Direct primary: Governors, National Assembly clash

Posted by News Express | 10 November 2021 | 397 times

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Crisis is brewing between the National Assembly and All Progressives Congress (APC) governors over the retention of the direct primary for picking candidates by political parties in the amended Electoral Act.

According to the governors, the retention of direct mode amounted to the usurpation of the function of political parties.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aligned with the governors, saying that direct primary cannot be imposed on parties.

Yesterday, the Senate passed the Conference Committee Report on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, following its consideration by both chambers of the National Assembly.

The National Assembly also gave its nod to the electronic transmission of election results.

Although, the Upper Chamber initially rooted for indirect primary, it made a u-turn and supported the direct mode.

Also, the House of Representatives rebuffed pressure by the governors to jettison the direct primary.

Sources said President Muhammadu Buhari is likely to assent to the bill within a week.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, on October 13, 2021, constituted a seven-man Senate Conference Committee to meet with its counterpart in the House of Representatives to harmonise the differences in the two versions of the bill.

The Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, who chaired the Conference Committee in the Senate, presented the report of the harmonised version.

He said the bill, when passed by the National Assembly, and subsequently assented to by the President, would regulate the conduct of elections at the federal, states and local councils and the Federal Capital Territory.

He disclosed that the Conference Committee, at its retreat, considered and adopted 21 clauses in the bill.

Abdullahi said: “It is imperative to point out that with the successful harmonisation of this bill, a process that started from the 7th Assembly through to the 8th National Assembly has now been completed by the 9th National Assembly.

“The Bill is now ready for passage and presidential assent.

”I am happy to state that most of what we call ‘citizens’ top priorities’ on the Electoral Act Amendment, including the use of technology, have been addressed by the Electoral Bill, 2021.”

The Senate had on October 13, 2021, re-amended certain aspects of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, especially Clauses 43, 52, 63 and 87.

House or Representatives spokesman Benjamin Kalu said the clean copy of the bill will be sent to the President within the next seven days, adding that the Electoral Act has returned power of selection to the people.

Addressing reporters after the House sitting along with the Chairman of the House Committee on Telecommunications, Akeem Adeyemi, he however, ruled out the possibility of vetoing the bill, saying there is no reason for the President to refuse assent.

Kalu said: “There was an agreement between the two chambers for the advancement of our democracy. We should begin to look at the principles of democracy that should be fine-tuned to meet the best of democracy in other advance democratic climes.

“One of such is returning power to the people where this government of the people, by the people and for the people will be operating fully for the benefit of the people.

“That was why the two chambers accepted that for the benefit of the people, the principle of direct primary will outweigh that of indirect primary. Therefore, we stood clearly and still standing for direct primary.”

 

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who defended the Conference Report, said: “The two major issues were of transmission of results and direct or indirect primary. The Senate went back to plenary, rescinded its earlier position and adopted the House position. To me, that put an end to the issue. In any case, you can lay your report for the record”.

However, Minority Leader Ndudi Elumelu said members should be given copies of the report to enable them know what transpires at the conference committee

Elumelu said the House should set a date that would enable members to consider the reports, adding that it was good that the House  Committee Chairman on Rules and Business, Hassan Fulata, moved a motion for the  suspension of the consideration of the report.

Explaining why the bill cannot be delayed, Gbajabiamila said: “We have primaries coming in the summer of next year. I think, you know, time is of the essence and particularly because the issues are so clear, discussion of yours is a bit dilatory.”

Rejecting the direct primary, the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), at a meeting in Abuja, said its retention is worrisome.

The Chairman of the Forum and governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, said the National Assembly’s decision amounted to usurpation of the duties of political parties in the determination of their flag bearers.

Bagudu said the shadow poll should be the prerogative of the political parties.

He argued that the resolution was against the spirit of Executive Order signed by President Buhari, which frowns at large gatherings in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The PGF chairman said in the face of present economic realities, the direct primary would be too cumbersome, unwieldy, and overstretch the limited resources of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is mandated to oversee primaries conducted by political parties.

He said: “There have been concerns that political parties are voluntary organisations, and our concern is that once you limit the ability of parties to choose options that they so desire, that may even be arguably undemocratic because noting stops one party from adopting one or the other.

“We took cognisance of the COVID challenge. Nobody was ready for COVID and as a result of COVID, Mr. President signed an Executive Bill, which limits public gathering. So, you can imagine if you have a legislation in place that says you only do something by public gathering, and yet, a challenge that you have never been ready for, limits you.

“We also noted that Ward Congresses, which were recently conducted by the party, were direct primaries. Ward Congresses are direct primary under our constitution.

“Direct primary involves, of necessity, supervisory role by INEC, at multiple levels, at multiple points. So, you can imagine that if political parties are doing their primary, by direct primary, INEC resources will be overstretched, and I think the chairman of INEC had even commented on that. So, whether the legislation has incorporated  the financial implications, I don’t know yet.”

Bagudu disclosed that the forum will meet with the leadership of the National Assembly to impress it on them to review the resolution ahead of the presentation of the Electoral Act 2010 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2021 to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.

In attendance at the meeting were Dr Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Dave Umahi (Eboyin), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), and Mohammed Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa).

Others were Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari, and his Nasarawa State counterpart, Abdullahi Sule.

Lagos, Ondo, and Kaduna state governors were represented by their deputies.

The PDP said no political paty has the right to impose its own process on other parties.

In a statement, its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party received the news of the passage of the harmonised Electoral Act Amendment bill with shock.

He said: “Our party holds that it is the inalienable right of each political party, within the context of our constitutional democracy, to decide its form of internal democratic practices including the processes of nominating its candidates for elections at any level.

“The PDP also believes that no political party should force its own processes on any other political party as the direct primaries amendment, a practice of the All Progressives Congress (APC), sought to achieve.

“Having stated this, the PDP shall, within the next 48 hours, make its final decision in respect of this amendment known”.

 

(Adopted from The Nation)


Source: News Express

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