Why House may bow to Buhari on Electoral Act Bill – Gbajabiamila

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has explained why the parliament may opt for President Muhammadu Buhari’s suggestions on the Electoral Act amendment Bill, as the House commences the process effecting corrections  today.

Addressing his colleagues on resumption from the Yuletide break on Tuesday, Gbajabiamila, said in spite of all efforts put into bringing the document up, “Unfortunately, that Bill did not receive presidential assent, and it is unlikely that it will in its current form. Now, we have to choose between sticking to our guns regarding the provision to mandate direct primary elections for political parties or reworking that provision to save the rest of the Bill.

“Now let it be clear to all that our only objective in introducing that provision was to strengthen the foundations of our democracy so that it works for all of our nation’s people. The process by which political parties nominate candidates for election is essential, perhaps even just as important as the general election itself. A primary nomination process that deprives the majority of party members of the opportunity to choose who represents them in the general elections is susceptible to bad outcomes and ought to be fixed”.

Also on the argument that political parties do not have proper registers of their members as a reason to rejecting the direct primary option, the Speaker said it was “an appalling admission that political parties in the country do not have credible and up to date registers of their members. We are left to question how those parties have thus far managed their affairs, including conducting congresses and primary elections, whether by direct or indirect means.

“Nonetheless, it is disappointing that the failure of political parties to adequately document their membership is being used to not give the Nigerian people the power to fully participate in our nation’s politics.  If nothing else, including a direct primary mandate in the law, would have forced political parties to properly register their members within the shortest possible time.  This would have been the singular most significant reform of our political party system in a generation”.

On the issues relating to inelegant drafting and other technical errors in the Bill, he noted that “This is a matter of concern as it appears the version sent to the President differs from what is circulating in the public domain.  However, in December of last year, I appointed a technical team to look into the issue.  I expect to have their report within the next day or two so that we can proceed to the next stage.  We have less than thirteen months to the next general election, so time is of the essence”.

According to the Speaker, “a credible electoral law is what the people want.  It is what the people deserve, and we must give to them.  The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill includes many other provisions that will serve our democracy well, and we cannot throw away the baby with the bathwater.”