By Bassey Udo
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday finally gave his assent to the long-awaited Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 laying to rest weeks of uncertainty that engulfed the polity.
The signing of the electoral law is coming days after the President’s media aide, Femi Adesina told Nigerians and civil society groups that the President was on the verge of appending his signature to the document within hours.
There was palpable anxiety across the polity on Monday as the clock ticked towards the final deadline for the signing into law of the amended bill, which would provide the legal framework for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
Having failed to give his assent to the bill on five previous occasions, civil society groups stepped up their agitation for the President to do the needful, to avoid derailing the 2023 electoral process.
In December 2021, when the President withheld his assent to the reworked Bill by the National Assembly, he cited as his reason some clauses he said required political parties to adopt direct primaries for their nominations.
The President asked the National Assembly to do some more work on the provision before sending it back to him for his final assent.
Having carried out the President’s directive, the National Assembly, on January 25, passed the amended electoral bill after inserting the clause that would allow political parties to adopt any of three models of primary elections – direct, indirect, and consensus during their conventions.
The amended version of the Bill was sent back to the President on January 31, in line with provisions of Section 58 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the Acts Authentication Act Cap. A2 LFN 2004.
However, the President’s delay in signing the amended Bill into law heightened fears that he was not willing to give Nigerians a new law that many saw as a new face of the guidelines for the country’s future elections.
The President signed the Bill into an Act of the National Assembly after his Senior Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Babajide Omoworare, presented the document to him during a brief ceremony at the Presidential Villa witnessed by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, and other senior government officials.