By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Honourable Dave Salako was the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes.
In this encounter, this third-time member of the House representing Ikenne/Remo Federal Constituency in Ogun State and the current Chairman of Communication Committee answers question on Constitution and Electoral Act amendments and accepts some aspects of the Act needs to be amended.
Why do PDP Representatives consider Electoral Act amendment necessary?
The Electoral Act is very simple to amend but my view on this issue is that before one begins to amend the electoral act, one must make sure that the constitution has been strengthened out. That means we should have strengthened out everything controversial about the constitution before we venture into the issue of electoral act amendment. But where we are now, everything is becoming controversial.
We are still debating whether we need the assent of the President for the amended Constitution to become effective or not.
My own thinking is that we don’t need the amendment of the electoral act now. We should first finish with the constitution amendment and let it become effective before we begin to talk about electoral act. So, if my opinion is to be taken, I would rather say, let us wait until the Constitution becomes effective before we begin to talk about amending the electoral act.
Does that mean you also believe that the constitution needs the assent of Mr. President?
I am not saying so. Whatever law or act we make requires the assent of Mr. President. If he withholds his assent, we know what else will follow because we know within ourselves that we have the veto can execute that on this issue.
If the National Assembly vetos an act or law, it becomes effective. But the court has ruled and we have appealed the ruling of the court.
The electoral act has to wait until the constitution is finally put in its stead. I don’t want an electoral act that would conflict with the letters of the Constitution which is a superior document. I would want the members of the House to withhold the discussion on the amendment of the electoral until we have resolved the issue of the Constitution.
However, the amendment is to reflect that members should become automatic members of the NEC of their parties and as much as I appreciate that, it appears there will be a very huge number of members in the NEC which will make it a rowdy session. I’m aware that the governors are trying to checkmate or over-rule this.
We are many in the House and if you add this number to the membership of NEC of PDP or other parties, it would swell up. So, I want to appeal to our members to take things easy. We don’t need to do this amendment in a hurry. We should wait for the Constitution to take effect first. Really, there are some areas in the electoral act that look very ambiguous. And really, we need to address those areas.
Are these areas different from the current issue?
Yes. For instance, having the primaries for the governors first before that of the Presidency is quite ambiguous because, there is no doubt that after the governorship candidates have emerged, the game could change in the Presidential primaries.
Exco members also are supposed to be umpires of governments to their various states and local governments. And when it comes to primaries, they should come as candidates, relinquishing their positions before coming to contest. So, from my own point of view, we should exercise patience with whatever we need to do with the electoral act until we are done with the Constitution.
But no matter the situation, we should remain focused that the 2011 general elections would be smooth and that I am sure of.
You identified some ambiguity in the electoral act. If the parties hold governorship primaries before Presidential primaries, that could create some problems?
That was what I said earlier. Some people would abandon the Presidential aspirants after governorship candidates have emerged. There would be no co-ordination or control and that would not be good for the elections and democracy.
It would not give us the best. It is good for the presidential candidates to emerge before the governorship candidates so that there would be order and control. Having the Presidential candidates of parties emerge would create room for governorship aspirants to fall into line with what their parties are doing.
But where it is the other way round, the governorship candidates would go wild and would want to dictate the tune for the presidential aspirants and that could create dis-order. I think that is one of the ambiguities in the electoral act that needs to be addressed.
Now, with all these unresolved issues, don’t you think the forthcoming elections would be chaotic?
The elections would not be chaotic. We have to take each challenge as it comes and concentrate on what we are doing. We should not lose focus of the forthcoming elections and the fact that everything is geared towards having a more credible democracy. We should not allow the controversy surrounding the presidential assent of the amended Constitution or the issue of the electoral act affect elections.
I still believe the national assembly can handle that because it has the veto. If it vetos the amended Constitution, it becomes effective and we don’t need all the noise to do that.
But it seems this issue of amendment of the electoral act is basically a PDP affair from the reaction of other parties?
I don’t want to speak on that because no matter what is done with the electoral act now, if the Constitution is not resolved, then there might still be issues.
If the issue comes up again in the House, I will appeal to our members to leave the electoral act for now until we settle the Constitution issue. We have appealed against the judgment on President’s assent because we believe the processof the amendment is clear .