2022 Electoral Act: Lamentations in NASS over Indirect Primaries

Party primaries for 2023 general elections have come and gone but the indirect method used, is being criticised by federal lawmakers. TAIYE ODEWALE reports.

Meaning of Indirect Primaries

As stipulated in section 84(8) of the 2022 Electoral Act, any political party that adopts indirect primaries as option for emergence of its candidates for various positions in a general election, must elect Ad – hoc delegates who are to participate in congresses and convention meant for that purpose.

In the provision, the National Assembly that made the law wittingly or unwittingly, omitted statutory and special categories of delegates that had been participating in such elections and in the process narrowed the scope of participation of party members in an indirect or delegate mode of primaries.

Outcries after conducts

On Tuesday last week in Abuja during a one day public lecture on Democracy Day organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), many of the federal lawmakers criticised the indirect primaries model, saying Direct Primaries that was first singularly adopted by them, would have helped the various political parties made better choice of candidates for the general election.

Gbajabiamila’s submission

First to raise the alarm on alleged damage the indirect primaries has inflicted on democracy in the country, was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila.

He said: “At the beginning, for mass participation, we chose only Direct Primaries for all political parties to use but we were later told to widen the scope, we did by adding indirect and consensus but unfortunately, most of the political parties used the indirect which gives room for very few people to elect party candidates for a country with 200million population, out of which 90mllion are registered voters.

“The damage has been done and democracy in Nigeria injured with just 2, 322 delegates electing Presidential candidate for a party as big as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

“The mode of selection or electing the delegates was even fraudulent with one or two party chieftains in a state, compiling list of delegates who were turned to millions at party’s Congresses or convention grounds.

“The legislature is the most hit as half of the serving 469 federal lawmakers failed to secure return tickets from their various parties, particularly, APC and PDP leading to Institution memory loss.

“The imperfections and undemocratic nature of the Indirect mode of primary election was envisaged by the National Assembly by making Direct Primary the only option, which however was kicked against by President Buhari and some people with vested interest”.

He, however, said the tenets of democracy will continue to get deepened in the country by way of addressing the various imperfections and lapses in our electoral laws.

Ekweremadu’s lamentation

Making similar lamentation, the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu said the National Assembly did the right thing by first making direct primaries, mandatory mode of conducting primary election by the various political parties.

“NASS, however, capitulated when President Buhari refused to assent the bill by accommodating indirect and consensus options.

“Unfortunately, we all saw what happened with the indirect primaries used by the major political parties.

“We saw in my own party (PDP) where only 5 delegates voted to elect candidate for a federal constituency covering just five local government.

“We saw how the few delegates were turned to overnight millionaires in both the APC and PDP”, he lamented.

NILDS DG’s admonition

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Director – General of NILDS, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, said the process of allowing the highest bidders to pick political parties tickets for the various elections is worrisome.

He added that phenomenon of vote buying at the general elections should also be looked into by relevant authorities and stakeholders in the general interest of participatory democracy and sanctity of electoral process.

“Even though Nigeria’s democracy has made significant progress with 5 – multi party elections in the last 23 years with improved electoral and legislative framework, the country’s democracy has continued to be threatened in many ways”, he said.

Smart Adeyemi’s similar lamentation

Also during the week, one of the victims of the indirect primaries, Senator Smart Adeyemi, condemned it by alleging that it was hijacked by governors and must be looked into, before future primaries.

He, specifically, lamented over his loss in the Kogi senatorial primaries conducted on May 22, 2022 to journalists covering the Senate on Thursday.

He said: “The exercise was neither free nor fair and was a complete rape of democracy, a day light robbery and an extremely manipulated exercise.

“Let me state unequivocally and without ambiguity, that the elections which took place on the 22 of May, 2022 in Kogi state were neither free nor fair.

“It is on record that the list of delegates was changed twenty hours to the elections proper.

“Militants, armed men and unidentified thugs in their numbers were used to manipulate the process.

“Even persons who were not from Kogi State were brought in to vote under extremely hostile environment”. Any possible legislative remedies?

Virtually all the federal lawmakers who lamented over the Indirect Primaries, said the need to give the 2022 Electoral Act, required review and amendment, is necessary before future elections after 2023, but will the intention of making Direct Primaries the only mode of primary elections for political parties, accepted by Nigerians?

Time will definitely tell.

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