As Nigerians continue to react to the executive veto of the amended electoral bill, Civil Society Partners on Electoral Reform have asked Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila to step down, accusing him of betraying Nigerians and using the House of Representatives to serve “personal and narrow political interest.”
They said the action of the Speaker in hurriedly passing the 2022 Appropriation Bill and adjourning the House to next year, amounted to a betrayal of trust and arm-twisting of the Senate to stop further action on the bill even when the red chamber was ready to do more.
The CSOs recalled that the Senate had passed a version of the electoral bill that accommodated the two choices of party primaries, but wondered why Gbajabiamila who singlehandedly led the National Assembly and Nigerians into adopting and appreciating the importance of the Direct Primaries, will be the first to chicken out.
According to the statement signed by Ariyo-Dare Atoye, the Executive Director, Adopt A Goal for Development Initiative, Ken Eze of Speak Out Africa Initiative, Jude Feranmi of Raising New Voices, and Obinna Eze Nwagbara, Executive Director, Youth and Students Advocates for Development Initiative, the CSO said they had expected some legislative activism in the House over the President’s letter, but that the Speaker made it impossible.
“We wish to ask Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila some salient questions: why did you make the entire country to buy into the idea of the direct primaries in the first place? Is this a conspiracy with the President to scuttle the entire electoral bill, or the fear of the executive?
“Remember the exclusive retention of direct primaries in the Electoral Bill was first his idea, so why did Speaker Gbajabiamila deliberately refuse to consult the Senate to take a common position before adjourning over such a sensitive bill that has enjoyed the cooperation and support of the two chambers? In whose interest is the Speaker acting?
“Nigerians have lost total confidence in Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. This is the time for him to step down and stop using national legislative business to serve narrow partisan interest.
“We urge members of the 9th House of Representatives to redeem themselves from the narrow hold of the Speaker.
The CSOs, however, commended the Senate for showing the determination to give the President’s action a fight, adding that the National Assembly has the backing and mandate of Nigerians to override the President or take any action that will make the amended electoral act becomes law.
“Against the expectations of many Nigerians, the Senate demonstrated courage and has shown that they are with the people on this bill and we shall continue to encourage them.
“The excuses given by President Muhammadu Buhari in his withholding letter are watery, shallow and suspect. The letter may have exposed the President as capable of using insecurity not to conduct the 2023 elections.
“Nigerians must be prepared to fight and salvage this democracy,” the CSOs said.