The Senate and House of Representatives, on Tuesday, unanimously approved direct primary for all political parties for the emergence of their candidates for general elections.
Details of the resolutions passed by the Senate and House were contained in the recommendations of the Joint Conference Committee on the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill 2021, adopted on the floor of both chambers before adjourning plenary.
The bill seeks to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections and for related matters, just as the Presidency initiated a meeting with members of All Progressives Congress (APC) tagged: ‘Executive/Legislative /Party Consultative Committee, at the State House Banquet Hall.
While giving updates on the bill, Chairman, House Committee on Conference Committee, Hon Akeem Adeyemi, expressed delight that the 9th Assembly has finally concluded its own side of the Electoral Act (amendment) bill, 2021.
He observed that the process which started in 2010 with the aim of “getting Nigeria and Nigerians an electoral Act amendment for the sake of our election and other related matters was laid on the floor of the House of Representatives. After laying the report, the House went on the Committee of Whole when the Chairman, Femi Gbajabiamila received and we considered the report.
“All the process as regards the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill has been finally concluded today. The next phase is the assent of Mr President,” he noted.
On his part, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Benjamin Kalu, explained that the issues relating to direct and indirect primaries were also out to rest as the two chambers adopted direct primaries for all political parties.
“On this one, there was an agreement between the two chambers, that it is in order for the nascent of our democracy we will begin to look at the principles of democracy that needs to be fine-tuned, so as to meet the best practices in other advanced democratic climes.
“One of which is returning power to the people where this government of the people, by the people for the people would be seen operating fully for the benefit of the people. That was why the two chambers accepted for the benefits of direct primaries outweigh that of indirect primaries. Therefore we stood fairly and still standing for direct primaries.
“Secondly on the transmission of results, agreed that there is no third party precondition that ought to be done before results could be done electronically. That also has been accepted by the Senate and also accepted by the House.
“The question will become what is the next step, when it gets back to the Clerk of the National Assembly, from the Clerk of the National Assembly it will proceed to Mr. President. Any effort to touch a piece of legislation that has passed through this 9 yards of law making process, will be going against the principle of fontus officio as we know in law.”
“We have asked the bureaucrats to pass the ball fully to the Executive. I am sure that within seven days or thereabout, the legislation will be migrating to the President who is interested in ensuring that democracy in our country is strengthened. This he has shown in the recent elections in the country where he wanted the people to speak and let the voice of the people be the voice of democracy.
“We felt that we should let you know that we are done with the electoral Act amendment bill. Today marks the day that we can say to Nigerians that we have removed our hands from the amendment of the Electoral Act because many never believe that we will speed it the way we have done and that we will get it done with as quickly as possible in view of the 2023 elections that is close bye.
“We are on the side of Nigerians and all that they want. We have through this legislation lay another brick on the wall of advancing our democracy.
“In the doctrine of separation of power, the parameters and mandate of our office are limited to what we have done. We cannot predict Mr President or his next action. Nigerians, by the provisions of the Constitution, mandate us to amend laws that we feel need attention to be able to meet the current needs of the nation. There are guidelines in carrying out legislations and we have fulfilled that. The ball has been passed to the Executive.”
When asked on the next line of action if President Muhammadu Buhari decline assent, he said: “Whether or not we still have any option open to us if the President takes a position that we are not convinced about, the law is clear on that in our Constitution and that vetoing the President if the need arises. But in this case, we will cross the bridge when we get there. There is no need to pre-empt the President by reminding him of the powers of the parliament which is not in dispute at the moment. Let us allow the President to look at this legislation.
“Many didn’t believe the President was going to sign the PIA, many also thought we have embarked on a jamboree. Today, we have the PIB turned to PIA and Nigerians are happy about it. I can assure Nigerians that because the President is interested in moving our democracy forward, he will do what Nigerians want because there is no reason for him not to do so. If for any reason he finds anything that we overlooked and brings it back to us, there is still sufficient time for us to look at that and take it back to the President.
