A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) , Prof Attahiru Jega, yesterday enjoined the National Assembly to drop the direct primary clause in the controversial bill seeking an amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act.
He argued that rather than listening to calls by some stakeholders to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s rejection of the bill, the National Assembly should strive to give the country a new electoral law before the 2023 general election.
Jega spoke yesterday at the Citizens’ Town Hall meeting on the Electoral bill 2021 where Nasarawa State Governor Abdullahi Sule said governors were not afraid of direct primary
Buhari had last month declined to sign the electoral amendment Act bill, citing the high cost of conducting direct primary by political parties as one of his reasons.
At the town hall meeting organised by Yiaga Africa in Abuja, Jega argued that the direct primary clause should be dropped because if governors could manipulate indirect primary, they could also do the same with a direct primary.
His words:”To my mind, any governor that manipulates indirect primary under the present condition will also have the capacity to manipulate direct primary because the register of voters is not there.
“If you do direct primaries, you must ensure that everybody has a register of voters that is credible, that citizens of Nigeria that are monitoring the election can verify that the people who are coming to vote are actually registered members of these parties. INEC itself has the major responsibility to monitor and ensure.
“Until we do that we will really just be moving without success.”
Jega said in spite of the rejection of the bill by Buhari with its “good things,” everything must be done by National Assembly to give the country a new electoral law.
He argued that since 2010, Nigeria has not had a substantial improvement in its electoral framework.
He said:” This country will be better for all if we go into the next election with a new electoral law which will enhance the integrity of the preparation and conduct of elections.
“The Amendment bill contains quite a lot of good things that can enhance the integrity of the electoral process.
“A good legal framework helps to have a good election with integrity and electoral integrity actually enhances democratic consolidations and the preparations and conduct of elections democratically.
“What is most important to us is that we must ensure that this bill becomes law as soon as possible in order not to armstrong INEC’s preparation for the conduct of the 2023 elections or even the governorship elections in 2020.
“It is very important that we have a new legal framework for the preparations and conduct of the 2023 election because it will improve the integrity.
“I think clearly, the electoral process under normal circumstances would have better integrity if we do direct primaries appropriately.
“My suggestion is to give INEC the law to begin preparation for 2023 elections and the only way to do this is not to override Mr. President but to drop the issue of direct primaries until we can ensure that parties really and can actually do direct primaries.
“So, we need to have a bill that can be assented to enable INEC to prepare for the 2023 election.”
Sule however, debunked insinuations that governors were against direct primary..
He said what governors are agitating for is for a bill to provide options for political parties to adopt.
Sule said: “We said to give the political parties the opportunity, by the time the opportunities are given, you will be shocked that in 2023 a lot of political parties will still do direct primaries.
“It is totally false to say that the governors are against the direct primary. The governors are just saying provide an option; don’t force ourselves into saying only one option in case something comes up and that option is not possible, are we going to go back to the constitution?
President, Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), Olumide Akpata, expressed disappointment in the failure of the president to sign the bill, saying “everything about the bill spells progress for the Nigerian state.”
He urged the National Assembly to take out the provision of direct primary and resend the bill to Buhari.
“Everything tells me that this is not going to work, everything tells me that the booby trap set before us is going to work,” he lamented.
National Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Country (IPAC), Yabagi Sani blamed the National Assembly for failing to engage with critical stakeholders before it inserted direct primaries into the electoral bill.
He said that the National Assembly should focused on how to improve the electoral process and reduce the rate of violence during elections.
Source: The Nation Online