- The gains of the citizens' townhall organised by Yiaga Africa on Sunday, January 16 has been enormous
- A board member of the foremost civil society organisation, Ezenwa Nwagwu, says the event made the National Assembly understand the urgency of the 2021 Electoral Bill
- The event was beamed live on national television and was also the trending topic on social media with the hashtag #FixElectionsNG
FCT, Abuja - Ezenwa Nwagwu, an election and governance enthusiast who currently chairs Partners for Electoral Reform has stated that the recent citizens' town hall on the Electoral Bill 2021, organised by Yiaga Africa contributed to putting pressure on the National Assembly to act fast.
Speaking to Legit.ng in an exclusive interview, Nwagwu noted that the citizens' town hall was a gathering that could not be ignored by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Nwagwu who also sits on the board of Yiaga Africa stated:
“It is a gathering that they cannot ignore. If you tune in to any major radio/TV station in the country, that is what was broadcasting. I think it fundamentally shifted and drove the National Assembly to understand the urgency in which they need to address the Electoral Bill.
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“Because if they thought it was just civil society, you saw a governor, former INEC chairman, NBA, NUJ, NLC, topmost leadership...it is difficult to ignore.”
Asked if the new twist on direct primaries introduced into the bill by Senate will delay the passage of the Electoral Bill, he said:
“The challenge is that they are politicians, and they are always looking at taking advantage of every situation.
“What is playing is that the Senate is hung up on these direct primaries, not in any way you and I are interested in a direct primary.
“They think that it guarantees their return, because the indirect primary is delegate election, and most times, in some states, the governors control those delegates because naturally, the governors run those parties. For many of them in the Senate, they mistake a rope for a snake.
“They think that direct primary will give them the opportunity to go directly to the people and bypass the stronghold of the governors. So, when they saw that the president bowed to the demands of the governors, they inserted a clause again that can help them, which is consensus.
“That way, three or four people sit down and say we are granting a senator the return ticket because he is loyal to the party. The APC Constitution cannot become the constitution of the country.
“Good a thing there is an opportunity for a conference, the harmonisation committee of both the House of Representatives and Senate can remove that undemocratic clause and see how they will send a bill that carries the aspirations of the Nigerian people to have a bill that guarantees free, fair, inclusive and acceptable electoral law.”
When asked if protests can be an option to force the National Assembly and the presidency to act fast, Nwagwu said:
“The thing about protests is that it is a process. It is not a tea party. The NLC for instance, he (the union president) has to work through the organs and alert the organs of the need to do that. But the reality is that the pressure has come already on the National Assembly.
“Let's not take anything away from them, the fact that they resumed and made it a priority is something to cheer about. Let nothing reduce from that.
“And I think that more and more, they are getting used to the fact that Nigerians are not sleeping. A protest is an option, but it is not always the best option.
“We will explore all the exchanges that are going on, the pressure that is been brought to bear and the relationship that we have in certain progressive-minded people in the National Assembly that they do what is right for the Nigerian people.”
Professor Jega asks Buhari to give nod to electoral bill
Recall that a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, at the citizens' townhall, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to give assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill on time.
Jega stated that INEC needs the law in place to begin serious preparations for the 2023 elections.
He admitted that some issues in the bill need clarification, but added that other aspects of the document deserve the president's nod.
Going back memory lane, the former INEC boss stated that since 2010, Nigeria has not had any notable improvement in its electoral laws.
Key resolutions from Yiaga Africa's citizens’ townhall released
Legit.ng had earlier reported that seven key resolutions were released by the organisers of the townhall on Monday, January 17.
The organisers stated that the Electoral Bill 2021 reflects the wishes of Nigerians and key electoral stakeholders.
According to them, the bill will ensure a legal framework that promotes the use of technology and other innovations to stem electoral manipulation, strengthens INEC’s financial independence, and empowers the commission to reject falsified election results.