The polity was divided, yesterday, over President Muhammadu Buhari's decision to veto the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for the fourth time.
While some lawyers and politicians kicked and called on the National Assembly to override the president's veto, 40 presidential candidates threw their weight behind President Buhari.
Indeed, a battle is looming in the National Assembly over the issue. As some federal lawmakers said they would meet to override President Buhari, some senators elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, vowed to mobilise against any move to override the president's veto of the electoral bill.
Former Federal Commissioner for Information and South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, urged members of the National Assembly to override the president because his veto of the electoral bill amounts to returning Nigeria to the 2007 and 2015 periods when elections were massively rigged.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar led the chorus against Buhari's decision. Among other commentators, yesterday, were former president of Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Wole Olanipekun, SAN; Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN; former Minister of Education and National Vice Chairman (South-West) of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Professor Tunde Adeniran; Professor of Political Science, and former Vice Chancellor of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko in Ondo State, Prof Femi Mimiko; members of the National Assembly and Ijaw Youth Council, IYC among others.
It raises doubt on Buhari's commitment to credible polls--Atiku
Atiku, speaking through his spokesman, Mr. Paul Ibe, said having committed himself to transparent polls it was surprising that Buhari failed to take advantage of the instrument that will further enhance the credibility of the electoral process.
His words: "President Muhammadu Buhari promised to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections. He made this commitment to the European Union, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, other international stakeholders as well as to millions of Nigerians.
"We believe that if the elections are to be credible, the process and the rules of engagement must be refined. President Buhari's refusal to sign the amendment is a missed opportunity and that raises serious doubt about his commitment to credible elections."
NASS must rise above party interests and save our democracy --Clark
Chief Clark said: "President Buhari's refusal to sign the amended electoral bill, which is very comprehensive, is to return us to 2015 and 2007 elections where voters had a field day rigging the elections.
"That former President Goodluck Jonathan accepted defeat in 2015 even when the votes were being counted does not mean that the elections were free and fair. Jonathan decided to put Nigeria first and then nipped in the bud the crisis and mayhem that could have followed."
40 Presidential candidates back Buhari
Rising from a consultative meeting hurriedly convened, yesterday, to review recent developments in the polity, 40 presidential aspirants under the aegis of 'Forum of Presidential Candidates' said President Buhari did the right thing by not assenting to the bill a few months to the polls.
"The time is obviously inauspicious to thinker with the Electoral Bill, especially when the process leading to the 2019 General Elections is already fully on course," the forum noted.
In a statement signed by the presidential candidate of Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance, Alhaji Shitu Mohammed Kabir and presidential candidate of Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, Mallam Danjuma Muhammad, the Forum said their earlier position had been vindicated that the amendment bill contained "deliberate hurdles" capable of derailing the 2019 General Elections.
APC senators vow to block PDP senators
Meanwhile, there are strong indications that there would be a charged executive session tomorrow over the issue between APC and PDP senators as there are moves by anti-Buhari senators to override his veto.
Vanguard gathered that the matter would come up during the executive session tomorrow where the decision on the next line of action would be taken.
President Buhari's letter where he declined signing the Electoral ( Amendment ) Bill 2018 on the grounds that it was capable of derailing preparations for 2019 elections would be read to the Senators tomorrow because the letter got to the National Assembly on Friday.
Buhari mourns Sen. Ahmed Aruwa
Senators on the platform of the APC who spoke separately with Vanguard, yesterday, have vowed that they would stop their colleagues in the PDP, if there was such a move against the backdrop that the opposition party does not have the required number to override the President's veto.
Speaking with Vanguard on the next line of action and whether the Senators would override the President's veto, Senator Gilbert Nnaji (PDP, Enugu East) said: "When we get to sitting maybe in an Executive session, we will definitely decide on the next line of action."
On his part, the Deputy Minority leader, Senator Emmanuel (Bwacha PDP, Taraba South) simply said they would do that " if we have the number."
Also speaking, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) who dismissed any such move, said there was no way they will allow Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and PDP Senators to carry out such an act at the Senate hallowed chamber.
Also speaking, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East) said: " President Muhammadu Buhari's reasons for not signing it are genuine."
Also, Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos East) said the Progressive Senators would block any move by the National Assembly to veto President Muhammadu Buhari's refusal to once again sign the recent amendments to the Electoral Act.
We'll override president's veto - Reps
Some members of the House of Representatives said President Buhari's refusal to sign the amended Electoral Act Bill was a deliberate act to truncate democracy and move Nigeria to the medieval age.
The lawmaker representing Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam Federal Constituency of Plateau State, Golu Timothy said the House of Representatives would embark on the process of overriding the president's veto or "we revert to old order of elections without card readers."
NASS must prevent 2019 polls from being jeopardised - Adeniran, Olanipekun
Urging the lawmakers to override President Buhari, Professor Tunde Adeniran said the president would have his way if the lawmakers failed to garner sufficient numbers to nullify his action "and once he succeeds in his self-seeking and self-serving position, the 2019 elections would be in jeopardy."
Chief Olanipekun also agreed that the President's refusal to assent to the amended Electoral Act would jeopardise the entire process. "I would advise that for the stability of our democratic and electoral process that the Electoral Act be signed and whatever might be the differences between the presidency or the executive and the legislature, the differences must be resolved."
He is paving the way to rig his election - Ozekhome
Constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, spoke in like manner. He said: "Buhari is obviously afraid not just of defeat but also of routing in the next presidential election. His refusal is an unveiled and desperate attempt to foist on Nigerians, the grand electoral fraud and larceny of bazaar votes we witnessed in the North-West, especially in Kano in 2015."
IYC asks NASS to overrule Buhari on Electoral Act
Faulting President Buhari, the Ijaw Youth Council, in a statement by its President, Mr. Eric Omare, said: "We call on the National Assembly to in line with the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution and without delay, override the Presidential assent and enact the Electoral Act into law. National interest is over and above the interest of one individual or political party and must be protected."
Soni Daniel, Emma Amaize, Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Emman Ovuakporie, Dirisu Yakubu & Omeiza Ajayi