The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday passed the harmonized version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, with senators describing the passage as a way of returning democracy to the people.
With the Senate passing the Conference Committee Report on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, following its consideration by both chambers of the National Assembly, the National Assembly has now approved direct primary as mandatory on political parties for electing candidates to stand for all political offices.
The National Assembly also gave its nod to the electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the governors are out to resist the adoption of direct primary method as they are said to be mounting pressure on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from signing the Bill into law.
According to the governors, the retention of direct mode amounted to the usurpation of the function of political parties. The governors are said to be rooting for a confrontation with the federal lawmakers, on the issue, even as the legislators vow not to give up their position.
The legislators argue that direct primaries are more democratic and confer power to the people rather than the delegate system of indirect primaries which makes it easy for moneybags to influence party selections even when the candidates are not popular.
Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Taraba South said , “direct primaries will return power to the people. Simple.”
On his part, Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, All Progressives Congress, APC, Oyo North said, “We have to promote internal democracy to help our democracy grow, anybody that is against direct primary is not a democrat, we should allow the Grassroots to participate in choosing who leads them like it is done in advanced democracies.”
On his part, Senator Albert Bassey Akpan, PDP, Akwa- Ibom North East said, “Democracy is participatory and about the people. Our democracy is fashioned towards the United States of America. So, since this is the position of National Assembly, I have no choice, but to support it.”
For Senator Chukwuka Utazi, PDP, Enugu North, he said, “It is the majority view of the members of the National Assembly aimed at deepening and entrenching democracy in Nigeria, and never meant to hurt anyone.”
One of the governors of the All Progressives Congress, who was at the tripartite meeting held at the State House with the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and members of the National Assembly on Tuesday, said he and the majority of his colleagues were against the adoption of the direct primary.
In attendance at the said meeting were, chaired by the vice president, included the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan; Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi; Chairman, National Caretaker Committee of the APC and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni; Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, and the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.
The governors, it was gathered, felt that the members of the National Assembly decided to opt for the direct primaries as a way of getting back at them (governors) over the outcome of the just concluded ward, local government and state primaries in their states.
“Some of these lawmakers don’t come home like they do when they were looking for the ticket, but as soon as they heard that congresses were on the way, they remembered they come from a constituency. Unfortunately, there are people at home already eyeing their seats,” the governor said.
The governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, insisted that the passed bill was aimed at the state executives.
He added, “What the primary is aimed at getting is to deny us the privilege of choosing those who will take over from us or those that would win the party’s governorship ticket. They think without controlled delegates, we would not be able to determine our successors. They also felt we might not even be able to win senatorial tickets.
Explaining the outcome of the tripartite meeting, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojudu, described its outcome as a “victory for the party’s internal democracy.”
He said, “While the younger elements in the House of Representatives were vehement and uncompromising in the expression of their preference, the senators were calm but resolute. The VP laid out the reasons for calling the meeting and allowed the parties to ventilate.
“It was a victory for the party, the governors and the legislators. We should commend the party leaders for reaching an agreement in a democratic manner.”
“Acting on the President’s mandate, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo called today’s (Tuesday) meeting to allow for all parties to ventilate their voices in a no-holds-barred manner. It was a family meeting. In the end, a common ground was reached, the direct primary was upheld and aspirants under our party can now go back to the people and seek endorsement rather than giving a few delegates the power to decide for all.”