Political parties under the aegis of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) have expressed reservation at the prospects of the National Assembly overriding the President Muhammadu Buhari over the Electoral Amendment Act Bill, saying it will be bad for his legacy.
The chairman of IPAC and national chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Engr Yabagi Yusuf Sani, said it will be a lot of drawback for the president if the National Assembly overrules him, especially as he is preparing to vacate office.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, the IPAC chairman, however, noted that the president and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), enjoy majority votes in parliament and his party would not like for lawmakers to override him on such an important bill.
Describing the president as a democrat, he expressed optimism that Buhari would do what is necessary to develop democracy in the country.
It was gathered that lawmakers were already mobilising themselves, awaiting any official communication on Monday to enable them take a decision on Tuesday.
The lawmakers were supposed to proceed for a recess last week but deferred it to this week.
They claimed their inability to pass the 2022 appropriation bill as a result of the non-inclusion of the 2023 Independent National Electoral Commission’s election budget and the N400 billion National Census to be conducted by the National Population Commission (NPC) in 2022 was the reason behind their decision.
Yesterday, December 19, 2021, was exactly one month since the bill was submitted to President Buhari without an official communication on it.
Reacting to whether political parties support the National Assembly to override the president, Sani said, “Before you get to overriding, you have to understand that this is a democracy which has a robust way of dealing with situations. Overriding is like an ultimatum. We wouldn’t want that to happen. I believe that Mr President enjoys a lot of support from the National Assembly because his party is in the majority.
“I would not want to jump the gun. But I don’t think Mr. President and the party will like a situation where his bill is vetoed by the National Assembly. It will be a lot of drawback for him especially as someone that is already on his way out, on the last lap of his administration. He will like to leave a legacy but not a legacy that will see a bill like this vetoed. What will history say about him?
“The best thing for us to do is to leave it until the day ends and we are sure that there is no evidence. And even when that happens, political parties will step in and make sure that the right things are done at the point in time because we are the ones that are most affected.”
On the debate on whether all political parties agree to direct primaries, Sani said since the bill is coming from the National Assembly, it enjoys the backing of the citizenry.
He, however, noted that if there are areas which are to be made right, the political parties will not hesitate to intervene since they are a major stakeholder in the electoral process.
“The bill is coming from the National Assembly which presupposes that the political class and, if you like, the citizens are strongly behind the bill because the National Assembly is representing us and whatever they do is on our behalf. If there is anything that is not proper or needs to be looked into again, we will look at it from the perspective of democracy and the fact that these people who sent the bill to the president are the representatives of the people and that they are acting on behalf of the people. That is why you have the National Assembly; they are there to ensure that the president does not take advantage of his position.
“So, if the people have spoken and the president feels differently, he has to explain. You can also not preempt the fact that Mr President believes he has many sources of information available to him to give him advice. He must have consulted widely. I am sure, as a democrat, he would like to also add to the strength of democracy. And the only way we can add to democracy is if we do what democracy is all about, which is government of the people, by the people and for the people. And direct primary is about that; it is about making the people part and parcel of the process, as different from the delegates system,” he said.
Meanwhile, the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said it will not interfere over whether or not the National Assembly should override the President on the contentious bill.
PDP national publicity secretary, Hon Debo Ologunagba, said the lawmakers are at liberty to decide what decision to take as provided for in the constitution. He, however, stated that the way parties choose their candidates should not be dictated by the legislature.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, Ologunagba said, “The PDP believes in separation of powers and cooperation among organs of government. The party believes in the constitution and is not interested in intervening in the arms of government, in this case the legislature. If it is in the interest of parliament to override the president, so be it.”
On direct primaries, he reiterated that every party should be allowed to use the mode it feels best for primaries provided it does not flout the constitution.
“However, as a party we will speak with our caucus to ensure that the right of parties to maintain their own internal processes with respect to choosing our candidates is in line with the constitution which provides for freedom of association and choice.”
He recalled that PDP, in 1998, started out with direct primaries which were trailed by concerns of fraud, corruption and manipulations and “the fact that it was expensive.”
