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Presidency justifies Buhari’s refusal to approve direct primaries, electoral act

By Idowu Abdullahi

The Presidency has explained why President Muhammadu Buhari withheld assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which he returned to the National Assembly for review, adding that his refusal to sign the document was aimed at saving the country’s nascent democracy.

It noted that the decision had been taking in the interest of Nigerians, particularly to eliminate rancorous political activities that could lead to violence, and that the proposed amendments entail significant legal, financial, economic and security consequences for all Nigerians.

The presidency noted should Buhari go ahead by assenting to the bill, there would be a severe spike in the cost of holding primary elections by parties, which he argued, was integral to democracies the world over.

Through a statement on Tuesday by Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, the president noted that Nigeria’s strength as a nation rest on its proud democratic processes, which are enshrined in the Electoral Act of 2010 and every measures must be taken to protect it.

According to him, the proposed amendments entail significant legal, financial, economic and security consequences for all Nigerians, principal among which would be a severe spike in the cost of holding primary elections by parties – integral to democracies the world over.

“And who would shoulder these costs? The Nigerian taxpayer of course. And who would benefit? Only the richest of political parties. At a time when the nation is seeking to extricate itself from the economic mire of the worst global health crisis in living memory, whatever other merits the new bill may have, now is not the time for such frivolous spending of public money.

“Inevitably, the usual voices are making themselves heard, with cynical claims of election rigging and so on. This is nothing new. We heard their self-serving cries of fraud in 2015, when we saw the first peaceful transfer of power in independent Nigeria’s history. Then again in 2019, when President Buhari was re-elected with a lead of over three million. We will hear them again in 2023.

“Until then, the President will do whatever he can to protect this county’s democracy, and that includes withholding assent from this Bill. It is worth noting that, as one of Nigeria’s largest political parties, the ruling APC is one of those that stand to benefit from a bill that favours wealthier parties. But it is not the job of this government to protect the APC. It is the job of this government to protect Nigeria, her people and her democracy.

“To those that would rather that limited public funds be spent on politicking during this time of global crisis, we say: cease these cynical games. Tell the Nigerian people openly what you want. Put your – or rather their – money where your mouth is,” the statement said.

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