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Revealed: APC lawmakers behind change in election timetable

…Fallout of intra-party crisis
…Mobilising two-thirds majority unrealistic
…We’ll do what the law says—INEC
…New timetable will not stand—Igbokwe, APC chieftain

BY Charles Kumolu

WHILE supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari appear disturbed over the reordering of the 2019 election timetable by the National Assembly, NASS, an investigation by Saturday Vanguard revealed that the development was originally conceived by All Progressive Congress, APC, members.

The action which was carried out through the passage of a Bill for the amendment of the Electoral Act by both chambers of the NASS was gathered to be a fall-out of the internal crisis in APC, especially its perceived frosty relationship with the NASS.

Specifically, what was described as the absence of synergy between the Presidency and APC lawmakers was said to have directly informed the decision by both arms of the APC-controlled NASS.

President Buhari

Refuse assent to the Bill

It was also learnt that should the President refuse assent to the Bill, getting the required two-thirds majority to override it may not be easy for both arms of the NASS.

These findings which were revealed to Saturday Vanguard by ranking members of the House of Representatives who pleaded anonymity, were also corroborated by a Second Republic lawmaker, Dr, Junaid Muhammad.

He said that APC members in the NASS were the people behind the development.

Though Junaid faulted the Senate and the House of Representatives for taking the action, he said the Presidency was the architect of the current turn of events in the NASS.

He told Saturday Vanguard that the reordering of the election order, which he described as a breach would not have occurred if President Muhammadu Buhari had firm control of party affairs by the virtue of his position.

Two-thirds majority

Giving further insight, one of the lawmakers said: “I like the amendment. Something triggered it. We need to look at it dispassionately from two perspectives. One is the nationalistic angle which is in the interest of the nation so that the victory one of individual does not sway the direction of all the votes in the nation.

‘’There is the political angle which has to do with the relationship between the Presidency and the National Assembly. Unfortunately, it is obvious that the presidency is not in synergy with the National Assembly. That is why the ruling party which is in control of both Houses has not been able to influence its members in line with what it wants.

I strongly believe that this may have come up as a result of the internal problems of the APC. The acrimonies between them triggered this. That the motion was not moved by an APC member was just diversionary.

Acted for APC people

‘’Someone from the opposition brought it up and the person acted for APC people. I think the PDP member from Port Harcourt did what he was asked to do. On the face value, one can say that the NASS is just carrying out its constitutional responsibility.

Whether there is a political undertone to it is another issue that can be decoded by those who are deeply into politics. But as a member of the NASS, I will say that we are carrying out our constitutional responsibility. The question now should be on whether the process is right.

“Some people are arguing that ordinarily, it should be the responsibility of INEC to reorder the timetable, but we are not dabbling into the duties of INEC. What we have done is to reorder the election timetable in the interest of the nation. INEC does not make laws. It works with laws that are made by the NASS. Therefore, the best thing to do is to work with the law. We are not fixing dates. NASS only rearranged the order of elections. We had it during Shagari’s time and other times.

Getting two-thirds majority

‘’One thing some people don’t know is that it may be quite difficult for us to get a two-thirds majority of the House because the chamber is always empty. Most times when the most critical aspect of lawmaking which is the consideration of Committee jobs is considered most members don’t attend.

‘’When a Bill gets to that point it is very expedient that every lawmaker is in the chamber to make contributions because that is the last process of a bill becoming a law.  In most cases, we are less than 30 to consider a Bill.

‘’ If it comes to a situation where the President withholds his assent, a two-thirds majority of both arms of the National Assembly is required to override it. That means that every member will be seated. This is just futuristic because the party withholding assent is the party in power.

‘’When it comes to carrying out such a critical assignment, everybody is required to be there if we must override the President’s veto.  It does not really require a quorum. All it requires is for majority of the members to be present.

But when it involves plenary to consider bills and motions, a quorum is required. The consideration of the Bill is what every member should take serious but the quorum issue is not there. Consideration of Bills comes as the last item of the day, so most members often leave before that time. The chamber is always very empty at that point

Bandwagon effect

“There is a former member of the House of Representatives, who was a very vibrant legislator. He is from Jigiwa State and headed the House Committee on Defence twice. I met him in the parliament. That was the young man that Kazaure defeated because of the Buhari bandwagon effect.  I never believed that the young man who is very vibrant could be defeated by someone like Kazaure.

It is important to note that Kazaure won the election because he ran on the platform of Buhari’s party. Ordinarily, I don’t think Kazaure would have defeated him if not for that bandwagon effect. That was how the House lost many vibrant legislators. Therefore, the amendment should be seen as progressive and key to the promotion of national interest. It is, however, not about Buhari.

Also speaking, another lawmaker, said:” I can’t say that APC members did not contribute to making it a reality. Whether it was influenced by APC members does not matter. As lawmakers, the interest of Nigeria is more important than the ambition of an individual or a privileged few.  The position of the NASS is the outcome of deliberations on the future of the country.’’

On his part, Junaid Mohammed said: “Members of his (Buhari) party are the people leading the revolt against him and the APC in the Senate and House of Representatives. And it will surely hurt him as a weak leader. He is the architect of his misfortune and the mess that is now playing out in the National Assembly.

“The idea that people who won election into the parliament on the same platform with the President are now behaving as opponents of the President and their party is arrant nonsense. And that has happened because the system that brought them is utterly bankrupt.

We knew what happened.  Of course, we knew how the leadership of both the Senate and House of Representatives emerged. For the President to assume that is for everybody and for nobody is a naïve and dangerous assumption. He created the crisis that is now threatening to swallow him and his party.’’

Notwithstanding these positions, the Independent Election Commission, INEC, yesterday in Lagos, said it would abide by the action of the NASS when the bill seeking to change the order of election becomes law.

New timetable will not stand—Igbokwe

Speaking on the subject, APC Publicity Secretary in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe said the new timetable would not stand.

He said: “They are saying that APC lawmakers are behind the move. Whether it is true or not, what we know is that the timetable will not stand. What the NASS has done is not the last to be heard about the matter.  They are just afraid because they can’t win an election in 2019. The election will hold in line with the old timetable. They are just desperate people who are angry because the President’s re-engineering of the country has stopped free money.   Buhari is working.’’


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