Both chambers of the national assembly have passed into law amendments to the existing electoral law which made some critical adjustments in the processes of conducting primary elections for all political parties and the mode of transmission of results of elections. Unlike the issue of the electronic transmission of results, the mode of primary elections did not raise any crisis in the apex legislative body.
While some persons prefer the existing indirect process otherwise known as the delegate system of electing flag bearers, many more prefer the direct system where every card carrying member of political parties can participate in electing their ticket holders for general elections.
But what are the key features of the direct system proposed for the country by the time the President gave his assent to the bill and it became law?
Firstly, every registered party member can participate in the primaries (election/selection of party candidates). That means delegates and special delegates’ elections have been effectively cancelled.
It is carried out at (political) ward levels, that is, all wards of the state across the nation. The ward chairmen and secretaries will be directly responsible for conducting the primaries. The electoral act stipulates that results shall be transmitted electronically just like the results of the general elections.
Under the new system, political parties shall appoint returning officers responsible for final collation of results while INEC shall be directly responsible for the supervision of the conduct of the primaries at all levels.
The processes involve identifying your political unit/ward, and then identify the ward chairman of your political party in your LGA. After which one approaches his or her ward party chairman to register him or her as a party member. Under the new order, no one has the right to deny you registration with any political party; and if you are denied, you can dutifully register your complaint with a court of law. It is one’s constitutional right. This will serve as a basis for litigation in an election tribunal.
Once registered, you are going to be issued with a membership card or identification (all political parties have members identification) and the membership card or identification must have the signature(s) of the following: national chairman, national secretary, national organizing secretary, ward chairman and ward secretary.
Therefore, it is very important to track and know the party primaries schedule, which will be released by INEC at the appropriate time, and present your card for accreditation and subsequent participation on the day.
After the accreditation, it is expected that you join and vote for the candidate of your choice, and wait (if you desire) for the counting, e-transmission, and announcement of the results after the election.
For a very long time, the majority of voters and key political players have been advocating for this system of primary elections .The direct primaries clause was adopted, no doubt, to promote internal democracy in party politics.
The indirect primaries has enabled a few political power brokers to hijack party platforms, at the expense of the majority, by only allowing some carefully selected party delegates to elect candidates.
Thus, the direct primaries has the following elements:
Everyone (so long as he/she is a registered party member) can participate in the election/selection process of party candidates.
Unlike indirect primaries, which are organized in a particular selected venue and are often restricted to only delegates, the direct primaries take place at ward levels. This means that all political wards will simultaneously hold the primaries in a state.
The Ward Chairman and Secretaries will be responsible for conducting and supervising the primaries; they will liaise with the party returning officers and INEC to conduct the primaries in their respective wards.
I cannot agree less with what the Speaker of the House of Representatives has said. “If I know that my return will depend on a few men, I may not care about you. But if I know that my return will depend on my accountability and representation to the people, I will do the right thing. This generation needs to open the door of leadership to the next generation.
We must allow every Nigerian to participate fully in the process of leadership. I, therefore, stand with a direct primary. That’s why I said at different fora that I’m for direct primary. We have to do this for the sake of the institution. When you gather yourselves (as youths), chances are that you’ll win. Democracy is a government of the people. Democracy is not just a general election; it starts from the primaries.”
The 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill also approved early political parties’ primaries for the nation. Submission of the list of candidates to INEC is extended from 60 days to 180 days before the date appointed for a general election. By this provision, all party primaries for the 2023 general election will be concluded before 10th of August 2022.
This means that the National Assembly and Presidential primaries will be concluded by July 2022 while that of the State House of Assembly and Governorship primaries will be determined by August 2022.