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ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT: TREATING VOTERS WITH CONTEMPT

By NBF News
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Despite the widespread rejection of the attempt to amend the Electoral Act 2010 by the National Assembly, the federal lawmakers seem pig-headed in their determination to pooh-pooh public opinion, resoundingly expressed during the public hearing on the issue.

If truly they are the people's representatives or indeed if they were genuinely elected, there would have heeded public sentiments. As Oliver Goldsmith noted, two persons can go against public opinion: a man of absolute integrity or a mad man.

In the reality of Nigerian experience, our lawmakers have placed themselves firmly in the second category. Only people deserted by, or bereft of, reason and intoxicated by the ambrosia of power can wilfully and arrogantly reduce legislation to the protection of their narrow and selfish interests at the expense of the larger interest of the people.

The indecent speed with which our so-called representatives at the National Assembly are determined to force a new version of electoral act amendment, intended to make them automatic members of the national executive committees of their political parties has revealed their dark, unpatriotic motives. While major bills of greater public importance such as Special Anti-corruption Courts, Freedom of Information Bill and the amendment of the Code of Conduct Act, seeking to make assets declaration public or open to public scrutiny are shamelessly neglected, the National Assembly members waste no time in making laws or amending them to suit their narrow interest.

Certainly, this is not the kind of role the framers of our country's constitution had envisaged for our federal legislature. Political parties have their own constitutions and methods of operating, including membership and leadership structure as well as decision making processes.

The National Assembly has no business making laws for political parties that are independent entities, especially on issues pertaining to the decision-making structures of the parties. In fact, the move by the National Assembly members to make themselves automatic members of their NEC is egregiously selfish and brazenly contemptuous of public opinion, which resoundingly rejected the amendment to the electoral act designed specifically to achieve this narrow objective.

While Nigerians will not welcome the abuse of power by the governors in a democratic setting, they won't condone any attempt by federal legislators to make themselves lords over the people. They are trying to achieve the so-called right of first refusal through the backdoor by imposing themselves on their political parties. They want to become life legislators, regardless of performance or whether the electorates want them back or not. Again, their intention is to frustrate any ambition by credible aspirants from their constituencies to replace them. The whole idea is to blackmail their political parties into nominating them as candidates whether they are popular or not.

There is no doubt this is a coup against the people when unpopular legislators want to impose themselves on the electorate. It seems our federal lawmakers don't know the extent they are detached from the people and the level of popular odium against them. Today, they are the most hated politicians in the country for collecting fabulous salaries for doing nothing. A Professor collects less than N3million per annum but, shamelessly, each Senator collects N15million monthly (equivalent to 45 million per quarter). How much does the Chief Justice of the Federation, the CBN Governor or other professionals collect in a month, despite being more productive than the federal legislature we have today?

As brilliantly argued by the former Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide, the greatest problem facing the Nigerian democracy is not whether we are operating unicameral or bicameral legislature; rather he said, it is the disposition of people we call our federal lawmakers. Reducing legislation to the promotion of selfish ambitions at the expense of the people that supposedly put them is the highest treason against the voters whose views no longer matter in the course of legislation. With the current reality, it is pointless conducting any public hearings on proposed legislations or constitutional amendment in the future.

In fact, the entire purpose of the current version of the electoral act being amended is to put the federal lawmakers in position to undermine anybody who is not ready to do deal with them, not for the sake of the people but for the sake of safeguarding their unpopular ambition to remain life lawmakers. Senate President, Brigadier-General David Mark (rtd), who is a staunch advocate of this unpopular amendment, recently declared his ambition to return to the Senate for the fourth term.

With the latest version of the electoral act being rammed down the throats of Nigerians, the National Assembly members have blackmailed the President and the ruling PDP leadership into succumbing to their selfish ambitions and manipulations at the expense of other stakeholders in the conduct of party primaries such as state governors, women groups and other interest groups. The order of PDP primaries has now been changed to reflect the deal between the President and federal lawmakers, technically making state governors and other stakeholders irrelevant in the selection process.

Under the new order of primaries, House of Representatives election comes first, followed by the Senatorial, Presidential and then Governorship and State Assemblies. In the former order of staggered primaries, which were to have taken place at different political zones, Governorship and State Assemblies would have come first, followed by National Assembly primaries and then presidential.

However, with the new order of primaries approved by the PDP NEC and NWC, the President and the federal legislators are now effectively in the position to determine the fate of Governors by imposing anyone they like. Instead of the primaries taking place at the level of political zones as originally planned in the older version of the amended electoral act, the primaries will now take place at the Eagle Square under the watchful eyes of the President where delegates cannot vote freely.

Danbatta wrote from B 38, Katsina Road, Kaduna