By Adeola Badru

Against President Muhammadu Buhari’s rejection to sign the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment bill, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, has vowed to mobilise its members to ensure that what is supposed to be an enduring legacy of the current administration was not truncated based on the interest of very few it called shenanigans.

The students’ body, during a press conference yesterday, described the direct primary election as the process of selecting political party flag bearers as the best policy to be adopted into the law of the federation so as to further guarantee the freedom and right of the Nigerian people to determine who appears on the ballot paper during the general election.

In his address, the NANS coordinator in the Southwest (Zone D), Adetunji Olagboyega, stated that the association, as an independent body for all students in Nigeria, will not fold its arm and allow what it described as double-dealing scale the hurdles of the legislature.

He added that the body will mobilise its members to ensure that what is supposed to be an enduring legacy of the current administration was not truncated based on the interest of “very few shenanigans.”

His words: “The disagreement between the President and the National Assembly (NASS) over the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 has become a matter of concern to us as a body of students who are interested in the political process and governance of our dear nation.”

“This process of selecting public officers does not only refer to the end which is the eventual general election conducted for the assumption to public offices, it also springs from the process that brings individuals into appearing as candidates during a general election.”

“Apparently, we can argue that democracy in Nigeria cannot be said to be a reality when the mass of people only have the chance to vote in the general election when they are clearly denied the opportunity of deciding who becomes flag bearers for their choice of the party at the initial stage.”

“And the right of people to decide who become the flag bearers of their respective beloved parties becomes a must if democracy must be fully practised in the country. It need not be overemphasised that this right can only be guaranteed when people are chanced to determine who becomes their flag bearer through a public direct primary election at party levels.”

“Unfortunately and contrary to our position, the Presidency has reacted to the bill as not acceptable because of its “adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences which cannot be accommodated at the moment considering” Nigeria’s peculiarities. It is rather unfortunate that the Presidency has by this notification implied that it has failed the people in terms of law, economy, finance and security.”

“It is rather confusing that the same Presidency would come out again when complaints are made on the security of the nation to claim that we have enough manpower and capable hands handling the security of the nation in the face of banditry, terrorism, kidnapping, terrorism etc. But the same enough manpower and capable hands are suddenly insufficient and incapable of ensuring a hitch intra parties free electoral process.”

“While this excuse of the President has further justified our lamentation on the poor security architecture of the country under this government, we shall not subscribe to the fallacious argument that it is a reason for which direct primary is not possible. Intra parties elections are not wars and we condemn any deliberate action to hit up the policy only because the President is not ready to assent the bills for his personal concealed reasons.”

“The Presidency also stated that conducting direct primary will “pose security challenges as the security agencies will also be overstretched”, this excuse of the Presidency has only justified our past assertions that there is a high level of insecurity and the nation is having a serious shortfall in officer-to-civilian ratio.”

“The Presidency also argued that direct primary will be a violation of freedom of choice on one hand while arguing on the other hand that enabling qualified Nigerians to vote for the candidate of their choice during the general election should be emphasised.”

“Rather than curtail political progress entails in the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill because of this, the Presidency should rather address the economy which has made the people susceptible to the selling of their votes. This, we consider as a reasonable action for a serious government.”

“Basically, all other excuses given by the Presidency in the letter addressed to the National Assembly are not tenable and considered inconsequential. Rather than consenting to the institutional inadequacies of these political parties, the Presidency should rather encourage all registered political parties to go and define their party program well and build trust within their rank and file.”

“We will mobilise our members to ensure that what is supposed to be an enduring legacy of this administration is not truncated based on the interest of very few shenanigans. By using your veto power to override Mr President’s failure to sign this Bill, Nigerians and indeed posterity will never forget you all as distinguished members of the National Assembly.”

“In essence, we are of the position that direct primary election as the process of selecting political parties flag bearer is the best policy to be adopted into the law of the federation so as to further guarantee the freedom and right of the Nigerian people to determine who appears on the ballot paper during the general election.”

“As this is the only option that can ensure that democratic standards are enshrined in the code and conduct of all political institutions in the country,” NANS said.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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