From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) has commended the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari, to withhold assent to the amended electoral bill due to the inclusion of compulsory direct primaries for political parties.
IPAC insisted that the President was right in rejecting the bill, stressing that at this stage of the democratic journey, Nigeria does not appear to be sufficiently ripe and prepared for the direct primary election model in the selection of political party flag bearers.
IPAC National Chairman, Yabagi Yusuf Sani, told journalists at a press conference in Abuja, on Monday, that the decision of the President was taken in the interest of Nigerians, even though many refused to admit it.
He said: “IPAC is impressed with the lawmakers for the courage, commitment and patriotism exhibited in the passage of a bill that was widely applauded as groundbreaking and transformative in the annals of the nation’s legislative chambers.
“Lawmakers, this time, disregarded partisan differences in favour of superior national interest and stood in a spirited battle in the course of democracy even in the face of intimidation and blackmail.
“The only expressed grouse of the President was the mandatory use of direct primary election in the selection of flag bearers of all the political parties. While many never concede to the explanations of security challenges with the other reasons given by the President, we won’t disagree with him on the reason of complex logistics and the huge financial burden that direct primary elections will imply for INEC.
“Many have canvassed the view that no amount of money should be considered too high in the efforts to sanitize the nation’s electoral process and that the legislature should, therefore, invoke its veto powers to overrule the President. Such action may be tantamount to a wholesale wrecking of the boat. It will result in a fruitless exercise if, at the end of the day, its implementation was not supported by the required funding by the Executive.
“Lawmakers may have acted as interlopers by trying to run political parties from the hallowed chambers because, objectively in the context of international practices primaries elections cannot be legislated upon, and are best left to the discretion of the political parties. It’s an attempt to usurp the constitutional rights of parties as to the method of choice of party flag bearers.”
IPAC, thus, submitted that the way out of the logjam was for the shifting of grounds by all parties for a compromise and amicable resolution that would result in a win-win scenario.
“This should not be a difficult task given that the two arms are, incidentally, controlled by the same political party, the APC. Lawmakers should simply expunge the clauses regarding the direct primary election, thereby, saving the other provisions among which are the ones on the mandatory electronic transmission of election results by INEC. By that, we believe the President should have no further reason to withhold his assent.”
IPAC also raised concerns over the flagrant abuse of the constitution regarding defection from one political party to another.
He explained: “Constitutional provision stipulates that elected officials can only legally change from one party to another while in office if a clear case of divisions or fictionalization is perceived to exist in the party on whose platform he or she rode to the office in the first instance.
“Most incidences of defections in recent times, have occurred without the obvious existence of such situations. We must know that frivolous and willful cross carpeting only exists in a parliamentary democracy and not in a presidential system of democracy that is extant in Nigeria.
“It’s our view that any elected official who feels that he or she has reasons to change his political party should resign and seek a fresh mandate from the electorates on the platform of his new political party.”