Senators Divided Over Polls Reordering

The power tussle between Senators, loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, and those who are pushing for the reordering of elections heightened on Saturday with the President’s supporters promising to publish signatures of their members.

SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that at a meeting in Abuja last week, the pro-Buhari lawmakers decided to ensure that an open ballot voting system be used if the National Assembly eventually opts to override Buhari’s refusal to assent the amendments to the Electoral Act 2010.

The PUNCH had, on Thursday, exclusively reported that the pro-Buhari senators had collated more than 40 signatures of those who would vote against the reported move of the federal lawmakers to override the President’s refusal to assent the bill.

Buhari had withheld his assent to the bill, which principally reordered the sequence of elections ahead of the 2019 polls.

The President had written to both chambers of the National Assembly on his decision to withhold assent to the amendment bill. In the letter, dated March 8, 2018, Buhari had said the amendments made by the lawmakers were in conflict with the existing laws.

The Senate has, however, been advised by its legal department to ignore the reasons given by President and proceed with the process to veto the bill.

A new Section 25 of the Electoral Act states that the sequence of the elections will commence with National Assembly, to be followed by governorship and state Houses of Assembly, while presidential poll will come last.

It was gathered that the pro-Buhari senators had concluded plans to publish the signatures of those against the amendments.

The publication, which might be sponsored in the media, would be aimed at ejecting suspected moles allegedly planted in the pro-Buhari camp by some senators allegedly pushing for the amendments to sail through.

A source in the anti-amendment group told one of our correspondents on Saturday that since the legal department had asked the Senate to ignore the constitutional issues raised by Buhari on the bill, the President’s loyalists were also planning to protect his interest.

The lawmaker added, “The only way they can ignore what the President said is to get the two-thirds of members to veto him, but I don’t think they can get the needed number (73).

“We have gathered over 40 signatures and  we will inform every signatory that we are going public and if they are ready to go along. We want to go public so that nobody will say they did not sign against the amendment.

“There are those who are here and there. We will inform every signatory of our decision to go public, so that whoever wants to withdraw his signatures now can do so.”

Although 10 APC senators had an openly protested against the passage of the amendment, the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who was not among the 10, had, at the plenary on Thursday, announced that he voted against it.

Speaking on the choice of open ballot voting system, the senator, who confided in SUNDAY PUNCH, disclosed that the pro-amendment lawmakers, which included  members of the Peoples Democratic Party, preferred secret ballot to create a shield for pro-Buhari members, who had been allegedly bought over by the pro-amendment group.

He said, “By the time you have agreed that your name should be published, nothing is hidden again. It is open already. When the signatures have already been published, there is no essence for secret ballot anymore. It will be opened to the public and the Senate. It is even going beyond calling for a division in the chamber.”

The source also disclosed that meetings had been ongoing on the move to support Buhari between a minister and three governors on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress and a national leader of the party.

“The meetings have been holding almost every day. The governors supporting our group are meeting today or tomorrow. We are meeting on Wednesday. We met on Thursday with their representatives,” he stated.

The Punch

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