If democracy was a car, elections would be petrol.
Sure, you need an engine, tyres, and a working aux, but the petrol is kind of important to get the whole show on the road.
Nigeria is racing down to the 2023 general elections, but President Muhammadu Buhari is refusing to put petrol in the car.
Nigerian elections are currently guided by the electoral laws signed in 2010.
It’s clear to everyone that these laws need to be updated to catch up with the present.
But the man in charge of making the final approval isn’t known for his speed.
Sai Baba says No
When the National Assembly passes a bill and sends it to the president, he has 30 days to approve or reject.
President Buhari has been presented with five different electoral amendment bills since 2018.
He has refused to approve a single one.
He rejected the first one in March 2018. This amendment reordered the line-up of elections in a way that governors were elected before the president. Buhari didn’t like that so he vetoed it.
He aired the next draft sent to him in July 2018. Ignoring a bill past the 30-day deadline is an automatic rejection.
The president rejected another amendment proposal in September 2018 due to drafting errors and cross-referencing gaps.
Another one was rejected in December 2018 because it was too close to the election and could cause operational issues.
Buhari every five minutes:
New National Assembly, new issues
The current National Assembly has been trying to ensure Nigeria has updated electoral laws before the 2023 general elections.
Some of the headline proposals in the bill include the electronic transmission of results and expansion of campaign spending limits.
A version of the bill sent to Buhari in 2021 was officially rejected in December because it made direct primaries the only mode for electing party candidates.
The president promised that he would sign the bill if that particular proposal was removed.
The National Assembly has done exactly that and sent him a new version on January 31, 2022.
This has been Buhari’s reaction since then:
National Day of Protest
The National Day of Protest demonstration staged on February 22, 2022 is an effort by a coalition of civil society organisations to force the president’s hand to sign the bill.
Nigeria should already have an outlined timetable for the 2023 elections.
But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is waiting on the president’s decision because signing the bill would impact the timeline of events.
Buhari’s failure to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022 into law is not only a betrayal of his own words, but it is also slowing down Nigeria’s ability to prepare for 2023.
President Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, in a statement on February 21 accused the protesters of playing cheap politics.
He said the president is doing due diligence to ensure the bill is “as near-perfect as possible” before his March 1 deadline.
The 2023 presidential election has already been scheduled to happen on February 18, but that is now in danger of being moved.
Nigerians are taking to the streets of Abuja today to ask Baba Go Slow to move a bit faster and fuel the car.