Governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are reaching out to the party’s caucuses in the National Assembly in their latest bid to forge a compromise with the leadership of the legislative arm on the controversial direct primary clause in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, Atiku Bagudu, The Nation gathered, has already met with some principal officers of the National Assembly in Abuja on the matter.
The Kebbi State governor and the legislators ,sources said, discussed the need to ensure that the APC is not divided by the disagreement on the bill ahead of the 2023 elections.
The bill is currently awaiting the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari who is said to be still consulting widely to determine whether to sign the bill or not.
The Nation also gathered that some of the APC governors also met with Senate President Ahmed Lawan to discuss how the grey areas in the bill could be addressed with a view to ensuring that the APC as a party presents a common position on the matter .
An aide to one of the governors said the governors’ initiative may have been informed by the body language of President Buhari on the matter.
“The President is more disposed to signing the bill,” said the source.
He added: “He is more comfortable with the arguments for direct primary. We even gathered that he may have suggested to the governors to reach out to the lawmakers and forge a common front with them on the matter in the interest of the party.
“During the week, upon his return home, my boss had a meeting with members of our state’s caucus in the National Assembly and the discussions were not as heated as the previous ones.
“Both sides are now thinking of the interest of the party and seem to be agreeing that a common position is better and still possible.
“Unless the governors and the lawmakers agree on this issue, whether the President signs the bill or declines assent, APC will be troubled by his decision.”
Bagudu had last month led other APC governors to reject the direct primary clause in the electoral bill, which mandates political parties to adopt the direct primary system.
The Kebbi State governor, after a meeting with eight other governors on the platform of the party in Abuja, briefed the media on their decision.
In attendance were governors Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, David Umahi of Ebonyi, Mai Mala Buni of Yobe, Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Simon Lalong of Plateau, Gboyega Oyetola of Osun, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano and Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa.
The Kebbi governor, after the meeting, told journalists 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 added that the direct primary system would be too cumbersome for the Independent National Electoral Commission to supervise.
But the National Assembly appears determined to see the bill signed into law with the direct primary clause included in it.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, after a recent meeting with Buhari said the National Assembly did not have to lobby the President to sign the electoral amendment bill in its current form.
He stated that by transmitting the bill to the president, the National Assembly members already expressed their positions on issues to the President.
House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who also met with Buhari on the issue asked the President to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill into law, saying: “We are hopeful it will become law and Nigerians will be better for it. The President is happy. He will look at all the issues we have brought to his attention.
“We talked about the Electoral Act Amendment. The official position of the House of Representatives and the Senate, we are for direct primaries. We are for empowering the people at the grassroots level. Let everybody participate in governance.”
An APC ranking Senator from the Southwest also confirmed the development to The Nation, yesterday.
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His words: “The National Assembly is under the leadership of the APC. The governors we are talking about are APC governors. So, it should be expected that when we disagree on principles, we will seek to reconcile our differences.
“That is what you are seeing playing out. Don’t forget that PDP governors and lawmakers are up in arms against the same direct primary clause. So, are you expecting that we will continue to disagree for outsiders to benefit? That is not wise politically.
“Good enough, the President who is to sign or decline assent is an APC member too. Do you think he will be pleased to see what is happening? I can assure you that following some development, we are now poised to find a common ground and take credit for the much awaited amendment of the Electoral Bill together as members of the ruling party.”
Why Buhari must sign bill – Osoba
Lending his voice to the controversy, an APC leader and former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, said the use of direct primary to select candidates of all political parties was appropriate.
Addressing a delegation of Senators across political party lines and geo-political zones of Nigeria who visited him in London to wish him a speedy recovery from a recent knee surgery, Chief Osoba appealed to President Buhari to sign the bill.
On the delegation were Senator Solomon Adeola (APC, Lagos West), Senator Kashim Shetima (APC, Borno Central), Senator Isah Jubril(APC, Kogi East), Senator Micheal Nnachi(PDP, Ebonyi South) and Senator Ayo Akinyelure (PDP, Ondo Central).
The rest were Senator Gershon Bassey(PDP, Cross River South), Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf(APC, Taraba Central), Senator Sadiq Sulaiman Umar(APC, Kwara North), Senator Tokunbo Abiru(APC, Lagos East) Senator Bashiru Ajibola(APC, Osun Central) and Senator Hassan Mohamed Gusau(APC, Zamfara Central).
Osoba said: “I have a feeling he will sign it. The president himself is a product of direct primary. He submitted himself to direct primary in 2019 throughout the country, so heaven did not fall. After he subjected himself to direct primary throughout Nigeria in all the wards, he also subjected himself to a National Convention to ratify his election at the primary.
“And quote me, I had cause to tell him at our National Caucus during Edo election issue that ‘”Mr. President, if you can subject yourself to direct primary and national Convention, I do not see why anybody should be afraid of direct primary.’”
In his remarks Senator Adeola, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the members of the Senate were in London and decided to pay him a get well quick visit as his wealth of experience is needed as Nigeria forges ahead in difficult times, adding that it is gratifying to see that he was fast recovering from his surgery as evidenced in his personally coming to receive them at the door from the first floor and going back up with them to the sitting room upstairs.
Senator Shetimma who spoke on behalf of other senators stated that they came as Nigerians irrespective of their political party or regional coloration to wish him well as an elder statesman who has contributed to the nation through journalism and service in government while some of them are still growing up, stressing that the nation still needs his wealth of experience in forging ahead in these times.