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• Representatives act to prevent presidential violation

When did the compulsory direct primary mode of selection of candidates by political parties find its place in the bill amending the electoral law already adopted by the two chambers of the National Assembly, is a big deal-breaker? head that even some members of the National Assembly have trouble Explaining.

The inclusion of this bill was a great reminder to Nigerians of a similar development in the life of the Eighth National Assembly, when the duo of Dr Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, President of the Senate and Vice-President of the Senate (DSP) respectively, were indicted in court for allegedly tampering with the Rules of the Senate, which guided the secret ballot system in electing key leaders.

Considering the surprising way in which they both emerged as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Senate, Saraki and Ekweremadu, alongside a former Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and his deputy, Benedict Efeturi , were charged with criminal conspiracy and falsification of the Senate. Permanent regulations 2015.

On June 9, 2015, when the Eighth National Assembly was proclaimed, elected members of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) were called to a caucus meeting at the Abuja International Conference Center.

While most of the CPA’s elected MPs made their way to the International Conference Center for the controversial meeting, Saraki and others joined the rest of the mostly opposition elements to sit in plenary. As a member of the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) which worked with the All Progressives Congress (APC) to defeat the PDP in the general election, Saraki relied on the simple majority of PDP lawmakers to become Senate Speaker, while Ekweremadu, who led the PDP caucus to vote for Saraki, was also re-elected as DSP.

Although the charges were subsequently withdrawn by the federal government, the division and bad blood that development engendered in the Eighth National Assembly accentuated the schism between the executive and the legislature that defined this plenary.

Likewise, in the life of the Ninth National Assembly, where the ruling CPA enjoys a dominant majority, nothing has called into question the unity of the two chambers like certain elements of the bill amending the electoral law. Topping the list of contentious issues is the electronic transmission of election results and, most recently, the mandatory direct primary mode of candidate selection for all political parties.

Underhand tactics
It took massive agitation from the electorate for the National Assembly to adhere to the stipulation of electronic transmission of election results. While APC Senate lawmakers found it easy to flout the opposition and defeat the article, in the House of Representatives the division gained national attention.

Civil society groups joined in the fray, as Nigerians insisted that electronic transmission of ballot proceeds be enshrined in the electoral law in order to bolster the loyalty of the country’s electoral system.

However, when it appeared that the victory had been won by the masses, another contentious issue was secretly inserted into the amended Election Law Bill. Pleasant as the issue of direct primary sounds, there were recriminations within the political class that the right to choose, which mode of selection of candidates should be left to the discretion of each political party.

Adding his experienced voice, Eighth Senate Speaker Dr Saraki urged members of the upper legislative chamber not to make the direct primary option mandatory for political parties. Speaking through his media assistant Yusuph Olaniyonu, the outgoing Senate Speaker noted that making the direct primary compulsory for political parties would make the situation worse for political parties.

Saraki raised two red flags against adopting the direct primary, while expressing optimism that the method might work for the country in the future.

He asked, “Do most parties have valid and verified membership registers and other logistics necessary for the smooth running of direct primaries?” The option of direct primaries will also put pressure on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), whose officials must monitor all primaries. “

The former Senate helmsman also noted the time factor, noting that the country does not seem to be prepared for it as the primaries could take place next June, which is just nine months away.

He revealed that the idea of ​​making a law for the mandatory direct method of choosing candidates for an election emerged during the Eighth National Assembly, adding that the plan still arises in preparation for general elections.

Being aware of the inner workings and the legislative process, Saraki pleaded with federal lawmakers not to “take a stand on critical issues on the basis of partisan and personal considerations.”

He said: “The two options on the table are to make the direct primaries mandatory for all parties, or to leave it up to the parties to decide. We should take the latter option. Let each party decide how it wants to source its candidates.

“The experience we have had in the past shows that the direct primary will lead to a crisis if it is forced on the parties. We have seen how people sent from national headquarters to conduct primary elections stayed in hotel rooms and brought up numbers, which were announced following direct primary elections. Even if the big parties have the funds and the means to organize direct primaries all over the country, what about the small parties? ” He asked.

