By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Tony Edike
ENUGU —SECOND Republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, yesterday, flayed the move by the National Assembly to integrate all its members into the National Executive Committees, NEC, of their various political parties, describing it as self serving.
While declaring the proposal as undemocratic he called for the bill now being fast-tracked through the two houses of the National Assembly to be dropped.
Meanwhile, leaders of the National Assembly are considering receiving the input of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, at a joint public hearing on the bill next week during which they expect to formally receive the input of other stakeholders many of whom have condemned the proposal.
Besides, it has emerged that the legislative proposal in the Senate was a popular decision among Senators. The 44 member Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitution Review, SCRC, Vanguard learnt, overwhelmingly over-ruled the initial decision of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, that the proposal be dropped from the bill.
Dr. Ekwueme, a pioneer Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, BOT, spoke with reporters shortly after declaring open the second Coal City Book Convention organised by Delta Book Club at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel, Enugu. He said the move by the lawmakers completely negates the spirit and letters of true democracy.
In the proposal in the Senate, all Senators and more than half of the members of the House of Representatives would become members of NEC of their political parties.
While the bill in the House proposes that all Senators and House members would become members of the NEC.
Flaying the move yesterday, Ekwueme said that if the bill scales through, it would also put pressure on the nomination process of the various parties for the 2011 general elections.
He, therefore, urged the parties involved, especially the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the Progressives Peoples Alliance, PPA to immediately checkmate the move by using the parties’ internal mechanisms.
He said: “I think, it’s perhaps a mixture of ideas from the parliamentary system and the presidential system. In the parliamentary system, the legislature decides the running of the parties, but it’s not so in a presidential system which we are practising today.
“The parties should be allowed to decide how candidates for elections are selected; if you allow every member of the legislature to become automatic members of the NEC of parties, what that means is that they would become the de-facto leaders of the parties considering their numbers.
“What that means is that the legislators would now become judges in their own cases because they will now decide how the NEC selects candidates for elections which they are equally contesting. What now becomes the fate of the people who are equally contesting for party tickets in the same election they are contesting.”
Dr. Ekwueme, who is a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, said there was nothing wrong in allowing the situation remain as it is presently where some members of the National Assembly are still members of the NEC of the parties and therefore cautioned the people behind the bill to have a rethink.
Earlier at the book launch, Dr. Ekwueme said Nigerian Youths should develop the habit of reading and writing books, while urging government at all levels to equally encourage the habit of writing and reading in order to protect and guarantee the future of intellectualism in the country.
President of Delta Book Club, Dilibe Onyeama expressed satisfaction at the large turn_out at the event stressing that the two_day celebration “promises to be no less frenetic and exciting as it will involve a celebration of the 80th birthday anniversary of a renowned literary icon, Prof Chinua Achebe.
Vanguard learnt yesterday that the bill in the Senate unlike the one in the House was introduced by the Senate Committee on Constitution of Review headed by Senator Ekweremadu. Committee sources told Vanguard yesterday that the proposal was equally controversial among some Senators, especially among the principal officers who are by status automatic members of the NEC of their politicial parties.
However, other Senators in the SCRC were said to have raised strong objections and in a vote Ekweremadu and those against the proposal were defeated.
The federal legislators it is learnt want to use the numerical strength that they could garner through the proposal to take control of the parties.
“It is because it is a proposal from the SCRC that is why the sponsorship of the bill in the Senate is coming in the name of Ekweremau the chairman of the Committee and other members of the Committee,” a source said yesterday.
Expressing the Senate’s readiness to adopt whatever input comes from the governors and other members of the public at the public hearing, one senior Senate official said yesterday:
“We will do a public hearing and if they want to come, fine and if they are coming it cant be anything before next week
“We are elected to represent the people and if we do public hearing and the people we are representing say that they don’t want the law we will look at the law and see the options that are available to us.”