Governors of the All Progressives Congress have begun reaching out to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), with a view to getting him to convince the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to withhold assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The APC Governors’ Forum is led by the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu. Malami is also from Kebbi State and is rumoured to be nursing a governorship ambition in 2023.
An aide to one of the APC governors told The PUNCH that like other bills that were forwarded to the President, Buhari was expected to forward the electoral bill to Malami for legal advice.
The source said, “The President is expected to receive the bill next week after which he will forward it to Malami for legal advice. What the governors now plan to do is to lobby Malami to ensure that the bill is not assented to. Malami is from Kebbi, just like Bagudu; so, the governors are hopeful that he will listen to Bagudu.”
Bagudu had on Monday spoken out against the clause in the electoral bill, which mandates political parties to adopt the direct primary system.
The Kebbi governor had on Monday held a meeting with eight other governors on the platform of the party in Abuja and afterwards briefed the media on their decision.
The governors in attendance were Dr Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano) and Mohammed Badaru (Jigawa).
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Bagudu stated that political parties should be allowed to pick their system for primaries. He added that holding direct primaries on a large scale was against the spirit of the Executive Order signed by the President to restrict large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He argued that the direct primary system would be too cumbersome for the Independent National Electoral Commission to supervise.
The governor added, “There have been concerns that political parties are voluntary organisations, and our concern is that once you limit the abilities of the parties to choose options that they so desire, that may arguably be undemocratic, because nothing stops one party from adopting one or the other.
“Direct primary involves the supervisory role of INEC at multiple levels at multiple points; so, you can imagine that if political parties are doing their primaries through the direct system, INEC resources will be overstretched, and I think the chairman of INEC has even commented on that; so, whether the legislation has incorporated the financial implications or not, I don’t know yet.”
Meanwhile, the governors are also waiting for the return of the President, who is currently attending the Paris Peace Forum, which is being hosted by the French President, Emmanuel Macron. There is no date yet on when he will return.
The spokesman for the AGF, Umar Gwandu, did not respond to a message regarding his principal’s opinion on the electoral bill.
The House of Representatives had stated on Tuesday that it would consider a veto in the event that the President fails to assent to the bill, while members of the Senate expressed the same sentiment.
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has said lawmakers, who have problems with their governors, are the ones who pushed for the direct primary provision to be included in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Bello said the lawmakers brought their personal agenda into the bill, which was wrong.
The governor said this while featuring on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television monitored by one of our correspondents on Wednesday.
Bello said, “Let me tell you that I will always caution that whenever we are making laws or taking decisions, we should not be basing them on the impulse of the moment. Do you nationalise your personal problems (with your governor)?
“We are not saying that anybody is afraid of direct primaries, but let me tell you: the drafters of the party’s constitution, especially as it affects the APC, envisaged that there could be a situation where one particular mode of primary is not feasible, then you adopt another.”
He denied that state governors were afraid of restriction of political parties to direct primaries in the amendments to the Electoral Act, adding that they only warned against the implications of the limitation in the future.
Bello stated that any governor who was afraid of direct primaries was not popular in his state.
He partly said, “On this issue of taking the party back to the people, the question is, who took the party away from the people in the first place? Is it the legislature or the executive? I think the party remains with the people. Mr President in his wisdom said ‘rebuild this party from bottom up and ensure that credible Nigerians are members and executives of this party, starting from mobilisation and registration of members into our party’.
“Despite all the hues and cries, and de-marketing of Mr President and his administration, we have recorded more members in the party than ever before.”
Responding to a question on governors determining who gets parties’ tickets for elections, the governor said the lawmakers must have been the beneficiaries if such happened.
While admitting that the governors were leaders of the party in the states, Bello argued that the APC determines its candidates, saying, “Ours is just to provide the leadership, while the people determine (the candidates).” ,,