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E-Transmission: Boosting The Beautiful Baby Of The Bill

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By Bala Ibrahim.

The new story in town is that President Muhammadu Buhari has declined assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment bill, saying that putting his signature to turn the bill into law would cause trouble to the country and the political parties. According to the President’s spoke persons, the letter of rejection of the bill by President Buhari had already been sent to the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, which means, it may likely be read out today at the plenary.

While the President has his reasons for rejecting the bill, which include consideration on the constitutional provisions of the political parties, because it is argued that the President’s refusal is because the parties have their various constitutions that indicate that primaries should be conducted either directly or indirectly, and until such provisions are amended, asking parties to pick candidates through direct primaries would mean compelling them to conduct a one way primaries only, which would amount to abuse of their constitutions.

Other reasons advanced by the President are the high cost of monitoring the primaries of various parties across the country; marginalization of small parties; possible litigation; security challenges of monitoring direct primaries, violation of rights of citizens; and possible manipulation of the primaries.

Critics of the President, who want to stampede him into signing the bill, are using various tricks of blackmail against him, including portraying him as anti-democratic, and one to be held responsible should things go wrong in the 2023 elections, as a result of his refusal to sign the bill as presented to him by the National Assembly. This they say, is contrary to his promise to finish well and not as a failure. And in doing that, they inject a lot of sentiments in their propaganda.

On a number of occasions they say, the President had promised to bequeath a good legacy by strengthening necessary mechanisms for free, fair election and peaceful transfer of power in 2023 and beyond. PMB said he would not exit government as a failure, and he would not tolerate actions or inactions that would put his administration in a bad light.

It can be recalled that sometimes in November this year, the National Assembly passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which includes amongst other provisions, the amended law for the ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF RESULTS, and the adoption of the direct primary by all the political parties.

I put the electronic transmission of results in capital letters because, contrary to the contention of the propagandist and the President’s critics, it is to me, the biggest baby of the bill that needs to be boosted and bolstered. I see it as being more important than the controversial direct or indirect primaries.

It is interesting to note that the President is being pushed into a cul-de-sac, with no room for exit in the event of any mistake. The state governors are pushing him to stand by the indirect delegate system, as against the direct system that permits a free-for-all. Also, some political parties, including the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are kicking against the direct primaries, saying parties should be allowed to decide the management of their internal affairs democratically.

The President is also burdened by a Supreme Court judgment that says, political parties should be allowed to decide their internal affairs. And PMB has made name in the respect of the law.

So, should that be the case, PMB would deviate from his acclaimed virtue of standing by the rule of law, if he goes contrary to the supreme court ruling, by imposing a direct primary on political parties. The President has a duty, having sworn to protect the law and the constitution, by protecting the interests of the people against the selfish interests of political power mongers.

If indeed the ambition of PMB is to leave a legacy of credible elections, because he believes that it is the foundation of political stability and peace in any nation, then he needs to heed the advise of the electoral umpire, INEC.

INEC had highlighted that the landmark proposals in the bill that would radically improve the quality of elections rests squarely on the adoption of the Electronic transmission of results. With this, it would make room for the early submission of list of nominated candidates, and give INEC the power to review election results declared under duress or in contravention of electoral laws and guidelines.

So if the plan is to strengthen democracy, by frustrating rigging through the removal of the major stumbling block to free and fare elections, which is the manual transmission of results, then the propaganda that by refusing to accept the direct primaries, the President has thrown away the baby and the bath water, cannot fly.

Because, by accepting the electronic transmission of results, PMB had retained, and by extension boosted, the most beautiful baby of the bill, I think.

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