By Hugo Odiogor, Taye Obateru, Emeka Mamah, Samuel Oyadongha,Tony Edike, Dapo Akinrefon & Gbenga Oke
LAGOS—FORMER Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, presidential aspirant, Professor Pat Utomi and National Coordinator of Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms, CODER, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, yesterday, joined other Nigerians in commending the Senate for rejecting a proposal for the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act sent to the National Assembly by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The amendment to Section 87 of the Act sought to allow political parties determine who would be delegates at their conventions.
Senator Ken Nnamani commended the Senate for being independent in their approach towards the rejection of the proposal.
He said: “The Senate acted in the best tradition of a truly independent legislature. If PDP can adhere to its own constitution, our country will not be as heated as it is today.
The Senate, as the trustee of the people should stay firm on what is right.”
Chief Osoba faulted the move adding that the whole thing was nauseating. He said: “The idea that a law must be and the way and manner primaries should be held in political parties and be part of the Electoral Act is self nauseating. Each party should be allowed to hold their primaries and the way of selecting candidates for elections. So, the whole thing is nauseating.”
Professor Utomi in his reaction, said what the Senate did was to stop the idea of super delegates which is good for democracy but the motive of the senators was not without its selfish tinge. He said that while the Executive arm was looking for a formula to guarantee their return to office, they did not accept the idea of automatic ticket for the lawmakers.
National problems in circles
Utomi said: “We are going round our national problems in circles, the political class is spending too much time thinking of how to share the booty from rent seeking than providing solution to the problems. I want to tell you that if our political class refuses to stop thinking of their selfish interest, this house will collapse on their head.”
CODER coordinator, Mr Opadokun said: “My take is that the National Assembly is trying to prohibit the Presidency from defeating them at the primaries because if the primaries were to be done under the new set, with the new rule that the Presidency has submitted, it means that the President can have all his nominees to swell up his own numbers.
That is why the National Assembly is rejecting the amendment. But we should not praise any of the two sides for trying to make any impact in the polity, it is for selfish reasons.”
A lawmaker from Bayelsa State, Senator Amange Nimi Barigha told Vanguard that the Senate’s action was to strengthen democracy by ensuring that the incumbent governors were no give an undue advantage in emerging as candidates by circumventing the people.
He said the Senate was not looking at the interest of any individual but the country as a whole.
According to Barigha, the governors had pressurized the President to accepting the use of caucuses to select candidates for elective position and the Senate felt that this is not proper given the fact that they would come with their appointees as was done in the past.
This he argued was against the out come of the Justice Uwais recommendation which called the removal of political appointees and cronies of the incumbents from the list of delegates. He said the Senate rejection was not a vote of no confidence on the President.”
National Chairman of Labour Party, Mr Dan Nwanyanwu said: “I think we must congratulate the Senate for not allowing that political 419 as approved by the house pass through.
So it was embarrassing for that bill to come from the executive to the extent that there was a suggestion to give powers to national parties caucuses to chose candidates for election, it is absurd and unheard of in a modern democracy, so the Senate must be congratulated and they went to say that parties didn’t like.
I do not know parties that didn’t like it, all that we are saying was that such an issue is not even supposed to have come up that people who will attend party primaries, conventions should be the business of political parties as enshrined in their constitution because you don’t dictate to the political parties.”
Resident Electoral Commissioner for Cross River State, Mr. Mike Igini, described the rejection as a welcome development.
Igini argued that such proposals should not have been considered by the National Assembly in the first place noting that it takes away the essence of democracy. He said:
“If it is true that the National Assembly has rejected the nefarious proposal that the caucus of the party should be the ones to select candidates rather than the political parties conducting primaries, it is a welcome development. Such things are undemocratic. It is the political parties that should conduct elections and select those that should represent them during elections. It is welcome decision.”
Former member of the House of Representative, Mr Ned Nwoko said legislative set back was a product of poor advise to President Goodluck Jonathan given the fact that the act was passed less than six months ago. Nwoko said the President seems to have been stampeded to endorse the Electoral Act, without thinking through it.
He argued that the proposed amendment was intended to give the governors more powers which is not good for liberal democracy. He said the concept of the congresses will give Nigerians a greater say in choosing their leader.
President of Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, Mr. Titus Mann said: “The amendment which was designed to give President Jonathan an undue advantage at the primaries deserved to be thrown out for being undemocratic.”
For Yusuf Baba a politician and member of the Congress for Progressive Change, the action of the Senate cleared the doubts about any form of compromise on their part and advised that amendments to laws should not be for selfish purposes as the one thrown out appeared to be.
He said: “It was clear that the amendment was planned to give the president undue advantage as an incumbent as it would have made it impossible for anybody to defeat him at the primaries. That would have been unfair.”
A university lecturer, Obed Odey also commended the Senate for the action but hoped “it was done for patriotic reasons and nothing else in view of recent rumours of money exchanging or not exchanging hands. “
The Ijaw Council for Human Rights, ICHR, in its reaction described the Senate rejection of the presidential bill to amend the electoral act as welcome development for the nation’s fledgling democracy.
Democracy in the country
Founding Director of the Ijaw Council for Human Rights, Comrade Patterson Ogon said the action of the senate has further reiterated the latter’s commitment to the growth of democracy in the country.
“I praise the courage of the Senate in rejecting the amendment to the electoral act. We are interested in the practice and defence of democracy and some sections of that amendment would have done irredeemable damage to our quest for the growth of internal democracy in Nigeria,” he said.
National Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, and former Governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa described the rejection of the request to amend the 2010 Electoral Act as a bad omen for the country.
Musa said that the implication of the rejection was that the 2011 general elections would not be free and fair saying that “we do not want rushed elections because they will not be credible”.
The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, however welcomed the development saying that NASS has vindicated the forum in its agitation for credible polls in 2011 even as the Citizens’ Popular Party, CPP, lamented that the rejection has thrown a spanner into the processes leading to May 29, 2011 handover of government in the country.
CPP also suggested the use of the 2006 Electoral Act for the conduct of the forthcoming general election to avoid political crisis in the country.
But, speaking in a telephone interview with Vanguard in Kaduna yesterday, Alhaji Musa, however, called for an amicable resolution of the standoff between the Presidency and the National Assembly, NASS, over the issue.