“We have said that this particular bill has simplified and make it easy for those who are not so rich, but are acceptable among their people to come out and present themselves to lead. This amendment will give wings to the not too young to run bill where most of the young people who have something to offer but are suppressed because of lack of funds will not have a platform to show Nigerians what they have to offer,” Hon Kalu said.
According to the report seen by Tribune Online, the Conference Committee after the consideration of the 21 clauses and the explanatory memorandum adopted Clauses 1, 5, 23, 31, 36, 97 and 117 as passed by the House.
In the same vein, the Conference Committee adopted Clauses 6, 15, 16, 17, 24, 43, 49, 50, 52, 63, 76, 87, 98 and 135 and an explanatory memorandum as passed by the Senate.
“It is imperative to point out that with the successful harmonization of this bill, a process that started from the 7th Assembly through to the 8th Assembly has now been completed by the 9th National Assembly.
“This 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, 2011,” the Chairman of the Committee noted.
The recommendations of the conference report on the Electoral Act was passed joint Senate and House Committee on the solution was a sequel to the submission of the Conference Committee Report on the Electoral Act by the Senate Leader and Senator representing Kebbi North, Yahaya Abubakar.
Both chambers of the National Assembly had since passed a resolution, making direct primary mandatory for all political parties for the emergence of their candidates for general elections.
Further investigation revealed that the forum of the APC governors at their meeting on Monday night rejected the position of both chambers of National Assembly which left political parties with no choice but direct primary as the only option for selecting candidates.
Addressing newsmen Kebbi state governor and Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, told newsmen that at their closed-door meeting, the governors expressed strong reservations about the National Assembly resolution on direct primary.
Indication has emerged that the governors on the platform of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) are not comfortable with the resolution of the National Assembly on the direct option as a mode of primaries for political parties to pick their candidates for general elections.
The APC governors operating under the aegis of Progressives Governors Forum, (PGF) at the end of their meeting on Monday night rejected the National Assembly resolution.
They also offered a hint to meet with the leadership of both chambers of Parliament 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 presidential assent.
The Senate had last month aligned itself with its counterpart in the House of Representatives which adopted Section 87 on mandatory direct primaries for all parties.
Section 87(1) of the bill reads: “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the Commission.”
Tribune Online checks revealed that the APC 2014 Constitution (as amended) makes provision for direct, indirect and consensus options for the emergence of the party candidates for general elections.
Further investigation revealed that while direct primaries involve the participation of all party members in the selection of party candidates, the indirect primaries involves the use of delegates who are usually leaders and members of the executives at the ward, local government and state levels, to elect the party’s candidate(s) at a congress or convention.
Speaking with newsmen last night at the end of the meeting held at Kebbi State Governors Lodge , Asokoro,Abuja, Kebbi State Governor and Chairman of the PGF, Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, said the governors expressed strong reservations about the National Assembly resolution on direct primary.
While he maintained that political parties should be allowed to pick the option best suited for them, Governor Bagudu further noted that the resolution was against the spirit of Executive Order signed by President Buhari which frowns at large gatherings in the wake of the global pandemic, Coronavirus.
He further argued that direct primary was too cumbersome, unwieldy and would overstretch the limited resources of the Independent National Electoral Commission, statutorily mandated to oversee primaries conducted by political parties.
He said: “We discussed the pros and cons. There has been concern that political parties are voluntary organisations. We express the concern that political parties be allowed to choose from the options that they so desire. There is an Executive Order, signed by Mr. President against a large gathering. These are issues we discussee and hope that the best be achieved for Nigeria.
“We also noted that our ward Congresses were results of direct Primaries. The process involves multiple roles by INEC. IF we have to involve INEC, their resources will be overstretched.”
On the recently conducted State Congresses by the Governor Mai Mala Buni led APC Careraker/ Extraodinary Convention Planning Committee, the Kebbi State Governor revealed that the governors appraised the exercise and adjudged it as satisfactory.