Politics

November 12, 2021

Direct Primary: How APC lawmakers smuggled clause into amended bill — PGF DG

APC

By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja

Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh. Lukman has accused members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the National Assembly of smuggling the controversial clause on direct primary into the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

Describing the insertion of the clause as an afterthought, Lukman said it was never in the original bill.

The PGF DG made the allegation in a statement issued Friday in Abuja and titled, ‘Internal Party Democracy and Politics of Candidates’ Nomination’.

According to him, “it is worrisome that APC members in the National Assembly are the ones pushing for this amendment.

“Rather than leaders of the party negotiating among themselves on what needs to be done to produce internal agreement to resolve all challenges facing the party, increasingly, structures of the party are being abandoned and other structures outside the statutory organs of the party are being used to attempt to address perceived problems”, Lukman added.

Afterthought

He said the whole scheming and pushing party leaders to use structures outside the statutory organs of the party may not even be about addressing challenges facing the party but perhaps about realizing political aspirations of some party leaders and power blocs.

He said; “The whole insertion of the provisions requiring political parties to adopt the direct method in the Electoral Act would appear to be an afterthought.

“This is because, the original bill, which was subjected to joint public hearing by both the Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, at the National Assembly complex in Abuja didn’t contain the insertion of Section 87 Sub Sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. There was only the insertion of Section 87(1 and 2), which provides that:

“Sub Section 1: It seeks to enact a new section 87 on the nomination of candidates by parties for elections by prescribing maximum fees payable by aspirants and restricting nomination criteria strictly to relevant provisions.

“Specifically, the bill states that total fees imposed by a political party shall not exceed N1million on a House of Representatives aspirant; N2 million on a senatorial aspirant; N5 million on a governorship aspirant and N10million on a presidential aspirant.

“Sub Section 2: ‘compels a political party not to impose nomination qualification or disqualification criteria, measures or conditions on any aspirant or candidate for any election, except as prescribed under sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 177 and 187 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).’

“It was during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill after the public hearing in July 2021 that the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila moved motion for the amendment to allow direct primaries to be part of the amendment.

“In the case of Senate, after passing an amendment bill, which did not include the requirement to compel parties to adopt direct method for election of candidates, following a ‘motion for Re- Committal of some Clauses of the Electoral Act No.6 2010 (Repeal and Re- enactment) Bill, 2021 (SB. 122) to the Committee of the Whole as sponsored by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, All Progress Congress, APC, Kebbi North’ on October 12, 2021, Sections 87 (3, 4, 5, 6, 7) were inserted and passed.

“It will be important therefore to appeal to both the Senate President, HE Ahmed Lawal and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and all the leaders of the National to provide the needed leadership for the country to have the right legal framework, which can guarantee the administration of direct primary by political parties in the country as a means of entrenching internal democracy during the process of nominating party candidates for elections.

“The proposal passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly on November 9, 2021 is highly inadequate and leaves more room for manipulation, which may produce more disaster for the country beyond what the nation is going through under the indirect method”.

Fait Accompli

Lukman said while the expanded APC Tripartite Consultative Committee meeting of November 9 would have been expected to influence the final amendment to guide the work of the conference committee of the national assembly, the lawmakers decided to ambush the tripartite committee.

“Notice for the meeting was issued by the party, dated 4th November 2021, signed by the CECPC Secretary, Sen. Akpanuduedehe. Certainly, all members of the APC Tripartite Consultative Committee, including the APC leadership in the National Assembly should have been aware of such expectation.

“Interestingly, before the meeting, which was scheduled to hold, 5pm Tuesday, November 9, on that very day, the plenaries of both the Senate and the House of Representatives considered the report of the conference committee on the Electoral Act amendment and adopted the report and passed the new Electoral Act amendment bill. With such development, the expanded Tripartite Consultative Committee was confronted with a fait accompli”.

He said given that the whole controversy about the proposed Electoral Act amendment is limited to the new insertions in Section 87, the National Assembly should consider reworking issues under Section 87 to make it unambiguous.

“The reworked new provisions should go through all the legislative processes including public hearing to enable Nigerians also contribute to making the law.

“This is a very sensitive issue, which no Standing Order of the National Assembly should be used to block the democratic rights of Nigerians in contributing to the law.

“While the reworked Section 87 is being processed as recommended, the National Assembly may wish to adopt all the other amendments and transmit them to the President for assent.

“Unless leaders of the National Assembly are interested in blocking the possibility of amending the Electoral Act and want to shift the blame on President Buhari, it would be very inappropriate politically to expect the President to assent to the Electoral Act amendment with the provisions in Section 87 and all its ambiguities.

“The leadership of the National Assembly should take responsibility and not pass the buck”, Lukman added.

He said the whole debate about adopting direct method as part of the Electoral Act is mainly an APC agenda, but that there may be a calculated attempt by a section of APC leadership whose interest is to hoodwink APC members and Nigerians with the direct primary dummy.

Noting that the direct method of selecting candidates within the APC began to be corrupted under the dissolved National Working Committee led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Lukman said “it is quite suspect that isolated aggressive campaign to include the issue of compelling parties to adopt direct primary to nominate candidates for election is being promoted by respected APC leaders without corresponding commitment to ensuring that the process of producing a verifiable membership register for the APC is finalized”.

Lukman said the vulnerability of direct primary to manipulative intrigues of political leaders was further confirmed in the just concluded Anambra Governorship election where the APC candidate in the election, Sen. Andy Ubah, during the APC primary election was said to have emerged with 230,201 votes but only got 43,285 votes during the election.

Lawmakers culpable of imposition

“The truth however is that with the state of things in APC whereby in virtually all states with serving Governors, they (Governors) are in charge, the proposed amended law with all its ambiguities would instead strengthen the capacity of Governors or any leader who is in control of structures of the party to manipulate the process of nominating candidates.

“In states such as Delta, Sokoto and Taraba, for instance, where there are no APC Governors, leading members of the party in the National Assembly are the people in charge.

“There are other states such as Adamawa, Rivers and Bayelsa and at least eight other states where Governors are not responsible for the possible undemocratic practices taking place.

“Besides, the issue of using the indirect method as a means of imposing candidates through corrupt practices, almost all elected representatives in the National Assembly are as guilty as Governors.

“From the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives to all the APC and House Representatives members, they must have all paid for every vote they got during internal party primary leading to their election.

“At that time, they must have been very good loyal partners of Governors.

“By the way, there are at least twelve former Governors currently serving as APC Senators. While negotiating to emerge as Senators, they must have also been working to ensure the emergence of their preferred choices who are currently serving as Governors through the dreaded indirect method.

“Could these former Governors who are currently serving as Senators claim to be innocent of all the undemocratic practices associated with the indirect method?

“Could the current serving Governors be the only promoters of the bad undemocratic practices of imposition, vote-buying, etc. through the indirect method?”, he queried.

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