Direct primary will decimate god-father-ism, says Senator

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In spite of the growing unease between governors and members of the National Assembly over the direct primary, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Senator Kabir Gaya, has praised the agency for supporting the idea as the best way to promote the nation’s democracy.

Gaya, who spoke during a television programme in the wake of the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which makes it mandatory for political parties to pick their candidates for elective positions through direct primary, said the option will eliminate god father-ism and allow the people to choose their leaders without any undue influence.

The senator denied any running battle with the governors over the bill, saying the direct mode of primary is the way to go, in the interest of Nigerians. The lawmaker also expressed optimism that President Muhammadu Buhari who he said believes in giving the power to the people will sign the bill into law without any delay.

He said: “The essence of amendment of any act was to improve the act. The amendment was made to address some of the challenges usually associated with our elections.

“In fact, the direct primary is essentially meant to give power to the grassroots, a thing the president prefers, being a democrat, who believes that the power should be with the people.”

But indications are that governors across party lines are not comfortable with the idea. This came to the fore following the meeting of governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) under the aegis of Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) on Monday during which the states’ chief executives vehemently rejected the National Assembly’s resolution.

They also said they would meet with the leadership of both chambers of parliament to impress it on them to review the resolution ahead of the presentation of the Electoral Act 2010 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2021 to President Muhammadu Buhari for presidential assent.

The Conference  Committee on the Electoral Act 2010 Repeal and Re-enactment Bill is yet to submit its report to the leadership of the National Assembly.

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The Senate had last month aligned itself with its counterpart in the House of Representatives, which adopted Section 87 on mandatory direct primary for all political parties.

Section 87(1) of the  bill  reads:  “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the Commission.”

The APC 2014 Constitution (as amended) also makes provision for direct, indirect and consensus options for the emergence of the party candidates for general elections.

While direct primary involves the participation of all party members in the selection of party candidates, the indirect primary entails the use of delegates who are usually leaders and members of the executives from ward, local government to state levels, to elect the party’s candidate(s) at a congress or convention.

Speaking with reporters at the end of the meeting held at Kebbi State Governors Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja, Kebbi State Governor and Chairman of the PGF, Atiku Abubakar Bagudu said the governors expressed strong reservations about the National Assembly’s resolution on direct primary.

Bagudu maintained that political parties should be allowed to pick the option best suited for them. He also noted that the resolution was against the spirit of Executive Order signed by President Buhari, which frowns at large gatherings in the wake of the global pandemic, Coronavirus.

He said direct primary was too cumbersome, unwieldy and would overstretch the limited resources of INEC, the body statutorily mandated to oversee primaries conducted by various political parties.

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