Another presidential candidate has faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the amended Electoral Bill.
This is coming a day after Obiageli Ezekwesili, the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), demanded the president assent to the bill, warning that his refusal would affect the progress so far made in Nigeria’s democratic journey since 1999.
Chike Ukaegbu, a 35-year-old presidential candidate in next year polls contesting under the Advanced Allied Party(AAP) did not only criticise Mr Buhari for failing to sign the bill months before the general elections, he also took a swipe on the National Assembly.
“I believe that once again, this is a display of irresponsible and visionless governance, from both the legislature and executive,” Mr Ukaegbu told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, during tea break at ‘The Convergence’ – an event held to empower and prepare 400 young candidates ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“While we all know that this bill will help us achieve freer and fairer elections and improve our electoral process, it is shameful to our democracy that our leaders have decided to politicise it for their selfish gains,” he noted.
After it was being presented to him by the National Assembly the fourth time, Mr Buhari has apparently refused to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
He cited “drafting issues”.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Buhari refused to sign the Electoral Bill in letters to the leadership of the National Assembly.
The president said signing such a bill few months to the general elections could disrupt the process.
He also observed areas of the bill he would want to be amended.
When reminded that National Assembly has repeatedly sent the bill to the president for assent, Mr Ukaegbu maintained his position that the lawmakers deserve a fair share of blame.
“So the president is arguing that he is not supposed to make any alterations to the electoral process less than six months to an election, as agreed by ECOWAS nations. If the National Assembly was aware of that, this bill should’ve been a priority to avoid that excuse.
“On the other hand, we are a sovereign nation and should do what’s in the best interest of the nation first, which is where the president’s argument falls short.”
“This lack of understanding of nation-first ideology is what has destroyed and keeps destroying the fabric of our nation and her young democracy.
“This is why I am running for president, to fight for our lives and that of posterity, to salvage what’s left of our democracy, our image in the world, and our place as Africa’s greatest nation. As President, this is one of three bills I will sign on day one.”
The presidential candidate said signing the bill would have helped “make our electoral process freer and fairer by requiring the electronic transmission of results. It would have also tightened validation of accredited voters, both of which would minimize the possibility of fraud.”
Speaking earlier at the ‘Convergence’, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the PDP candidate for Lagos West senatorial district, described government’s unwillingness to sign the bill as “political.”
In her own remark, Nnenna Elendu Ukeje, the Representative for Bende Federal Constituency, Abia state said signing the bill would have provided security insurance, especially for female candidates, in elections.
The Convergence is an initiative of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA Africa), the Not Too Young To Run movement, one of Nigeria’s largest and most successful youth movement in recent times.
It is a gathering of about 400 young candidates of various political parties at a conference which is aimed at empowering them ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The event began in Abuja, on Monday, and PREMIUM TIMES was present to bring live reports.
It will be concluded on Wednesday.