OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives has made a U-turn and walked back on its earlier passage of the electoral act (amendment) bill by giving political parties the option to adopt either direct, indirect primaries and consensus modes of conducting primaries.
Like the Senate, the House also made amendments to clause 84 paragraph 9 (a) which it said takes care of fears of the optional modes being hijacked by a few individuals in political parties in deciding a consensus candidate.
Recall that the House, had last week, adopted direct and indirect primaries for party primaries, while the Senate adopted direct, indirect and consensus options.
Chairman, Rules and Business Committee of the House, Abubakar Fulata (APC, Jigawa) on Tuesday hinted of the U-turn when he moved for the rescission of the bill.
The speaker, who presided over the committee of the whole, called out the clauses one after the other as members chorused “carried,’ signifying unanimity in the areas of reconsideration.
According to him, “The first relevant clause here is 84 (2) which says the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.
“The second provision is sub 84 sub 3. It talks about qualifications of aspirants and candidates and it says a political party shall not impose nomination or qualifications or disqualification criteria, measure or conditions on any aspirant or candidates for an election. Lt’s constitution guidelines or rules for nomination of candidates for elections, except as prescribed under section 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 177 and 187 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999.
“This means that a party cannot disqualify anybody except in accordance with the constitution.
“The other provision here that is relevant in terms of consideration; direct primaries has been defined, indirect primaries has been defined and then the new consensus provision has now been defined and guidelines stipulated in the new law and it says:
“A political party that adopts consensus candidates shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate.
“Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective position.
“A special convention or nomination congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated centres at the national, states, senatorial, federal and state constituencies as the case may be.
“That puts an end to hopefully what would be a brand new forward thinking progressive electoral law”, Gbajabiamila noted.
Meanwhile, speaking to journalists after plenary, the spokesperson of the House, Mr. Benjamin Kalu (APC Abia) said the adoption of consensus candidate as captured in the Senate was done in the best interest of Nigerians and to forestall any rejection of the bill by Mr. President.
“When it was transmitted to the National Assembly we realized the Senate added consensus candidate. So we considered that what are those things that would stall the bill? So today the House suspended its rules to amend that particular clause.
“If people are scared that a god father will just sit down in a room and decide on a consensus it would not work.”
Kalu disagreed with the term used by the media that the Senate or House smuggled “consensus candidature” into the bill, saying: “There’s no smuggling anyway, it is our core mandate to make laws for the country. What should be our interest is for the benefit of Nigerians.
“İ will not preempt Mr. President on whether he is going to sign the bill or not. However what we did is within our laws. The bill will be sent within the ambit of time as provided by the constitution.
“Beyond the House rules, we are self-regulating arm of government”, he explained.