THERE are worrisome indications that the National Assembly might shift the resumption date of the Senate and House of Representatives three weeks ahead from its scheduled Tuesday, 25th September to 15th October 2018. This is to enable members to participate in the primaries which will determine the fates of all political contenders in 2019.
In the timetable released on 9th January 2018 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the primaries for the Presidential, Governorship, National and State Assembly elections were scheduled to hold between 18th August and 7th October 2018. Perhaps, the parliamentarians, being first and foremost politicians, would like to get done with the primaries to secure their political future before returning to the job for which they were elected in 2015.
Be that as it may, we wish to draw their attention to the need for them not to abandon issues of urgent national importance waiting for their patriotic attention. Top among these is the completion of legislative work on the approval of funds for the INEC and other stakeholder agencies to commence their preparations for the general elections.
Secondly, there is the new emergency arising from President Muhammadu Buhari’s decline of assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018, on the ground of the existence of “drafting issues” as the President’s Senate Liaison Officer, Senator Ita Enang, put it. The President had also declined assent to this same Bill almost six months ago citing the Legislators’ decision to reorder the election schedule forwarded to it by the INEC.
Though the Presidency is drawing attention to alleged drafting errors in this Bill, critics have voiced their concern that some interests are dilly-dallying to ensure that the Card Reader, which has now been made indispensable in the conduct of the 2019 elections in the proposed Bill, is never adopted. According to this line of thought, some political forces prefer the continued use of the manual voter accreditation method for the elections to enable them subvert the voters’ genuine choices as before.
Timeously dealing with the issues surrounding the 2019 elections is too important to be subsumed to individual political ambitions. We call on the legislators to reconvene on the scheduled date, deal with these issues and return to the field for the conclusion of the primaries.
We also advise that when they resume, more emphasis should be placed on ensuring the continued smooth governance of the country rather than dissipating valuable time and effort on partisan supremacy such as change of leadership. The National Assembly should toe the wisdom of the Seventh Assembly, which did not allow the change of party platforms by members to affect legislative work.
Elected leaders should always put the nation first before individual and partisan interests.