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Rise Above Petty Politics, Sign Electoral Bill Now —- Saraki Tells Buhari

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The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to heed the advice of the anti-democratic elements who have now populated the political space and putting pressure on him not to give assent to the 2018 Electoral Bill.

Saraki in a statement in Ilorin on Wednesday, signed by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, urged the President to rise above petty politics and act without further delay in the best interest of the country and its democracy by signing the Electoral Bill into law.

Saraki noted that he had been inundated with telephone calls and discussions by members of the National Assembly who expressed concern about the delay in the signing into law of the Electoral Bill as the one month period provided by the law for the President to sign a bill presented to him by the National Assembly is about to expire in the next few days.

He added that many of the legislators who contacted him were particularly disturbed that certain individuals who are said to be chairmen of political parties had approached the Federal High Court to stop the President from assenting to the bill.

He noted that the jaded tactic employed in the 90s to scuttle the return to democracy when groups like the Association for Better Nigeria went to court to frustrate the announcement of the results of the June 12, 1993 elections is now being adopted by some masked groups and individuals to stop the signing into law of the Electoral Bill.

He urged President Buhari to dissociate himself from these ugly antics and sign the bill, which he said has comprehensively addressed issues that usually clog the process of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections.

Saraki said: “It is the prerogative of the President to either sign a Bill into law or refuse it assent. He is free to exercise this prerogative the way he likes in this case. What I found surprising is a situation where some people now want to adopt a wrong tactic of abusing the court process to stall the matter. That will be unacceptable and I am sure our judiciary will rely on the lessons from the past and not allow itself to be used.

“We do not want the President to allow the setting of a bad precedent in which somebody will go to court in future to stop the passage of an Appropriation Bill or any essential law which will be important to the development of the country.

“My position remains that the President, his aides, the entire country and the international community are aware that all the concerns raised by the President on the past three occasions he withheld assent to the bill have been addressed by the legislature. We bent backward on each occasion to accommodate the wishes of the President. We started work on this law since 2016 to prevent a situation where it would become part of the election controversies.

“Every sincere commentator, observer, and analyst know that what we have done with that bill is to raise the level of transparency, credibility, and acceptability of our electoral process. We made sure that the law if assented to and honestly applied by INEC and all those concerned, will give us an election that will be better than what we had in 2015.

“The President should know that the survival of democracy, its development and the future of Nigeria are far more important than the ambition of any individual or party. I am using this opportunity to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to put a stop to this uncertainty in the political process by signing without delay the 2018 Electoral Bill so as to allow INEC and the concerned parties know how to prepare for a credible process.”

BIG STORY

2023 Presidency: I Won’t Reject Calls To Contest —– Tinubu

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The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, says he will not reject calls to contest for the Presidency in 2023.

The former Lagos State governor stated this after a closed-door meeting with leaders of the Northern Alliance Committee in Abuja.

While refusing to officially declare his ambition, the 69-year-old politician said political consultations were ongoing.

“I am not going to turn them down but I will still effectively and widely consult, particularly brainstorm with my friends and find a date to come out openly and tell Nigerians.

“But the President is still in office. I don’t want to distract him from all the challenges he might face today. So, don’t muddle the political waters. Consult, make our program known to the people later. And the intention is clear. So you can keep guessing,” Tinubu added.

Endorsing Tinubu for 2023, the leader of the Northern Alliance Committee, Lawal Munir, said the meeting resolved to work for the actualization of the ambition of the APC National Leader to the next level.

Munir, who said they had a fruitful meeting with Tinubu, disclosed that the committee resolved to support him come 2023 due to his superlative qualities.

He added, “The meeting ended very well. We are working for him. We are working for him because we know he will win the election when the time comes.”

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BIG STORY

Pressure On Buhari To Reject Electoral Amendment Bill

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President Muhammadu Buhari is under pressure to withhold assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, it was learnt yesterday.

Governors are urging the President to decline assent until the conflict over the direct primary is resolved.

However, leaders of civil society groups, who organized a protest in Abuja, advised the president not to pander to the wishes of governors who opposed the primary model from the onset.

The National Assembly had transmitted the Bill to the president on November 19, following its passage.

The President has until December 19 to either sign or decline assent.

According to a source, there is suspense as “the president has expanded his scope of consultations with stakeholders” before taking a final decision.

