THE Senate and the House of Representatives now appear more pro-people in some of their recent actions. The big, pleasant surprise came from the Senate whose President, Ahmed Lawan, had acted as an unapologetic rubberstamp of the Presidency.
The Senate’s recent indictment of the Police, Attorney-General of the Federation and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, whose agents had participated in the illegal assault on the home of Justice Mary Odili, was a pleasant surprise to many more so as Lawan presided over the session and made little effort to block the resolution.
The final passage of two important aspects of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill has gone down well in the polity because our federal lawmakers have finally acquiesced to the will of the people. The first is the permission of a free hand for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to transmit results electronically from the polling units in future elections.
Nigerians had risen in anger when some members from the ruling party and some of their cohorts in the opposition had sought to oppose the INEC’s bid to electronically transmit votes to cut off the threat of ballot snatching, off-grid ballot thumbprinting and result falsification at collation centres.
The Senate had scandalously sought to give the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, and the National Assembly the power to dictate to INEC which part of the country they could electronically transmit poll results.
That, of course, was unconstitutional. INEC is the only body empowered by the Constitution to conduct elections in Nigeria.
The second gesture which we applaud is the provision that mandates the political parties to adopt direct primaries. What this means is that rather than use the delegate system, parties and candidates must go directly to their members for the primaries. The delegate system had given enormous powers to the governors and party leaders/godfathers. But now, party members will have a direct say in choosing candidates. That is power to the people.
It may seem somewhat undemocratic to force parties to adopt the same template. The ideal thing should be to allow each party to decide.
This has almost always swung to the advantage of the governors whose preference for the delegate system made them emperors and political demigods in their parties.
With these two new grounds broken in favour of future elections, the Muhammadu Buhari dispensation may not pass without contributing to the improvement of our electoral process.
We hope that when the Bill lands on the president’s desk this time, it will be given expeditious assent to enable INEC and the parties to test-run them during the off-cycle elections in preparation for the 2023 general elections.
Should Buhari again refuse assent to this Bill, the National Assembly should override his veto.