26 January 2022
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The National Assembly, on Tuesday, amended the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill for the second time by concurring on consensus candidacy and setting fresh conditions for political parties in the nomination of candidates for elections.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had vetoed the electoral bill and sent it back to the National Assembly over the restriction of political parties to direct primary, insisting that indirect primary and consensus arrangement should be included.
The House had amended Clause Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010, which is Clause 84 of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, by inserting the indirect primary option.
The Senate, however, not only added indirect primary but also consensus adoption of candidates by a political party.
By passing different amendments to the bill, the Senate and the House will have to refer the versions to a conference committee to harmonise the differences and report back for final passage and transmission to the President for assent.
However, both the Senate and the House of Representatives took a shorter route by rescinding their decisions on the amendments last week and re-amending the electoral bill.
This time, the House concurred with the Senate on the consensus, while both chambers passing the same conditions set for the option.
Lawmakers bar imposition of candidate
The new Clause 84 now reads, “(2) The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.
“(3) A political party shall not impose nomination qualification or disqualification criteria, measures, or conditions on any aspirant or candidate for any election in its constitution, guidelines, or rules for nomination of candidates for elections, except as prescribed under sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 177 and 187 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
On direct primaries, Clause 84(4) reads, “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 party and shall adopt the procedure outlined below:
“(a) In the case of presidential primaries, all registered members of the party shall vote for aspirants of their choice at a designated centre at each ward of the Federation.
“(b) The procedure in paragraph (a) above of this subsection shall be adopted for direct primaries in respect of gubernatorial, senatorial, federal and state constituencies.
“(c) Special conventions or congresses shall be held to ratify the candidate with the highest number of votes at designated centres at the national, state, senatorial, federal and state constituencies, as the case may be.”
On indirect primaries, Clause 84(5) reads, “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, the political party shall – (i) hold a special presidential convention at a designated centre in the Federal Capital Territory or any other place within the Federation that is agreed to by the National Executive Committee of the party where delegates shall vote for aspirants of their choice.
“(ii) the aspirant with the highest number of votes cast at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the presidential primaries of the political party and that aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the commission as the candidate of the party.”
Clause 84 further provides under that, “(7) Where there is only one aspirant or a consensus candidate in a political party for any of the elective positions mentioned in subsection (5)(a), (b), (c) and (d), the party shall convene a special convention or congress at a designated centre on a specified date for the confirmation of such aspirant and the name of the aspirant shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.”
“(8) A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rule the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress meeting.”
Aspirants must write party on withdrawal from race
On consensus candidates, Clause 84(9) provides that “(a) A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate.
“(b) Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions.”
“(c) A special convention or nomination congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated centres at the national, state, senatorial, federal and state constituencies, as the case may be.”
Disobedient parties risk exclusion from elections – Lawan
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, noted that the re-amendment was done to harmonise the positions of the Senate and the House, adding that the provisions for the mode of primaries were clearly defined.
Lawan expressed optimism that the bill would be signed into law when transmitted by the National Assembly to the President for his assent.
The Senate President warned that parties that failed or refused to abide with the provisions on the mode of primaries, would miss out on the opportunity to participate in elections.
He said, “On the mode of conducting primaries by parties to produce candidates, we have concluded our task on the amendment to the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 Bill.
“You will recall that the Senate and the House passed the Electoral Act amendment bill with a slight difference. While the House passed the mode of primaries to be direct and indirect only, the Senate passed the mode of primaries to be direct, indirect and consensus.”
Lawan stated, “What we have done is to give a very clear and sufficient definition to each mode of primaries. The direct primary is well defined on how it will be conducted; ditto the indirect primary. And for the consensus, the two chambers have produced in this bill, a very clear definition of how a consensus candidate would emerge.
House concurs with Senate, Gbajabiamila hints on speedy transmission to Buhari
At the House, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the leadership of the House resolved to concur with the Senate on inclusion of consensus in the modes by which political select candidates for election into public offices.
Gbajabiamila, after an executive (closed-door) session on Tuesday, said the leadership reached the agreement at its meeting earlier on Monday.
The Speaker said the amendment process would be completed on Tuesday for speedy transmission to the President for assent.
Gbajabiamila, however, stated that the conditions set for parties which opt for consensus would allow a level playing field for all aspirants.
He said, “I think we need to speedily address our electoral law and pass it today and send it to the Executive for assent.
“You will recall that this House, last week, as soon as we returned (from Christmas and New Year break) looked into the complaints (made by the President) and added the provision of indirect primaries to our law. Unfortunately on the other side, the Senate added both indirect and consensus, which necessitated the possible need for a conference committee of both Houses.
“The leadership of the House met yesterday and decided that in the interest of speedy passage and to deepen our democracy, the House and Senate have decided to add the consensus provision.
‘So, there will be no need for a conference but with certain provisos. Those provisos – hopefully, we will agree and insert them today – are to protect all aspirants for all positions, so that we will all have an even playing field.”