Governors to Senators, Reps: remove direct primary clause
By Yusuf Alli, Abuja And Adekunle Jimoh, Ilorin On Nov 15, 2021
The row between governors and the National Assembly over the adoption of direct primary clause in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is not over.
Governors are mounting pressure on the Senate and House of Representatives to reverse the decision, it was learnt yesterday.
The targets of the pressure are Senate President Ahmed Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who were being urged by the governors to prevail on members of the Upper and Lower Chambers to kill the clause.
The governors are backing indirect primary, which had been the norm.
Under the delegate system, governors have the advantage of statutory delegates, majority of who are their appointees at the state and local government levels.
However, some senators and members of the House of Representatives have asked the Senate President and Speaker to resist the pressure.
Yesterday, former Senate President Bukola Saraki supported direct primary, describing it as the best mode of selecting candidates for elections by political parties.
It was learnt that the governors, the National Assembly and the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari on the next step.
Buhari is likely to get a clean copy of the amended Electoral Act this week.
Sources said governors have not given up on their preference for indirect primary.
It was gathered that the Speaker was invited by some governors to several meetings, but Gbajabiamila claimed that the President never told him to retain indirect primary in the Electoral Act.
A lawmaker privy to what had transpired between the Speaker and the governors, said: “They called the Speaker to several meetings threatening him and asking him to back out of the direct primary. They were dropping the name of the President at the sessions.
“Gbajabiamila pointed out to the governors that Mr. President never told him he doesn’t want direct primary.
“But, most Senators and members of the House of Representatives have asked the Speaker not to lead the House to revise its decision on direct primary.
“The clean copy gets to Mr. President this week. It is left to the President to decide whether or not to assent to the Electoral Act (as amended).”
Another source explained the division within APC and National Assembly members over direct primary, said majority of party members are rooting for direct primary. He recalled that the mode carried the day at last week’s meeting at Aso Villa, Abuja.
The source said:” The President wants direct Primary and to take democracy to the grassroots, but some forces in the Presidency and APC governors don’t.
“The resolution at the Aso Villa was that direct primary advocates in the National Assembly carried the day because their numbers at the meeting was overwhelming.
“It was a meeting conveyed to give Mr. President feedback”
A ranking member of the House of Representatives said in defiance of the governor, the National Assembly will soon come up with the procedures for a smooth direct primary.
He said: “As it stands, we are preparing for the next phase to properly state the procedures for direct primary because the present Electoral Act contains procedures for indirect primary, but with very few procedures on Direct Primary.
“The parliament will close this gap to ensure that enemies of democracy don’t succeed in sabotaging the new direct primary law just to create man-made confusion that suits their political interest in 2023. “
Urging the national Assembly to retain the clause, Saraki said the controversy on the propriety or otherwise on the passage of the direct primary bill by the National Assembly should not be allowed to scuttle the electoral bill.
Saraki who spoke with reporters in Ilorin, Kwara state capital, on the sideline of this year’s fidau for his late father, Dr Olusola Saraki, said President Buhari should assent to the electoral bill.
He Said: “Direct primaries are best for political parties if properly done. But I am not sure Nigerians prepared for it becuas there is still a lot of work to be done.
“But now, the National Assembly has passed it. We should make the best out of the situation rather than allowing the controversy one item to throw away the other good parts of the bill.
“What is important is for the President to assent to it and enable Nigerians benefit from the other parts.”