Senate President Ahmad Lawan has said members of the National Assembly have done their job by transmitting the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 to President Muhammadu Buhari to sign it into law.
The Senate President said this Monday while fielding questions from State House correspondents after a meeting with the president at the State House in Abuja.
There was a sharp disagreement between members of the National Assembly and state governors over the mode of primaries for different political parties since the Bill was passed by the lawmakers.
But speaking to journalists in Abuja, Senate President Lawan said the lawmakers and indeed Nigerians were expecting the president to expeditiously assent to the proposed legislation.
Asked how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) can ensure stability when governors were critical of the direct primary provision in the Bill, Lawan said: “Sometimes this kind of disagreements happen. And when they do, I think the best way forward is for people to engage. I always believe, and I’ve canvassed for this, that National Assembly members are major stakeholders, governors of APC are major stakeholders and in fact, the presidency is a major stakeholder, in fact, as the biggest stakeholder because it runs the administration, and our party must always try to bring everybody together. I don’t think there will be any day that you will have a political issue that everybody will say the same thing about it that agrees with you without any amendment.
“So, when we have any section of a party disagreeing with something, we should be engaging, that’s why we are politicians. We must have that kind of a platform where we discuss the issues, let’s understand each other, and then we make whatever it is that will make this disagreement minimised, or maybe where possible, eliminated completely.
“So, I don’t think it is right to say that governors have disagreed. Maybe some governors might have said they don’t like it this way, but that’s normal. So it’s for us to engage and engage and engage. And I believe that.”
Asked whether the National Assembly was willing to let go of the direct primaries if need be, the Senate President said: “This is not something that we should be talking now because it has passed the legislature and it’s no more with the legislature. So this is something that is now with Mr. President, if we are talking about the electoral amendment bill, the National Assembly has finished its work. And the bill has been transmitted to Mr. President. And I think at this moment, all eyes will be on what happens to the bill from the executive side rather than the legislature.
“Yes, of course, when we send a bill to Mr. President, we expect the bill to be signed. But there are two things that can happen. Mr. President could decide to of course, after consultation with his advisers, sign, or if he doesn’t want to sign, he may have his reasons. But I believe that whatever we do in the National Assembly, especially this ninth National Assembly, we think deep, we think wide, we will consult very broadly before we take any position.
“So, I believe that whatever we send to the executive arm of government, Mr. President for his assent, these are things that are well thought out. And I believe that the expectation of members of National Assembly will be that this bill is signed. But this is then again, not my own calling, it is for Mr. President to take his decision.”
On Buhari’s response, Lawan said: “No, I’m not supposed to tell you what the President said. Because Mr. President has his spokespeople. So I am neither Femi Adesina nor Garba Shehu. What I can tell you is, amongst other things, because that’s not the only thing, amongst other things, we have discussed this. And my opinion is National Assembly has done its work.
“And members of National Assembly have expressed themselves. This is the majority view and is for Mr. President to look at it and of course, expectation of National Assembly is to get the Presidential assent.”
Asked how long he thinks it would take Mr President to assent to the Bill, he said: “I don’t know why this appears to be the only issue. You see, there is no need for you to lobby for any bill to be signed if you are the chairman of the National Assembly, because you are simply a presiding officer, and you coordinate the views of your colleagues.
“The majority of my colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives say this is where they want the bill to go. This is the provision they want in Section 52, 3 rather. So I don’t have to come and say Mr. President sign this. Mr. President has his own processes when a bill is sent to him from the National Assembly. I’m sure he has the Attorney General and others to advise him.
“So, why should I stress myself to say, just sign? We expect that he will sign, but how he does that is his calling. And I think we should allow him to just follow the processes he is used to, but the expectation of members of National Assembly is that the bill is signed.”
Asked if direct primary option was the best way to go in his opinion, the Senate President said: “I don’t have a personal opinion here, because I’m not here alone. So I don’t have a personal opinion. My opinion is that of the National Assembly members.”
Party chieftain hails Gbajabiamila
Meanwhile, an APC chieftain and National President of Northern Conscience for 2023 (NCfor2023), Dr Garus Gololo, has commended Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila for his stance on direct primaries for all political parties ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Gbajabiamila, had in an in interview with State House correspondents few days back, supported the clamour for direct primaries as contained in the 2010 Electoral Act ( Amendment ) Bill 2021 passed by the National Assembly penultimate week.
In the interview, Gbajabiamila argued that President Buhari was himself, a product of direct primaries because of his popularity saying “the process opens up the political space for the youths to participate.”
Thumbing up Gbajabiamila for his stance on the proposed direct primaries, Gololo at a press briefing in Abuja Monday, admonished those kicking against it particularly state governors, to stop toiling with the wishes of Nigerians.
He said: “The 36 State Governors cannot scuttle the wishes of more than 250 million Nigerians who will benefit from the process.
“Direct primaries will ensure a credible electoral system where the people will choose candidates that are trusted enough to promote the development of the society.
“Our group is poised to pursue the matter to the Supreme Court if need be.”
While calling on President Buhari to assent to the Bill, he said, “I assure you that we’ll fight this to the end until relief comes to the Nigerian electorate.”