 days provided him by law within which he was required to either append his signature or return the bill to the legislature.
According to President Buhari, the Electoral Act (Amendment ) Bill 2021, seeks to amend certain provisions of the extant Electoral Act 2010. Part of the objective of the Bill is the amendment of the present Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 to delete the provision for the conduct of indirect primaries in the nomination of party candidates such that party candidates can henceforth only emerge through direct primanies.
“ The conduct of direct primanies across the 8,809 wards across the length and breadth of the country will lead to a significant spike in cost of conducting primary elections by parties as well as increase in the cost of monitoring such election by INEC, who has to deploy monitors across these wards each time a party is to conduct direct primaries for the presidential, gubernatorial and legislative posts.
“ The addition of these costs with the already huge cost of conducting general elections will inevitably lead to huge financial burden on both the political parties, INEC and the economy in general at a time of dwindling revenues.’’
For this and attendant consequences, and sundry issues he identified, the president said, ‘’In the premise of the above, I hereby signify to the National Assembly that I am constrained to withhold assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 in line with the provisions of section 58(1,) and (4) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
“ It is my considered position that the political parties should be allowed to freely exercise right of choice in deciding which of direct or indirect primaries to adopt in the conduct of their primary elections as their respective realities many permit.’’
In the circumstance, the National Assembly which has the power to either veto the president’s position or rework the bill in accordance with his observations and propositions succumbed to the latter as many Nigerians had thought they would do in line with their observed lack of courage to square up to the president on critical national issues.
On Monday, January 31, 2022, the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare disclosed in a statement that ‘’The Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr Olatunde Amos Ojo has transmitted the authenticated copies of the Electoral Bill 2022 to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on 31st January, 2022’’.
The Presidential aide said ‘’ This was done in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the Acts Autheritication Act cap Az LFN 2004’’, adding that ‘’ Mr President had withheld assent to the Electoral Bill 2021 transmitted to him on 19 November, 2021.
The Electoral Bill was thereafter reworked by the National Assembly and both the Senate and the House of Representation passed same on 25th January, 2022.’’
To the consternation and irritation of Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari is back to his characteristic hibernating on the bill as nearly three weeks after receiving the document, the only thing that has been heard from the Presidential quarters is that the chief executive of the cantry is consulting again.
Expressing his disappointment with the unfortunate situation, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, last Saturday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, noted with regret that President was being sentimental and biazenly partisan in his handing of the matter and urged him (president) to do the needful in the interest of all Nigeria.
“ Every time this government, this party will find an excuse of not signing an Electoral Act. In 2018 to 2019, when they inserted the card reader in Electoral Act Amendment Bill, Mr President said no, it is too early, I will not sign because they know if they had inserted it (card reader) in 2019 election, it would have been difficult for APC to win,’’ he said, arguing that ‘’ Now, we are in 2022, going for 2023, National Assembly, in their wisdom said there must be direct primaries by all the parties. Mr President came and said no, put options. National Assembly, in their wisdom, has amended the bill and agreed to what Mr President said. Now again Mr President said I’m in dilemma, I’m consulting.
‘‘What is he consulting about? That there is a clause that says if a minister or a commissioner wants to run for election, you have to resign, that is why up till now Mr Prersident cannot assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill?’’
Speaking at an event in Abuja last week, Prof. Attahiru Jega, former chairman of INEC, underlined the importance of a good law for the integrity of the electoral process, noting that ‘’We were in an unfortunate situation where a tendency had began to develop, where both the Executive and Legislature did not see the necessity of urgent improvement in the electoral of legal frameworks that we can keep up upscaling the integrity of our elections,’’ adding that ‘’ Luckily, now we have a good law arising from the reform process which commenced after the 2019 election.’’
Prof. Jega said though it was unfortunate that it had taken this long to amend, the bill is perhaps ‘’ the best electoral law in our history’’ and expressed the confidence that ‘’ It will certainty add tremendously value to the integrity of our elections henceforth when it is signed.’’
Last Monday, Governors elected under the People Democratic Party (PDP), at the end of their meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, urged President Buhari to sign the Bill without further delay.
In a communiqué read to journalists by the Vice Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Goernor Okezie Ikpeazu, governors under the main opposition party in the country said the president’s delay in assenting to the bill was a sign of unwillingness to provide Nigerians with a reformed electoral legal framework that could provide solutions to much of the challenges confronting our electoral system.
