The House of Representatives yesterday resolved to reintroduce an amendment to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in order to align with the position of President Muhammadu Buhari on an acceptable mode of primary election for political parties. Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who disclosed this in his welcome remarks at the first plenary session of the House in 2022, said the chamber will quickly address the president’s concern and return it to him for assent. In withholding assent, President Buhari had canvassed for the political parties to be given room to choose either direct, indirect or consensus method of selecting candidates for election.
Gbajabiamila said: “I remain convinced that the proposal for direct primary elections is valu-able for building accountability in our political system. But we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. “Therefore, the House will reintroduce the amendment today. And we will work quickly to address the mitigating concerns, pass the bill and send it back to His Excellency President Buhari for assent.”
Speaker Gbajabiamila noted that as laudable as the intendment of the amendment is, it could not receive presidential assent. “I want to commend you all for the work done. Unfortunately, that bill did not receive presidential assent, and it is unlikely that it will in its current form. Now, we have to choose between sticking to our guns regarding the provision to mandate direct primary elections for political parties or reworking that provision to save the rest of the bill.
“Some argued that political parties do not have proper registers of their members, which was a reason to reject the direct primary option. This is an appalling admission that political parties in the country do not have credible and up-to-date registers of their members.
“We are left to question how those parties have thus far managed their affairs, including conducting congresses and primary elections, whether by direct or indirect means. “Besides, it can be inferred that the failure to maintain a proper register of members violates the spirit of the Constitution, as it makes it impossible for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to enforce the constitutional requirement for political parties to ensure that their membership reflects the federal character of Nigeria. “Nonetheless, it is disappointing that the failure of political parties to adequately document their membership is being used to not give the Nigerian people the power to fully participate in our nation’s politics. “We have less than thirteen months to the next general election, so time is of essence. The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill includes many other provisions that will serve our democracy well, and we cannot throw away the baby with the bathwater.”