Eminent Nigerians from the southern and northern parts of the country yesterday called for the immediate amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 to address the shortcomings in the extant law .
The leaders, who emphasised the need for major electoral reforms, beginning with the amendment of the electoral law, said that the crisis that characterised the party primaries and the conduct of the 2019 general elections, demands that prompt action be taken to stabilise the polity.
In separate interviews with LEADERSHIP Weekend yesterday, the leaders drawn from the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Ohanaeze-Ndigbo and Afenifere, decried the non-assent to the amended Electoral Act by the executive arm of conduct and the use of indirect primaries to pick candidates for the 2019 general elections.
Their call was prompted by the reports of the European Union (EU), National Democratic Institute (NDI), and International Republican Institute (IRI) on the 2019 general elections, which highlighted the malpractices associated with the polls.
ACF secretary-general, Mr Anthony Sani, said that the envisaged amendment to the electoral law should outlaw indirect primaries which were used by some political parties in the last elections.
Sani said that for Nigeria to get it right in the 2023 general elections, the electoral law should be amended without further delay.
He said: “Both the executive and the legislative arms of government should come together with a view to reforming the electoral processes in favour of democracy premised on the tripod of justice, liberty and common decency.
“Indirect primaries are subject to abuse, which accounts for parallel primaries that are not helpful, the reforms should outlaw indirect primaries in favour of direct primaries that are harder to manipulate.
“There is also the problem of docile voters that engender apathy by allowing a few people to determine the content and direction of the democracy for the majority. This should not be the case. There should be cultural renaissance that can bring about a society that is socially diverse, economically empowered and politically active,” Sani stated.
He continued: “That is to say, the people should make judicious use of their democratic rights by ensuring that their votes count so that the ensuing leaders would be accountable. Apathy is not helpful and, thus, is not an option.”
The secretary-general of Ohanaeze-Ndigbo, Mr. Uche Okwukwu and Chief Emeka Attamah, the group’s president-general’s chief press secretary, said that even though they supported the calls for the amendment of electoral law, it was not the business of the EU to champion it.
Attamah, in a statement he made available to LEADERSHIP Weekend in Awka, the Anambra State capital, said that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government deliberately declined signing into law the amendments made by the 8th National Assembly in the Electoral Act ahead of the last general elections so as to achieve its pre-meditated plot to manipulate the election in its favour.
He said: “Ohanaeze Ndigbo agrees totally with electoral reforms that will minimise the charade that was called an election in 2019. The government deliberately refused to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law to enable them do what they did.
“Furthermore, it is one thing to have a law in place; it is another to implement it to the letter. Even the provisions of the Electoral Act are not being religiously applied. If not, where in the Act is the provision for the deployment of troops in an election as was witnessed in the last polls? Yet, nobody is talking about it.
“Again, the bullion vans emptied in the last elections, who owned them and where did the money come from for the prosecution of the elections by one of the parties? Wasn’t that a violation of the Act and has it been investigated or any culprit found and arrested? The amendment will just be a formality,” he said.
But Okwukwu disagreed with Nwodo’s aide when he told LEADERSHIP Weekend in Port Harcourt, Rivers State that it was the duty of the National Assembly to review the electoral law and not that of the EU.
He also faulted the claims that the last general elections were not transparent.
Okwukwu said: “The European Union has no right to press for the review of Nigeria’s electoral laws. It is the duty of the National Assembly to review the Electoral Act. It is the parliament of Nigeria that make laws not the European Union.
“I must confess, one has to study the Electoral Act and see the areas that need amendment. You don’t just throw away the constitution or laws of a country entirely, you amend them.
“What areas did the European Union point out in the constitution or the Electoral Act that need amendment. You can’t just say review the electoral laws. They should have pointed to a particular section in the constitution or the Electoral Act,” he said.
The Rivers State-born Ohanaeze-Ndigbo scribe, urged Nigerians not to expect a good report from the EU concerning elections in the country, insisting that the 2019 general elections were transparent.
Okwukwu said: “That is a report. The truth is that the European Union and other international institutions had always taken a stand different from what African countries had taken. Some describe it as post-colonialism; the mentality of a colonial master.
“The entire European Union were the same people that colonised African and never gave us democracy and left.
“Let’s be patient and see what the court will rule because any statement you make as a Nigerian citizen in a matter that is before the court is pre-judicial. Since the matter is in court, let Nigerians wait for the outcome.
“The 2019 general elections were widely transparent and fair. President Muhammadu Buhari lost in Osun and Ondo States in the presidential election.
“Buhari also lost all the 11 states that make up the South East and South-South geopolitical zones. If the election was rigged or not free and fair, as alleged by the European Union, how then did a sitting president lost the two regions in the election?
“If they are talking about violence, violence has been part of elections in Nigeria. Violence has been part of every election in Rivers State. Even after the 2019 general elections, there is still violence in Rivers State. The violence that greeted the election was not because of Buhari,” he said.
To Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, the recent European Union Observers’ report on the 2019 general elections was an “embarrassment to the nation.”
Afenifere, however, called on President Buhari to sign into law the Electoral Act Amendment Bill before him to safe the country from future embarrassment.
Through its spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere said that “we can all understand why the president rejected the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed by the 8th Assembly. We have begun to see the reasons now.
“It is now clear that they want to win at all cost; that was the reason the bill was rejected. If we want to move forward as country, we must make that bill to become an Act,” he said.
Odumakin stated that “for us as a country, it is time to go back to what the late President Umaru Yar’dua said in 2007. Yar’dua, a very honest man, admitted that the election that brought him into power was a fraud and that there was need for reforms.
“Yar’dua quickly set up the Uwais Committee to come out with report that would better the country’s electoral process. But this time around, we don’t need Uwais Committee’s Report. We have enough papers, documents and bills before the president, which can make our electoral process to have integrity and stop the embarrassment that EU is pointing out in our electoral process,” he said.
According to him, “It is an embarrassment for us as a nation that we went to a general election without a proper electoral law. We have even seen the United States (US) electoral body saying they have fear for future polls in Nigeria based on what happened in 2019.”