The provisions of the Electoral Amendment Act Amendment Bill that all political parties must adopt direct method of primary election will solve the problems of imposition of candidates, vote buying, rigging, manipulation, associated with indirect methods of the delegates system.
Salihu Lukman, Director-General of the
Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) made this assertion in a statement on Friday in Abuja, said the expectation is that direct primary will bring political party leaders closer to members, and consequently citizens closer to elected representatives.
Lukman however observed that if the objective of compelling political parties to adopt the direct method is to ensure credible process of nominating party candidates, additional provisions covering issues of how membership records of political parties should be kept, and processes and procedure required under the Act to satisfy admissibility of members of the party during direct elections should be well outlined.
“For instance, in the case of national elections, Part III of the Electoral Act dealing with National Register of Voters and Voters’ Registration made comprehensive provisions specifying details of National Register of Voters and Voters’ Registration, Continuous Registration, Qualification for Registration, Transfer of Registered Voters, Powers to Print and issue Voters Register, Powers to Print and issue Voters’ Card, Custody of Voters’ Register, Display of the Copies of Voters’ List, among many other provisions.
“The amendment being proposed take many of these issues for granted. It is possible that these are matters for internal decisions of political parties, which may be why the new Sub Section 4 being proposed expect parties to adopt procedure, which ‘shall be spelt out in a guideline to be issued by the political party and filed with the Commission at least 14 days before the primary election.’
“However, any commitment to affirm the right of political party members to participate in the process of electing party leaders and candidates for elections must be unambiguous. When for instance the only thing that exist as means of identification of party members is ordinary piece of paper and records of members exist only in hardcopies available perhaps to only Ward officials and National Secretariat of the party, it leaves much room for manipulation and extraneous practices,” he said.
Lukman argued that beyond the sentiments in favour of direct primary therefore, there is the need to properly outline a clear administrative framework under the law, which will guide the process and guarantee that all the bad practices associated with the indirect method are eliminated.
“Understandably, part of the sentiment informing the actions of members of the National Assembly is that Nigerians have little or zero confidence on the disposition of party leaders, who are alleged to be under the direct control of Governors.
“Largely because of this perception there is ongoing media campaign blackmailing Governors that they are the ones perpetrating all the bad practices associated with the indirect methods and therefore the reason why they are against the adoption of direct primary,” the APC Chieftain said.
He noted that besides, the issue of using the indirect method as a means of imposing candidates through corrupt practices, almost all elected representatives in the National Assembly are as guilty as Governors.
Lukman said from the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives to all the APC and House Representatives members, they must have all paid for every vote they got during internal party primary leading to their election.
According to the PGF boss, based on proposed new Section 87 of the amended Electoral Act, which leave many open spaces for manipulation in the law, problems of internal democracy within parties may only get worse.
He said the whole debate about adopting direct method as part of the Electoral Act is mainly an APC agenda and there may be a calculated attempt by a section of APC leadership whose interest is to hoodwink APC members and Nigerians with the direct primary dummy.
“If the truth is to be told, direct method of selecting candidates within the APC began to be corrupted under the dissolved National Working Committee led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. There were instances during 2019 elections, when the process of nominating APC candidates for election was manipulated using the direct primary, largely because no credible membership register existed since the November 22, 2014 vandalisation of the APC Membership Data Centre by the DSS.
“There was very little effort to re-organise and rebuild the APC membership record. It was only around February/March 2020 that the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC placed some newspaper advertorials inviting biddings from interested service providers to assist the APC to establish computerised membership data register.
“The vulnerability of direct primary to manipulative intrigues of political leaders was further confirmed in the just concluded Anambra Governorship election. The APC candidate in the election, Sen. Andy Ubah, during the APC primary election was said to have emerged with 230,201 votes. But he only got 43,285 votes during the election,” he said.
Lukman strongly recommended that given that the whole controversy about the proposed Electoral Act amendment is limited to the new insertions in Section 87, the National Assembly should consider reworking issues under Section 87 to make it unambiguous.
He said the reworked new provisions should go through all the legislative processes including public hearing to enable Nigerians also contribute to making the law.