The source said senators and House of Representatives members are under pressure from governors to review the Electoral Act and retain the indirect primary.

It was also learnt that the Presidency may seek a review of the Act, if the pressure persists.

However, the pressure forced senators to split into different caucuses on the demand of governors and some forces in the presidency have created division among senators.

In one of the caucus meetings, some ranking senators said they can back down on direct primary, if a proviso is added or agreed upon to give the Right of First Refusal to serving senators or members of the House of Representatives.

But members of the House of Representatives were adamant yesterday.

They invited the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to explain the likely cost implication of direct primary.

An unconfirmed report said N500 billion additional cost may be incurred by the commission if the direct primary is adopted.

Although the president had requested for comments from INEC on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the agency has not acted on the president’s request.

Also, it was learnt that some forces in the presidency had been uncomfortable with the cost and security implications of direct primary.

The forces were said to be pushing for a review of the Act by the President.

A principal officer in the Senate, who spoke in confidence, said: “We are under intense pressure from governors and some stakeholders to review the Electoral Act and drop direct primary.

“It has got to a ridiculous extent that each of the 36 governors is now engaging National Assembly Caucus in every state.

“While President Muhammadu Buhari was still consulting, we were surprised that some forces in the Presidency have joined the fray to prevail on National Assembly to retain indirect primary.”

A ranking member of the Red Chamber said the pressure has forced senators to meet at different caucus levels.

The senator said: “On Thursday (yesterday) alone, I attended three different meetings bordering on demand from the National Assembly to jettison direct primary.

“We know the governors are jittery. We also deliberately included direct primary in the Electoral Act to checkmate the excesses of these governors and godfathers imposing candidates on the parties.

“In one of our meetings, some senators tabled another request as a condition for any review. The affected senators said they can back down on direct primary if a proviso is added or agreed upon to give the right of First Refusal to a serving Senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

“We may, however, be heading for a stalemate because members of the House of Representatives appeared unwilling on Thursday to review the Act.”

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BIG STORY

2023 Presidency: Nigerians Should Wait For Tinubu To Speak In January —- Fashola

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Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has urged Nigerians to wait till January 2022 for the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, to declare whether he will be running for president in 2023 or not.

He stated this on Channels Television’s ‘Hard Copy’ programme aired on Friday night.

Of recent, posters and billboards advertising the rumoured presidential bid of Tinubu who was Lagos governor from May 1999 to May 2007 have been seen in major cities including Lagos and Abuja.

Though Tinubu has yet to declare his intention to contest any office in 2023, there have been reports and veiled indications that he might be interested in the exalted seat.

It was earlier reported that the SouthWest Agenda 2023, a political movement mobilising support for Tinubu to contest the 2023 presidential election, was inaugurated in Lagos in October by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and other party chieftains.

Tinubu, who celebrated his 69th birthday in March 2021 and command an arguably large following of political loyalists, has been reported to nurse presidential ambition in 2023, even as political debates get intense for a Southern President after the eight-year regime of the incumbent, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who is from Katsina State, North-West Nigeria.

Some groups and persons have also said aside from Tinubu, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; and Fashola are equally capable to be Nigeria’s President.

When asked whether he is interested in becoming the President of Nigeria, Fashola said, “It is a very tough responsibility, a very tough job; I don’t envy those who have held that office and I don’t envy those who aspire to take it as well.”

Asked whether he is speaking for any aspirant come 2023, the minister said, “As far as I am aware, nobody has said, ‘I want to be Nigeria’s President’. There are people speaking for people. Nobody has come out, we are not at that stage yet.

“I can’t venture out and say that I will speak for X or Y. Let the person come out and say, ‘I want to serve Nigeria’.

“It pains me sometimes when we see that very important job and responsibility to, ‘My people said’. I think the whole sense of it should be that, ‘I am able, I have looked at myself, give me your problem, you go to sleep’.”

On whether he will support Tinubu’s rumoured 2023 presidential bid, the two-term ex-governor of Lagos said, “I saw him (Tinubu) last week, he didn’t tell me he is running for office and to the best of my knowledge, the last statement he made on it is that people will know in January.”

Fashola also said he has not asked Tinubu whether he is interested in the 2023 Presidency or not. “No, I didn’t ask him, I just went to ask how was doing. He has issued a statement that, ‘I will speak in January, so let us wait till January,” he said.

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