By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
With the majority of Nigerians still reeling from the disappointment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s decline to Assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill sent to him by the National Assembly (NASS), the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina has said his Principal acted on the side of Democracy.
He also argued that Mr. President’s inability to give Assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is the best way to leave Electoral Legacy just as he said the President declining to Assent to the Bill is not because of the Electronic Transmission of Results.
Adesina who was a guest of Channels Television breakfast programme Sunrise Daily on Wednesday insists that President Buhari declined Assent on the grounds of the huge economic cost, legal implications and because it is anti-democratic piece of legislation.
According to the Presidential Spokesman: “Mr. President acted in the best interest of Nigerians by declining Assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. He acted after he had consulted widely, the MDAs and stakeholders were consulted by Mr. President before he took the decision to decline Assent in the overall interest of Democracy”.
“He may have considered the huge financial implications and logistic challenges involved in smaller parties boxed into conducting Direct Primaries to select their candidates for elective offices. That mode of electing party candidates is prone to litigations too”.
Asked if the step taken by President Buhari on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill would not amount to not leaving a good legacy behind when he exits from office in 2023, Adesina said the President has already established a strong electoral legacy.
Said he: “That Legacy has been established already. It’s just to consolidate on it and not giving Assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill will not erode what President Buhari has done in electoral reforms. I will say that the President has taken the side of Democracy”.
On the opinion of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike that President Buhari should have given his Assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as he did to the Petroleum Industry Bill which he gave Assent to but later wrote NASS to amend certain Classes in the Bill, Adesina said the Rivers state Governor is entitled to his opinion.
Said he: “Well, the Rivers state Governor is entitled to his opinion but I must say that his brother Governors of Benue state, Samuel Ortom who is very critical of President Buhari has aligned with Mr. President on not giving Assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill”.
“Also, the Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti state Dr. Kayode Fayemi have also commended the President on this matter”.
On the threat by members of NASS to override the Presidential Veto, Adesina said that is part of democracy but is optimistic that the members who are mainly from the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) will see reasons with the President.
“Do not forget that the majority of the legislatures are members of APC and at the end of the day it will not be something to be done with a sledge hammer”, Adesina concluded.