However, the fact that the two chambers of the National Assembly did not consult the CENI as was the case during the debates on electronic transmission seems to be a red flag against all the legislative work called the draft. law amending the electoral law.

The precarious stance of the electoral law amendment could be seen by the fate that could befall him in the presidency, where President Buhari is now the target of two opposing forces pushing for assent or denial.

Various stakeholders, commentators and interest groups, including House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, have pleaded for presidential assent.

The speaker told State House correspondents that Buhari is a direct primary product and is willing to sign the bill.

Also former director of foreign operations at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Da Jonathan Sunday Akuns, told the Guardian in an interview that the Election Law Amendment Bill was the best legislation to come from the Ninth National Assembly.

Akuns, who is also Galadima Daffo, of the Bakkos Local Council of Plateau State, noted that the content of the bill as passed by both houses of the National Assembly has implications for far-reaching for Nigeria’s electoral system.

Conversely, while the two forces for and against the signing of the bill amending the electoral law are putting pressure on President Buhari, many now depend on the feelings of those in power outside the National Assembly. And, perhaps, knowing how technical and complex the issues surrounding the bill are, President Buhari decided to seek the advice of INEC. However, many questioned whether the president was trying to behave like Pontius Pilate by sidestepping the responsibility of the electoral arbiter.

And just like the constitutional amendment efforts of the Fifth National Assembly, which were rejected entirely because of the third term, in the event that the president recommends that certain aspects of the legislation be revised before his assent, the development would leave the draft law at the mercy of political demands.

The National Assembly would take the Christmas break over the next two weeks. As such, they could at the latest convene a Committee of the Whole to reflect on President Buhari’s observations would be next year. Already, the ruling APC had provisionally scheduled its national congress for February 5, 2022.

Additionally, given INEC’s schedule for the 2023 general election, parties are expected to hold primaries by August. The National Assembly would therefore be in a race against time to rework the bill amending the electoral law for the approval of the president.

Patchwork
THE House of Representatives must have seen the red flags against the amended bill and therefore decided to step up its work by engaging INEC, especially in the context of recent speculation that the electoral body has expressed concern over the fact that N500b would be required to monitor party primaries. .

Last Thursday, the lower house of the National Assembly decided to invite the president of INEC, Professor Yakubu Mahmood, to ensure that the electoral arbiter does not endanger the amendment bill. .

President Femi Gbajabiamila instructed the House committees “on INEC and ownership to kindly invite the president of INEC so that he can give us the possible financial implications of the direct primary”.

It should be recalled that speculations circulated, in particular on social media platforms and online suggesting that the INEC had advised Buhari against approving the bill, which provides, among other things, for new stipulations and compulsory direct primaries for political parties. .

But, following a resolution on a motion of urgent public importance proposed by lawmakers representing the Yagba East / Yagba West / Mopa-Muro Federal Constituency of Kogi State, Leke Abejide, the plenary agreed to unanimity to invite the president of INEC.

Kogi’s lawmaker had alerted lawmakers to speculations circulating on social media that it would cost political parties more than 500 billion naira to hold direct primaries ahead of the 2023 general election, a development which has been interpreted as a serious danger signal against the bill.

The Election Law (Repeal and Reenactment) Bill 2021, now awaiting President Buhari’s assent, contains crucial elements, including direct primaries and electronic transmission of election results.

During the plenary, Abejide asserted that the president of the INEC is the appropriate official to clarify the financial implications of the direct primaries since according to him, the INEC is the arbiter overseeing the primaries of the two political parties and the election itself. said.

“We all know the importance of direct primaries. Some people said it would cost N500b. This is only speculation because the cost of direct primaries may be in the budget of INEC, ”he said.

While stressing that “the best time to invite Professor Yakubu would be now that the 2022 budget was still pending before the National Assembly”, the legislator maintained that the visit of the president of the INEC would help the legislator to decide to an appropriate budget.

There are indications that federal lawmakers are determined to view the bill regardless of the attempt to scare President Buhari into approving the bill due to the alleged huge financial implication for the exercise.


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