By Dan Onmeje
Nigerians narrowly escaped being scammed. Regardless of their perception of him, they have President Muhammadu Buhari to thank for the lucky escape. For the fourth time, he refused to sign the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018, which detailed review would reveal to contain enough hidden clauses to create a new class of overlords that Nigerians will be unable to booth out of office.
The bill presented for presidential assent contained enough loopholes to make future elections pointless. Anyone already in office simply have to manipulate it to secure a second term in the executive arm or remain in the parliament in perpetuity for those in the legislative arm.
Like the manner in which scam artists give their best at being persuasive, those that attempted this fraud have done everything to blackmail President Buhari into signing the bill to the detriment of democracy in Nigeria. They are running coordinated media and public opinion campaigns to force the bill down the throat of Nigeria, including plotting to abuse the Constitution and veto the bill in the absence of a presidential assent.
The identities of these people that are after the destruction of the electoral process, effectively undermining our democracy by compromising one of its key components, are well known. In the lead are lawmakers of no specific ideological persuasion or political identification – they had party-hopped enough that they are themselves unsure of what camp they currently belong, a fluidity that speaks to their lack of principles.
The calculation of the lawmakers is simple. Contrive an election law that makes it possible for them to be re-elected while President Buhari gets the opposite treatment. But under the current law, the sequence of elections joined them to the president at the hip like Siamese Twins so that their fates are inextricably linked if they campaign to win then it rubs off on him, they campaign against him and they lose too. Yet they have no desire for him to be re-elected since the dearth of slush funds will persist when he is re-elected and he continues to implement ongoing anti-corruption measures.
Another known quantity rooting for the signing of the bill into law, and presently financing efforts to veto it is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which had put the lawmakers up to the criminal manipulation of the legislation. Many of the All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers are part of their current party only as a matter of label, they work with the PDP, which explains the false confidence of the PDP that its members in the National Assembly will get the backing of some rebellious APC members to veto the bill.
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), a subsidiary of the PDP, has been drafted into the assault on democracy as it has been vocal in asking lawmakers to veto the bill. CUPP’s voice is echoed by some so called leaders of thought and activists that are apparently closet PDP members. They are part of those coordinating efforts to paint the situation as dire when in reality their proposition is the real danger to Nigerians.
Instead of overheating the polity with unrealistic demands, those toying with vetoing the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018 should use the same platforms they have deployed to abuse the president to address the concerns he has raised. These concerns include how to use two electoral laws for the conduct of the same election: the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018 for the last eight weeks of the elections and the 2015 Electoral Act in the earlier part. Rather than trying to demonize President Buhari, supporters of the rejected bill should rather applaud him for saving the country from the confusion and the quandary their proposals would have plunged the country.
The 8th National Assembly treated scores of bills in its soon to expire lifetime, fewer bills than Nigerians wanted, fewer of these bills still make any meaningful impact on the life of Nigerians, and definitely none of the bills was pursued with a tenth of the zeal with which the lawmakers are pursuing the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018. Citizens should then be asking them what makes this particular bill imperative to the point where they are willing to cause an impasse to ram it through the processes. The answer is simple and straightforward. It is because they are servicing their own agenda: the bill that favours them must be signed into law even with its apparent shortcomings while those that affect Nigerians do not merit any form of attention.
If this act of selfishness is not criminality then nothing is. Lawmakers singling out a bill for attention simply because it favours them is confirmation that they have gone rouge, deviated seriously from the mandate they sought from their constituents and which they were given. Their assignment is to represent their constituents and not to embark on a self-serving trip. If they can abandon the campaign trail at this point to come veto a bill that would create crises then the intentions of the lawmakers for Nigerians is nowhere near good.
This is then the point where Nigerians draw the line; they should call the lawmakers to order. They must be taught in clear terms that the National Assembly is not a place to run personal errands but a sacred venue to pursue the desires and aspirations of constituents. The same elections the lawmakers are trying to manipulate with a perverse amendment of an act is the instrument with which they must be punished. It is a matter of voting them out to teach a lesson to others that would be elected as representatives of the people that there is no longer room for rouge lawmakers who plot to abuse the veto powers conferred on the National Assembly in exceptional circumstance.
A retired civil servant wrote from Kuje, Abuja.