He said the party had to revert to the delegate system, adding that the challenges that PDP faced in 1999 are the same challenges APC experienced in Anambra, Lagos, Kano and others.
“How a party chooses its candidate cannot, and shouldn’t, be a subject matter for the legislature. The House can go back and rework that provision of direct primary and allow parties to choose their mode of primaries as long as it does not breach constitution provisions,” he said.
NASS Won’t Shift Support For PMB, Senate President Declares
Meanwhile, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said yesterday that the National Assembly will continue to support President Muhammadu Buhari to deliver on promises he made to the Nigerian people.
According to a statement issued by his media aide, Ola Awoniyi, Lawan made the remarks in Gombe at the launch of the empowerment programme of Senator Sa’idu Ahmed Alkali for his constituents.
Alkali is an APC senator representing Gombe North Senatorial District in the Senate.
The Senate president said Buhari had never rested for a second in his determination to turn around the fortunes of the country.
“President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the leader of this party (APC) in this country, who has given us great leadership from 2015 to date, who has shown great desire to turn around the fortunes of this country, has never rested for a second.
“He is doing his best even though we are still not out of the woods but we have done so much between 2015 and 2021.
“By the Grace of God, the National Assembly will continue to support Mr President to ensure that he delivers on our campaign promises to Nigerians,” Lawan said.
The Senate president commended the governor of Gombe State, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, who is also of APC, for the significant transformation brought to the state.
He showered encomiums on Senator Alkali for providing quality representation for his people at the National Assembly, even as he urged the Gombe people to consider giving both the governor and the senator another chance to continue with the good work they are doing for them.
At the event which was held at the APC Square, Senator Alkali gave out Peugeot 406 cars, several hundreds of motorcycles, farming implements, sewing machines and refrigerators.
Electoral Amendment Bill: Wait For NASS On Tuesday – Presidency
The presidency yesterday said Nigerians should wait till Tuesday when the National Assembly resumes to get an update on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The special assistant to the president on media, Garba Shehu, who spoke on Channels Television yesterday, said the president is expected to communicate to the National Assembly.
While he cannot divulge on whether or not the president has communicated to the National Assembly, he, however, said the president has completed his consultation over the matter.
He said, “I do not want to speculate on this. What I can tell you is that the president is conscious of his responsibility in this regard. He has been adequately briefed on the pros and cons of such a signature and the implications for the nation, which is foremost on his own mind.
“Is there a decision by the president as we speak, I cannot tell you; I don’t know – because the president, upon the completion of all his consultations, usually he will send a privileged communication to the National Assembly and when such communication is privileged, it can only be received by the National Assembly, and on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate president and speaker will read to them. My assumption is when they (lawmakers) come back, we probably will be hearing from them.”
On the lapse of time, Shehu said, “One or two things has happened, either the president has signed or has declined signature. For us in the Executive arm of government, there is a protocol governing the arm of government. Even when we have seen it, we don’t make disclosure. The National Assembly will feel unkindly treated if we go on the pages of newspapers and say this is what the president is saying. So, please allow for time. We believe they should be in Tuesday. We are expecting they will be in, in big numbers; there will possibly be something to tell Nigerians. I don’t know; I have not been briefed.”
On why the president is concealing of the decision, he said, “The thing is that you are making the assumption that as we speak there is no decision. I am not in a position to tell you yes or no. But given the way things are done, the president would have completed his consultations sometime back. The president will be communicating with the National Assembly whatever he decides, either yes or no.
“And as I said, it will be disrespectful to the National Assembly for me to, at this, say to you this is the content of the president’s communication, assuming that a communication has been sent to them. So, as I said allow them to resume, I believe the president will not act in breach of the constitution. He will do what is right.
“If the constitution says the president must decide within 30 days, the president will decide within 30 days. And the president did not say there should be disclosure of that decision within 30 days to the public. Maybe disclosure to National Assembly has been made. I wish this pressure will be mounted on the National Assembly officers; they might have received something as we speak now. I don’t know.”
Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike has said this National Assembly cannot rise up to the occasion to give Nigerians what they want.
He said the failure of the President to sign the bill negates his recent declaration to bequeath a virile democratic culture in Nigeria.