“Waiting to run out the 30 days is yet another sign of unwillingness by Mr President to give Nigeria a reformed electoral framework’’, they said, adding that ‘’If there are still misgivings on any aspect of the Bill, amendment may be introduced at a later stage’’.
For now the nation waits and critical electoral activities towards the 2023 general elections remain in limbo as President Muhammadu Buhari seems determined to fully enjoy another 30 days reverie before telling Nigerians whether or not he believes the 2023 general elections should take place under freerer, fairer and more credible atmosphere.
By: Opaka Dokubo
Ex-Minister, Senator Emerge PDP Senatorial Candidates In Kwara
Former Minister of Sports, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, has emerged the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate for Kwara central senatorial district.
Abdullahi was elected through affirmation by delegates at the PDP’s senatorial primary at Mariam Event Centre, Ilorin.
The national officer that conducted the primary, Hashim Jimoh, announced Abdullahi as the winner, having been returned unopposed.
Also a former Senator, Rafiu Ibrahim was elected as the PDP’s candidate for Kwara south senatorial district.
Ibrahim also emerged through affirmation at the primary in Omu- Aran in Irepodun local government area of the state.
Chairman of PDP in Kwara south, Comrade Bisi Fakayode raised up Ibrahim’s hand after his unanimous election.
Speaking with reporters after his emergence, Abdullahi thanked the PDP stakeholders and delegates for confirming him as Kwara central’s candidate.
He also thanked journalists for their support, adding that :” I do not take your support and that of the PDP’s stakeholders for granted.
Abdullahi assured the people of his constituency of quality representation at the Senate.
PDP Primary: Two Ondo Senators Fail To Secure Return Tickets
Two sitting senators from Ondo State, Ayo Akinyelure, and Nicholas Tofowomo, have lost their bid to return to the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
They lost in the primary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, held on Monday in the state.
Akinyelure is representing Ondo Central Senatorial District while Tofowomo represents Ondo South Senatorial District.
In the primary held in Akure, the state capital, Akinyelure came second, polling 58 votes behind Mr Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN, who scored 82 votes.
On the other hand, Tofowomo scored 74 votes behind a former Deputy Governor of the state, Mr Agboola Ajayi, who polled 78 votes in the exercise that held in Okitipupa, in the Okitipupa Local Government Area of the state.
In the Ondo North Senatorial District, Mr Adetokunbo Modupe, defeated his opponent, Mr Foluso Adefemi, with 124 votes as against 93 votes.
Speaking with journalists after the election, Akinyelure attributed his loss to the influence of the former Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who did not support him.
Akinyelure said, “As a ranking Senator and with all I have done for them in Ondo Central Senatorial District, the three ad- hoc delegates that favour Olusegun Mimiko, they gave instructions for them to vote me out. I am happy about this but I know my God will never fail.
“I know what I am talking about. We have six local governments in the central, by the grace of God I am still a sitting Senator. The election was so transparent but I know that with the volume of what I have done for the Ondo Central Senatorial District, I did not expect to be paid this way. But I have a destiny that nobody can stop.”
The winner of the Ondo Central primary, Adedipe, said it was the first time he would be contesting for elective office, calling all members of the party to support him to win the main election in 2023.
He said, “The exercise has been peaceful and very free. It is the PDP that has won and not Ifedayo. It is the party that conducts a free and fair election. My fellow aspirants should see this as a vote for all of us.”
Rivers Dep Gov, Others Win Senatorial Tickets
Rivers State Deputy Governor, Mrs Ipallibo Harry Banigo, has won the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket for the Rivers West Senatorial District election.
Ipalibo, who hails from Degema Local Government Area, scored 264 votes to clinch the party’s ticket for Rivers West.
The senatorial primaries, which held across the three senatorial districts, also produced Allwell Onyesoh as the candidate of the PDP for Rivers East.
Onyesoh, who hails from Etche Local Government Area, was said to have scored 270 votes to earn him the senatorial flag of the party.
The party also gave its ticket for the Rivers Southeast Senatorial District to a former House of Representatives member, incumbent senator Barinada Mpigi.
The state Publicity Secretary of PDP, Sydney Tambari Gbara, who described the exercise as peaceful, said consensus method was used in some areas to elect the candidates.
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