The Africa Civil Rights Congress has thrown its weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the amended Electoral Act, saying “there should be a limit to which selfish personal interests should be allowed to push the country to the brink.”
President Buhari declined assent for the bill citing, among other reasons, the confusion that could arise as to what extant legislation are guiding the 2019 General Elections and the impropriety of introducing an amended law when the electioneering process is well underway. His refusal to sign off the bill has been generating reactions.
A statement by the Africa Civil Rights Congress on Saturday said President Buhari did the right thing. It said this is even at the risk of political backlash against his person, which further confirmed him as a leader that places national interest above his personal advantage.
The statement by the group’s Director of Public Communication, Mrs. Augusta Okolo noted that withholding assent to the bill has eradicated the accusations that would have come from activists that would claim that the President is shifting the goal post when the game is already underway.
It said “From the points raised by Mr. President, it is obvious that the document is replete with grey areas that would have plagued the outcomes of the General Elections with a barrage of legal challenges that could potentially derail the nation’s democracy since anyone elected under the amendment would face the task of proving before the tribunals what the position of the law is.
“The natural thing would have been for President Buhari to hastily assent to the amended Electoral Act that would have scored him political points while also offering him the added advantage of winning by a larger margin than he is projected to. But he gave up all these advantages to do the right thing in the interest of the country.
“The African continent had in the past agreed that leaders should not be beneficiaries of the changes they make while in office, while this is applicable to constitutional changes that extend the tenure of an incumbent leader, signing an amendment bill to the Electoral Act would have amounted to straying into similar territory, which would be injurious to Nigeria’s democracy,” the statement argued.
The Congress further stressed that the National Assembly members should jettison any idea of vetoing the President to push the bill into law since assent was only withheld to enable them make changes to the areas that Mr. President has concerns about as opposed to an outright rejection of the legislation, which would have made it possible for the issue of veto to come up.
According to the group, “Some Senators and House of Representatives members are resolute on making President Buhari sign the bill into law so that they can turn around to accuse him of rushing to approve a legislation that puts him at advantage. A behaviour like this is politics taken too far at the expense of national cohesion, stability and sustenance of democracy.
“There should be a limit to which personal interests are used to undermine the country to the point of pushing it to the brink. Instead of ventilating in the public space the lawmakers should organize themselves, take a few days break from the election trail and effect the changes that Mr. President has identified in the letter communicating why he declined assent to the bill.
“That is the one way they can re-assure Nigerians that their insistence on having the bill signed into law is not a coup against Nigeria on their part,” the statement said.