THE INTER-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) – the umbrella body of registered political parties in Nigeria – has rejected the inclusion of a provision for compulsory adoption of direct primaries in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The political body, at a news conference in Abuja on January 3, said Nigeria’s electoral system was not ripe for adoption of the direct primary model as a means of selecting candidates for elections.
President Muhammadu had pointed to the clause that made it compulsory for political parties to adopt direct primaries as the method for selecting candidates for elections as the reason he refused to sign the bill.
The decision has been condemned by many Nigerians, including several civil society organisations (CSOs), who are urging the National Assembly to override the president’s veto by passing the bill with two-thirds majority vote in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
But the political parties have now formally endorsed Buhari’s decision to decline assent to the bill.
IPAC National Chairman and Chairman of the African Democratic Party (ADP) Yabagi Yusuf explained that the political parties rejected the proposed legislation that made direct primaries mandatory because it amounted to an attempt to usurp the constitutional rights of the parties to decide on a preferred method of selecting their standard bearers for elections.
“In summary, if we must call a spade by its name, we in the IPAC are inclined to the opinions regarding the National Assembly’s position on indirect primaries as amounting to an attempt to usurp the constitutional rights of parties as to the method of choice of party flag-bearers.
“The National Assembly members may have acted as interlopers by trying to run political parties from the hallowed chambers because, objectively in the context of international practices, primaries elections cannot be legislated upon, and is best left to the discretion of the political parties,” Yabagi said.
Insisting that Nigeria was not ripe for direct primaries, the IPAC chairman said, “We are of the view that, much as we may cherish its perceived benefits, the country, at this stage of the progress of its democracy, does not appear to be sufficiently ripe and prepared for the direct primary election model in the selection of political party flag bearers.”
Yabagi further insisted that, going by the provisions of Nigeria’s constitution, adoption of direct or indirect primary model was an internal affair of political parties.
IPAC expressed concerns that adoption of the direct primary model would lead to ‘complex logistics and huge financial burden’ for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Yabagi said the political parties wanted the National Assembly to expunge the clause that provided for compulsory adoption of direct primaries before returning the electoral bill to Buhari for assent.
“The way out of the logjam in view of IPAC is for the shifting of grounds by the legislature and the executive arms of government for a compromise and amicable resolution resulting in a win win scenario.
“This should not be a difficult task given that the two arms are, incidentally, controlled by the same political party, the APC.
“The IPAC is accordingly, recommending that the legislature should accede to the expunging of the clauses regarding direct primary election thereby saving the other equally important provisions among which is the one on the mandatory electronic transmission of election results by INEC.”
The political parties faulted calls on the National Assembly to override the president’s veto by going ahead to pass the electoral bill with two-thirds majority vote.
The Nigerian Constitution stipulates that the National Assembly can pass a bill rejected by the president with two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Advising the National Assembly against heeding calls to override the president’s veto, Yabagi said, “Many have canvassed the view that no amount of money should be considered too high in the efforts to sanitise the nation’s electoral process and that the legislature should therefore, invoke its veto powers to overrule the president.
“To us in IPAC, such an action may be tantamount to a wholesale wrecking of the boat.
“Also, against the backdrop of the president’s decisive aversion to this particular provision of the electoral bill, the use of veto by the legislature may merely result in a fruitless exercise if at the end of the day, its implementation is not supported by the required funding by the executive.”
IPAC, however, faulted Buhari’s argument that the security situation in the country was not favourable for adoption of the direct primary model.
Yabagi noted that insecurity should not be allowed to dictate the country’s electoral process.
IPAC also urged the National Assembly and the executive arm of government to carry the political parties along in future amendments of the electoral act.