…Say Bill Critical to Credibility of 2023 General Election …Stress Its Importance to Strengthening Country’s Electoral Process …Allege APC Governors Lobbying to Prevent Assent The National Assembly Caucus of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to discard pressure from Governors of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and assent to
…Say Bill Critical to Credibility of 2023 General Election
…Stress Its Importance to Strengthening Country’s Electoral Process
…Allege APC Governors Lobbying to Prevent Assent
The National Assembly Caucus of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to discard pressure from Governors of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and assent to the re-amended Electoral Bill immediately.
The bill was transmitted to the President on Monday, after being reworked and passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The PDP lawmakers made the call on Tuesday during the caucus meeting with members of Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party at the National Assembly, Abuja.
Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, alleged that APC Governors were lobbying the President not to sign the bill. He, however, urged Buhari not to bow to the request of the Governors but sign the bill owing to its importance to strengthening the country’s electoral process.
“We have met them, they said they want direct primaries. We said, ok if it will mean giving Nigerians a very sound reform, electoral reform, we accept. They came back again and said, oh, we have rejected. They are the ones rejecting. They said, ok, we want indirect. We said, we agree, but give Nigerians electoral reform. They came back again and said we want consensus. We have given them consensus.
“Again, I am hearing that, amongst them, those APC Governors and whatever, with their wuru-wuru are still plotting for the President not to sign. Nigerians are tired of APC. So, for coming here, we are proud of you people. Your coming has further energised us to know that, we are doing the right thing and we will never let you people down.
“By the grace of God, we will never let you people down and we will ask APC. APC, sign the Electoral Act. Sign it, Nigerians want it signed. Sign and sign and sign. No more delay,” he said.
Earlier, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said having bent backwards as requested by President Buhari on the earlier rejected Electoral bill, the proposed law should be signed without any delay.
“The minority caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the National Assembly are asking President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral bill, which we have passed. We made sure that everything he complained about were given to him.
“Now that we have bent backwards, no any excuses or reasons should be given again. Provisions of the bill are very critical for expected credibility of the 2023 general elections,” he added.
The National Assembly last Wednesday removed the contentious clause mandating political parties to conduct direct primary while electing their candidates.
The National Assembly had in November, 2021 passed and transmitted the Electoral Act Amendment Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari.
But, Buhari in December declined his assent to the bill over the inclusion of the clause 84 compelling parties to adopt Direct Primaries as a mode of electing their flagbearers.
The President’s disapproval of the popular clause had been a subject of intense debate among Nigerians and groups in the past weeks as many have described Buhari’s stance on it as a setback to the nation’s democratic process ahead of the 2023 elections.
The President in the letter addressed to the leaders of the both chambers, sent the bill back for rework on the grounds that the direct primaries will lead to a significant spike in the cost of conducting primary elections by parties as well as increase in the cost of monitoring such elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Following resumption of plenary on Wednesday, the Senate bowed to the pressure from the executive by removing the clause that makes direct primary mandatory for political parties from the electoral act amendment bill.
Senate resolved to rescind its decision on the affected Clause of the Bill as passed and re-commit same to the Committee of the Whole for consideration.
Similarly, the House of Representatives has amended the clause 84 to include indirect primary in the electoral bill.
The clause was reworked following a motion sponsored by Chairman, Committe on rules and business, Hon. Abubakar Fulata.
While reconsidering the bill on Wednesday, the House amended clause 84 (2) of the bill and adopted that “the procedure for nomination of candidates by political parties for various elective positions shall be by direct and indirect primaries”.
The Nation however reported that a row has broken out over the reworked Electoral Bill that was transmitted to the President on Monday.
The report said Governors especially those of the All Progressives Congress (APC), are leading the opposition to the reworked Bill.
It was gathered that they would mount pressure on the President to withhold his assent until two clauses are amended or dropped.
The clauses in contention are resignation by appointed political office holders, including ministers, commissioners and others before 2023 election primaries; and the ‘unworkable’ consensus option in picking candidates by political parties.
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice was also fingered to be uncomfortable with the re-amended bill.
The paper said that Governors and some ministers were not happy with what they termed as “alleged two dangerous clauses in the re-amended bill on Electoral Act.”
The clauses include the provision for consensus and another which makes it mandatory for all political office holders to resign if they want to contest for any elective post in 2023.
A source, who spoke in confidence to the paper, said it might be a battle of the fittest by the Governors and the National Assembly this week.
The source said the two groups have resolved to take the battle to the President, who will ultimately decide.
The source said: “The National Assembly has inserted two new clauses on consensus and resignation by all political office holders before contesting for 2023 poll.
“While the senators and members of the House of Representatives agreed on consensus, they recommended that before a consensus candidate can emerge, all contestants must sign a written agreement that they have consented to the adoption of such an aspirant.
“They inserted in the re-amended bill that if one of the contestants is dissenting, no one can become a consensus candidate. Instead, all the contestants will either go for direct or indirect primary election.
“The senators and the Representatives put the difficult clause on consensus to stop the Governors from imposing any anointed aspirant. The Governors can no longer work to the answer.
“It was a subtle way of paying back the Governors for rejecting direct primary. The lawmakers were unhappy with the way the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), the APC Caretaker Committee and the Governors swayed the President to change his mind on direct primary.
“The lawmakers said for a long time, consensus has been in the party’s constitution but it has been observed in the breach. Now, they decided to make it a law.”
Asked why the lawmakers opted for a tough clause on consensus, the source added: “Due to imposition by Governors, 70 per cent – 80 per cent of the lawmakers at the state and federal levels do not return to legislative chambers.
“They were more pained that those popular with the electorate were often denied tickets by Governors. They are out to checkmate the Governors at all cost.”
Another source hinted that a clause to make all political office holders resign before contesting in 2023 will hurt the Governors, some party leaders and ministers aspiring to seek presidential, governorship and National Assembly tickets.
According to the resignation clause in the re-amended bill, all political office holders at the state and Federal Government level are expected to resign before the primary election for any elective office they are seeking.
“The Office of the AGF feels if this clause or caveat is allowed in the Electoral Act, it will be discriminatory.
“And you know it is being speculated that the AGF is nursing an ambition to be the next governor of Kebbi State. Perhaps, the AGF and other ministers are being targeted to leave the cabinet. The intra-politics in APC is affecting the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment bill into law.”
The source added: “Governors, ministers, APC members holding various offices and party leaders believe that there was no precedent for such a law in Nigeria. They claimed that resignation is only applicable when an officeholder has secured the ticket at the primary election for any elective office.
“They see the lawmakers as inserting a backdoor method to compel ministers with aspirations to quit office.
“But senators and Representatives do not want those in office either as ministers, commissioners and board members to use state resources to pursue their ambitions.”