By Ibrahim Hassan
Elder statesman, Anthony Sani has said that if direct primary which produced President Buhari in 2019 did not bring about any crisis, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami might not have predicted rightly to say there would’ve been crisis if the President had assented to the Electoral Bill .
Sani, the Immediate past Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum ( ACF) told Vanguard that for the president to now turn against direct primary has stunned many Nigerians, especially his supporters who have been on the same page with him on this matter.
According to him, “we have reacted to the advice by the Attorney General and minister of Justice which seemed to have informed President Buhari’s letter to the National Assembly on why he withheld assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill of 2021.”
“We had said the reasons given in the letter dwelled more on fears than in real advantages of direct primary in enhancement of internal democracy in our political parties.So,by saying the amendment as presented would bring about crisis does not make it so,considering the direct primary which produced President Buhari in 2019 did not bring about any crisis.”
“The refusal by President to assent the Electoral Amendment Bill contained in the President letter to NASS has surprised many Nigerians for two reasons:”
“President Buhari was he who insisted on direct primary by his party in 2019 and subjected himself to the direct primary while state governors under APC refused and conducted their own party primary using indirect primary.”
“As a result,many legislators under APC and some of us thought he was for direct primary and mobilized for its support in the hope of enhancing internal democracy in the political parties.For the president to now turn against direct primary has stunned many Nigerians,especially his supporters who have been on the same page with him on this matter.”
“The second surprise is the fact that the refusal to assent the Electoral Amendment Bill of 2021 conveys the avoidable impression that the ruling APC has no position on this major aspect of law that governs our electoral processes,considering the ruling party,APC,controls both the Executive and the National Assembly.The refusal of the assent to the bill gives an impression that the government is at war with itself.”
“The president’s letter to the National Assembly has also ignored the important advantages of direct primary which includes improvement of internal democracy of the political parties by doing away with power and abuse of incumbency of governors and money bags who deploy their powers and hijack delegates during indirect primary.Rather,the president’s letter has dwelled so much on fear to the chagrin of advantages of direct primary.”
“For example,the security challenges have been around for quite sometimes in Nigeria,and there have been reduction of insecurity under this regime by the day under this regime,yet there have been general elections where more people participate in voting in this country.”
“When the letter talks of high cost of direct primary,it feigns ignorance of the fact that direct primary takes place either at polling unit level or ward level by only registered party members who are far fewer than registered voters,and that any other exercise is matter of collation for the relevant constituency, such as state assembly, Chairman of local government,House of Reps, Senate,Governor and president.”
“The exercise of direct party primary could not be possibly be more than that of the general elections. What is more,INEC has said it needs N305b for elections against the N500b being bandied about to frighten the government away from direct primary.
If smaller parties do not have the wherewithal to compete under our nascent multiparty democracy,they are at liberty to merge with the big political parties.After all,the nation is hoping to have only two major political parties, and not a crowd by way of number of political parties.”
” After all,the high fees charged for nomination form by progressive party like APC has been designed to reduce the number of aspirants to a manageable level.
Violation of citizens right must be seen in proper context.Individual rights is never absolute.For example, the president would not roll back mandates for face masks and vaccination just because there are some people who say such mandates constitute infringement on citizens right.”
“The issue of likely litigation does not hold water precisely because if any law by political party conflicts with that of the nation like Electoral Act,the federal law would prevail.
Consultations with stake holders is good for the health of democracy.Yet,it is not good for our democracy for the president to give any impression that other vested interests have usurped the constitutional functions of the National Assembly.”
“I am not in support of the notion that NASS should override the president.Such course of action would signal division within the government that is controlled by the ruling APC.That would not be healthy.I would rather prefer,both the executive and the majority of APC legislators to go back to the drawing board and sort out their differences with a view to coming out with common position in order to justify the clear mandate given by Nigerians to the APC controlled government to deliver on the promise of multiparty democracy,” he said.