Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has expressed optimism that President Muhammadu Buhari would sign the amended Electoral Bill into law this time round.
Okowa attributed the refusal to sign the Electoral Bill during the president’s first term and before the 2019 general election to what he called political considerations.
The governor made the remarks on Friday at a town hall meeting with representatives of youth bodies in Delta North senatorial district, including organisers of the recent #EndSARS protest, students, community youth and civil society groups.
The President had declined assent to the 2018 Amendment to the Electoral Bill four times, saying he was concerned that passing a new electoral act could create uncertainty and interrupt or disrupt the 2019 general election, which was then close.
Buhari, who had earlier declined assent on the grounds that there were drafting issues and that he did not want anything that might usurp the constitutional powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), expressed his position in a letter to the National Assembly in December, 2018.
However, Okowa assured the people that the President would not, at this time, hold back his assent to the amendment to the Electoral Bill, which is intended to provide solutions to the numerous problems associated with elections in Nigeria, including compulsory use of card readers as well as fines and jail terms for officials, who are found guilty of omitting logos of parties from ballot papers.
“I agree that there is need to re-work our electoral processes, but we need to re-engineer our minds, because we have lost it and it’s time we began to talk to ourselves.
“The electoral amendment law wasn’t signed (by President Buhari) because of politics but I am sure it will be signed this time round; and so, as youths, you must get yourselves engaged so that we can get them closer into politics,” he said.
The Delta governor also noted that the ongoing new wards creation process by the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DESIEC) was to correct certain imbalances in the system, saying by existing law, every local government area in the state should have a maximum of 20 wards.
For any election, he appealed to leaders to avoid imposition of candidates but to build consensus or conduct free and fair primary elections for aspirants and to ensure that youths do not spend much to contest or participate in the processes.
He said the youths should understand that politics was about learning along the line and picking the good things they have seen in good politicians and discarding the bad.
“You must truly begin to organise yourselves in truth with a common goal and focus and whoever you select must stand for the common good of others.
“We are building a new Nigeria with the youths and we must shun acts capable of reducing us when we leave office. We will continue to allow youths, including females, to be part of the governance process, because in learning you are building yourself for the future.
“If you are a youth and you want to be active in politics you must respect your leaders and you must learn to pray a lot. I am encouraged to see many more youths go into politics and I hope it is for the right reasons. I know we have some youths representing their people but are they showing examples to others?
“The act of leading requires deep thought, sincerity and leadership quality, because there is a difference between an orator and the person who is able to lead,” he explained.
On agitations by the youths that Delta’s contribution to the daily oil production quantum of the country should be declared, the governor said the state government had made representation to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) for the information but was yet to receive a response from the agency.
Okowa said: “We have written to DPR to correct the abnormality. We have not heard from them, but we will intensify efforts towards ensuring that they review it, because it is not right to continue to rely on the same oil production quantum.