After several backs and forth on the ongoing amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) it is now safe to conclude that the 9th National Assembly has sold its soul to the executive arm of government and the country’s parliament as currently constituted is even worse than what some people call rubber stamp.
The 9th Assembly has never for once stood its decisions either via bills or resolution each time the executive takes a dissenting opinion on an issue. To say the least, the 9th Assembly has made nonsense of the concept of separation of powers.
I had in the past edition of this page debunked the insinuation that clause 84 which sought to compulsory direct primary mode of selecting candidates by political parties was meant to liberate the lawmakers from the shackles of hyena state governors who in most cases control party delegates and determine who gets what in an indirect primary system. Those who believe that the lawmakers had introduced the direct primary clause would now understand that this current set of lawmakers cannot even liberate themselves let alone liberate Nigerians through legislative interventions. Therefore, Nigerians should not be surprised that the very harsh policies of President Muhammad Buhari -led administration, including incessant borrowings, increased taxation and partial removal of fuel subsidy were never challenged.
It is rather unfortunate that just because only one man is as fallible as every other mortal, the entire 369 elected legislators rescinded a decision that they had all along claimed was in the interest of Nigerians. Shall we then conclude that one ‘good’ head is better than 369 heads? Or once the president decides against their position, the interest of Nigerians changes automatically.
The resolution of the Senate is most disturbing, the Red Chamber loosened the process and procedure to include direct, indirect and consensus options. One would wonder how the consensus option crept into the bill, as it was never mentioned in the President communication to the National Assembly. But for a Senate that sees itself as a branch of the presidency, a directive via television interview was enough to form part of legislative processes.
The House of Representatives, which also amended Clause 84(2) in the bill only approved direct and indirect primaries as procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions and did not import the consensus option. Although the Senate position may eventually prevail at the conferences committee, the House would have been seen to protect its rules and the rest will be history.
In all these, I thought it morally right to be fair to the speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila. He did not only demonstrate leadership by standing by the collective decision of the House but also states explicitly his position on the matter. Gbajabimila May have other motives for all I care, but he did not make a complete U-turn, even though he knew it would be a fruitless venture to lead a move to override the president’s veto.
Despite President Muhamadu Buhari’s opposition to the Direct Primary clause Gbajabiamila insisted that the mode remained the most democratic system of selecting party candidates.
The speaker in his welcome remarks to his colleagues when the House reconvened on Tuesday, noted that a delegate system 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.
“I remain convinced that the proposal for direct primary elections is valuable for building accountability in our political system,” Gbajabiamila said.
He, however, hinted that the lawmakers would reintroduce the bill on Wednesday by expunging the contentious clause and resend the Bill for presidential assent.
“The House will reintroduce the amendment this tomorrow. And we will work quickly to address the mitigating concerns, pass the Bill and send it back to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
“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,” the speaker stated.
Going by Gbajabimila position above, Nigerian political leaders have over the years been selected through a bad process and that is why Nigeria is where it is. I appreciate Gbajabimila’s truthfulness, but unfortunately, his ideas were defeated in the very House he leads. This is a warning signal!