Mixed reactions yesterday trailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 and the move by senators to override the veto.
Fayemi: Governors not afraid of direct primary
Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi debunked insinuations that President Buhari’s veto was as a result of pressure from governors.
Fayemi, who spoke with reporters after a meeting with the President at the State House, said governors were not afraid of the direct primary.
He said: “Mr. President has not objected to direct primaries, neither has he endorsed indirect primaries. He has only said, be fair to all, let all options apply and what you decide should be determined by your own local and peculiar circumstances. Being mindful of questions of security, finances, and internal democracy.
Fayemi added: “There’s been this exaggerated expectation that direct primaries is going to provide all answers to whatever electoral challenges that we have faced.
“Direct primary has its own challenges, indirect primary has its own challenges, a consensus approach is also not without challenges, but options should be provided.”
Rework, represent bill, Obi tells lawmakers
Former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi called on the National Assembly to rework and represent the bill to the President.
Obi, who featured on Arise Television, Morning Show programme, said hope was not lost, since the president had explained reasons for declining assent.
He said the bill could be salvaged, if members of the National Assembly are serious and committed to saving the country.
Obi disagreed with those calling on the National Assembly to override the president.
He said: ‘’That President Buhari did not assent to this bill is not the end. He has returned it to the National Assembly and they can rise to the occasion by quickly addressing Mr. President’s concerns and represent the bill to him.’’
‘Direct primary has demerit’
The National Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, faulted the direct primary clause, describing it as a misnomer and an overshoot by the National Assembly, he said it is wrong to legislate how a political party should conduct its candidates’ selection process.
He said: “Parties should be allowed to develop what works best for them. Direct primary might be one of the ways to establish and deepen the democratic culture within the party and the wider ecosystem.
“However, it is not for members of other political parties in parliament to decide for the rest of the parties and all political parties how to conduct their internal processes.
“I don’t think the job of creating party characters, identity and models belong to the legislature.
“Parties are different. It is a misnomer for the National Assembly to legislate for parties how to run their own affairs.
“One party is different from the other. Leaders of parties should design their own unique processes so long as they are in line with the constitution of the land and acceptable to its members.
“The way parties conduct such affairs may be part of their strategies for winning and successes.
“So, the National Assembly should not straight jacket parties.”
Ortom lauds Buhari’s action
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom commended President Buhari for declining assent.
Speaking with reporters in Makurdi, he said party primaries were the exclusive reserve of political parties.
He said direct primary was expensive, hence, only big parties with enormous resources could afford them.
On indirect primary, he said that the process only differed with direct primary in terms of election of delegates at the ward levels.
Ortom said of all the modes, the consensus mode of election was the best.
He said: “On the consensus mode, members of the party come together and agree on a candidate, thereby saving money , time and it is devoid of rancor.”
Adegboruwa: direct primary constitutional
A lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) said direct primary is constitutional.
He argued that the President, by declining assent to the bill, did not properly exercise his discretion in the national interest.
In a statement, Adegboruwa said: “The reason adduced by the President for withholding his assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, that the said Bill violates the constitution of the political parties, is not supported by the Constitution which created the political parties in the first place.”
CNPP: we are not surprised
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) described as “not surprising” the rejection of the amended Electoral Act.
The group in a statement by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, said “what would have been shocking is Mr. President assenting the bill.”
It added: “Unfortunately, we have a “Yes Sir” National Assembly that has no balls to veto the Bill and meet the expectations of Nigeria.”
It will affect Ekiti, Osun, FCT Council polls
A coalition of civil society organisations has explained that the refusal to assent to the Bill would impact the Ekiti, Osun and Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections.
The civil societies said these elections will be conducted using the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
According to them, this would deny INEC the opportunity to test the efficacy of some of the new innovations introduced in the proposed bill.
The civil societies stated these in a joint statement issued in Abuja.
They are: Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), The Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ)
Part of the statement reads: “The withholding of assent by the President to a bill that relevant electoral stakeholders have spent enormous time and resources to put together undermines public confidence and trust in the electoral system.
“More disappointing is the fact that the President delayed his response until the effluxion of time required for assenting to legislation until the date that the National Assembly is proceeding for the Christmas and New Year holiday.
“The President’s decision to withhold assent to the Bill will have serious implication for INEC as it prepares for the FCT Area Council election, the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, and ultimately the 2023 General Election.
“The non-conclusion of the electoral amendment process will mean that these elections will be conducted using the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) denying INEC the opportunity to test the efficacy of some of the new innovations introduced in the proposed Electoral Bill 2021.
“This is apart from the delay the Commission will have to contend with in the required effort to review its guidelines, regulations and manuals in accordance with certain provisions of the Bill.
“Furthermore, based on the revised timelines for specific electoral activities in the Bill, INEC and other stakeholders will have to grapple with logistical, financial, and programmatic difficulties in the run-up to the 2023 General Election.
“We reckon that this may not bode well for Nigeria’s electoral democracy, hence the clamor for the speedy conclusion of the electoral reform process.
“It must be emphasized that the successful conduct of any election is predicated on the certainty and clarity of the election legal framework, amongst other factors.
PDP: Don’t kill electronic transmission of results
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged President Buhari to ensure the retention of the electronic transmission of poll results as contained in the Bill.
Briefing reporters in Abuja, the spokesman for the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, urged Buhari to expunge direct primary from the bill and retain the clause on electronic transmission of results for the 2023 elections.
Ologunagba criticised the President for rejecting the bill in its entirety, saying that it was a ploy by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to reject electronic transmission of result.
He said: “It is typical of the APC. This is a party that has always been at variance with the Nigeria people. This is a party that is truly not a party, it is a group I called warlords, that came together and I could describe them as special purpose vehicle. They are not a party.
“Special purpose vehicle is what we use for a particular business. So they use this APC for special purpose vehicle to defraud Nigerians and capture power and that they have since continued to abuse our commonwealth”.
Akintola backs Buhari
Lawyer and politician, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) has backed President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the bill.
Akintola, a member of the APC said signing the bill into law will conflict with the 1999 Constitution is the ‘grundnorm’ that is superior to all laws in the country.
He said the Supreme Court has declared that a political party is a voluntary association, adding that the National Assembly does not have the liberty to regulate the internal workings of political associations, like other associations.
His words: “If I were President Muhammadu Buhari, I won’t sign the Electoral Act as amended. We have been explaining to the people at the National Assembly that the constitution of Nigeria is the ‘grundnorm’ of all laws. So, we cannot be enacting an act that is in conflict with the constitution. We are all citizens of this country and we are free to join any association of our choice. The National Assembly cannot be setting rules of engagement for various associations.
“The bill passed by the National Assembly is in direct conflict with Chapter 4 of the constitution that gives you and me the freedom to regulate our associations.
Falana: Veto President
Lawyer and activist Femi Falana (SAN) urged members of the National Assembly to invoke the provision of Section 58 (5) of the Constitution to pass the bill into law by the resolution of two thirds majority of the members.
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He said if the National Assembly cannot muster the required two thirds majority, Section 87 of the Act which allows direct or indirect primaries should be left intact so that the other provisions of the bill can be passed again by the legislators and assented to by the President.