Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, declared yesterday that the National Assembly will go ahead with the provisions of direct primaries and electronic transmission of election results in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
In spite of vigorous attempts by state governors to dash lawmakers’ resolution on direct primaries as legal mode for political parties to pick their candidates for general elections, the National Assembly went ahead to pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.
The development had set the progressive governors on a collision course against the lawmakers.
But speaking after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Gbajiabiamila told State House correspondents that the bill would soon be transmitted to the president for his assent.
He said, “If I tell you we didn’t discuss the Electoral Act amendment, which is what I am sure you are asking about, I will be lying to you. We had a very robust discussion. And our position is known to the president.
“Are you not aware that the National Assembly has passed the issue of direct primaries and electronic transmission of election results? That is the position of the National Assembly. It has passed both houses.”
On the takeaways from his discussion with the president, he said “Very good; hopefully, we will get the bill transmitted now that he is back very soon. We are hopeful it will become law and Nigerians will be better for it.”
On the comment by Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, that direct primaries would be expensive for political parties and INEC to handle, he said, “Here is what I have to say. I have heard that argument about cost. And this is what I have to say.
“Do you put a price tag on democracy? I don’t think you should. What is too much and what is too little to buy freedom and democracy? I don’t think you should put a price tag on it. So, how much will be okay for him? He should tell us how much will be okay for him.”
When asked if it has been transmitted to the president, he said, “It’s on the way. You can be sure of that.”
On the official position of the House on direct primary, he said “But we have passed the law. The official position of the House of Representatives and the Senate is that we are for direct primaries. We are for empowering the people at the grassroots level. Let everybody participate in governance.
“Democracy is defined as the government of the people, for the people, and by the people. People is used three times in that definition. And it doesn’t start from general elections. It starts from primaries. So, we have made it abundantly clear.
On why the National Assembly want direct primaries now after it has been going on for a long time, he said, “Because it has been like that for a long time and it’s not helping our democracy. It is not growing and deepening our democracy.
“We have passed the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ Bill which the president was very happy to be a part of because he wants to encourage young people. But it’s just a bill on paper.
“Not Too Young To Run Bill but at the same time, you close the space for the young ones for whom you have passed Not Too Young To Run Bill. You have continued with your indirect primaries. How will the young people get involved?
“Now, they have a chance with the direct primaries. You have opened up the space and they can get in and mobilize themselves and if they are popular enough, they win the election. They are not dependent on any godfather.
On the concern that lawmakers are fighting because they have been edged out, he said, “Let me tell you something very clearly, and I have said it over and over again; the indirect primary is easier for me, at least, as far as my constituency is concerned. The indirect primary is easier for me. But because I don’t want to be selfish, because I want to look at the bigger picture, I will rather go with direct primaries. Let everybody go and vote. If they vote me out, they vote me out. It is as simple as that.”
On whether the president is in support of direct primaries, he said, “Mr President has always been. We all know that. The whole world knows that. He has always been from his inception in politics because he is a very popular man.”