The Nigerian Senate has rescinded its earlier decision on making direct primaries the only method of electing candidates by political parties.
This change comes a few days after President Muhammadu Buhari said he was ready to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill after the National Assembly makes the necessary adjustments.
The direct primary clause had earlier hindered the assent to the bill, however, the President in an exclusive interview with Channels Television said that he was willing to sign if only the legislators will effect changes which must include the addition of consensus candidates and indirect primary options to the mode of selecting a candidate for an election.
At the resumption of its session on Wednesday, the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abubakar (Kebbi North), raised a motion for a re-committal to the Committee of the Whole.
The Senate Leader in his presentation recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had signified withholding his assent on the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2021 which was passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to the President on Thursday, 18th November 2021.
Senator Abdullahi noted that the rationale for withholding assent bordered on his observation in Clause 84 and urged his colleagues to rescind the Chamber’s decision.
On giving a nod to the request, the Senate amended clause 84 to now allow for direct, indirect, and consensus options for nominating candidates for the various political parties in the country.
Accordingly, the chamber in Clause 84 (2) of the report recommended direct, indirect primaries or consensus as the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions.
It also recommended in Clause 84(3) that “a political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the part,” a statement by the Senate President’s special assistant, Dr. Ezrel Tabiowo, partly read.
Adding that “Clause 84(4) further provides that “a political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below; (a) In the case of nominations to the position of Presidential candidate, a political party shall, (i) hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centers in each State Capital on specified dates.”
The clause provides that a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes.
President Buhari in the letter dated December 13, 2021, and addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was informed by advice from relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of Government after a thorough review.
According to the President, signing the bill into law would have serious adverse legal, financial, economic, and security consequences on the country, particularly in view of Nigeria’s peculiarities.
He added that it would also impact negatively the rights of citizens to participate in government as constitutionally ensured.
Senator Abdullahi, however, explained that the motion for re-committal of the bill to the Committee, on the Whole, was against the backdrop of the “need to address the observation by Mr. President C-in-C and make necessary amendment in accordance with Order 87(c) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended); and relying on order 1(b) and 52(6) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended).”
Accordingly, the chamber rescinded its decision on the affected Clause of the Bill as passed and recommit same to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and passage.
In the same vein, the House of Representatives today also rescinded its earlier decision on compulsory direct primaries.
However, unlike their counterparts in the Senate, the Reps adopted direct and indirect primaries but expunged the option of consensus candidature.