In the battle for direct primaries as the only choice for political parties to choose their candidates ahead of the upcoming 2023 general elections and later elections in the country, federal parliamentarians in both houses of the National Assembly have lost. ayokinews.com reports
In a letter to the President of the Senate and the Chairman of the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari explained why he refused to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
He claimed that the National Assembly’s resolution from November, which made direct primary the only option for political parties to choose their candidates, was undemocratic and violated fundamental rights.
With this development, parliamentarians have conceded the battle to governors, who have been clamoring for the retention of provisions in the APC 2014 Constitution (as modified), which provide for three options: direct, indirect, and consensus.
According to the guidelines for primaries of the biggest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the same options are available.
Kebbi State Governor and Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, told reporters after the Forum of APC Governors meeting last month that the direct option would overstretch the Independent National Electoral Commission. He went on to say that limiting political parties’ options was undemocratic.
He also said that a direct primary was too time-consuming and unwieldy, and that it would put a strain on the Independent National Electoral Commission’s limited resources, which are tasked with overseeing political party primaries.
He said: “We discussed the pros and cons. There has been concern that political parties are voluntary organisations. We express the concern that political parties be allowed to choose from the options that they so desire. There is an Executive Order, signed by Mr President against large gathering. These are issues we discussed and hope that the best be achieved for Nigeria.”
“We also noted that our ward congresses were results of direct Primaries. The process involves multiple roles by INEC. IF we have to involve INEC, their resources will be overstretched.”
President Buhari stated in a letter to Senate President Ahmad Lawan that the varied security situations in the country prevent him from signing the bill.
President Buhari cited a number of factors, including the high cost of holding direct primaries, the security challenges of election monitoring, breaches of people’ rights, and the marginalization of tiny political parties.
President Buhari further stated that adopting Direct Primaries has ramifications for citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to engage in government.
President Buhari further stated that moving through with Direct Primaries will result in a huge rise in the expense of parties staging polls as well as the cost of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, supervising such elections.
He also expressed concern about the indirect repercussions of the process’s high cost and monetization, which will boost financial costs and put further burden on the economy.
Smaller parties, he believes, will be financially strangled as a result of the tremendous sums required to activate all party members for the Primaries. He argued that such a condition is unhealthy for Nigeria’s multi-party democracy to survive.
He also stated that security agencies will be overburdened because direct primary elections will be open to anyone and everyone, and such a large turnout will result in a lack of effective security coordination, engendering intimidation and disruption, and raising credibility concerns about the outcome of such elections.
“Significantly, the amendment as proposed is a violation of the underlying spirit of democracy which is characterised by freedom of choices. Political party membership is a voluntary exercise of the Constitutional right of freedom of association,” he said.
He also stated that the proposed amendment would result in a slew of lawsuits based on a variety of grounds and legal issues, including, but not limited to the fact that the proposed amendment could not be implemented retroactively, given the existing Constitutional provisions of parties already registered with the INEC, which allow for direct, indirect, and consensus primaries.