“The amendment of Nigeria’s Electoral Act mandating political parties to adopt the direct form of primaries in selecting candidates for elections has a lot of ambiguities that must be made clear.
The Director General of the Progressives Governors Forum, PGF.
Salihu Lukman stated this in a press release and further added that the amended Electoral Act does not address some vague sections.
The amendments to Nigeria’s Electoral Act since 2020 had gone through public hearing and was finally passed by both chambers of the National Assembly and is awaiting assent by the President.
In a bid to address the issue of corruption involved in the indirect primary method of selecting candidates for elective offices, the law makers amended the bill mandating all political parties to use the direct primary method.
The proposed amendment is as follows; Section 87(1) of the bill provided that ‘A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the Commission.
In addition, new Sub Sections 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 were inserted to Section 87 in the Electoral Act, which made the following provisions:
Sub Section 3: The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions by direct primaries shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party and given opportunity to have agents for the purpose of monitoring the primaries.
Sub Section 4: The procedure adopted for the direct primaries shall be spelt out in a guideline to be issued by the political party and filed with the Commission at least 14 days before the primary election.
Sub Section 5: A political party shall maintain register of its members and provide in the guideline for the conduct of the primaries that the register of its members shall be used for accreditation for the primaries.
Sub Section 6: The Commission shall deploy personnel to monitor the primaries in all the centres where the direct primaries are held.
Sub Section 7: Every aspirant cleared by the party to contest at the primary not later than fourteen days to the primary shall be entitled to a copy of the guideline for the conduct of the primaries in which he or she is participating.
However the PGF DG pointed out some flaws in the amended Bi saying it does not address political parties’ management of their membership register which is essential for a credible direct primary to be conducted.
“If the objective of compelling political parties to adopt the direct method is to ensure credible process of nominating party candidates, additional provisions covering issues of how membership records of political parties should be kept, and processes and procedure required under the Act to satisfy admissibility of members of the party during direct elections should be well outlined.
“The amendment being proposed take many of these issues for granted.
When for instance the only thing that exist as means of identification of party members is ordinary piece of paper and records of members exist only in hardcopies available perhaps to only Ward officials and National Secretariat of the party, it leaves much room for manipulation and extraneous practices.
“Beyond the sentiments in favour of direct primary therefore, there is the need to properly outline a clear administrative framework under the law, which will guide the process and guarantee that all the bad practices associated with the indirect method are eliminated,” he said.
Lukman while noting that the campaign for direct primary is an agenda of the governing All Progressives Congress, APC added that it could be an attempt by some party members to achieve personal goals.
He added that it could also be because Nigerians and party members have lost faith in their parties.
“In several respects, the issue of compelling parties to use direct method for internal party elections as part of the Electoral Act is also popular perhaps because increasingly many political party members and leaders have lost confidence that parties can on their own adopt internal rules that can truly allow for direct primary.
Otherwise, ordinarily the choice of direct primary should be decided internally within parties.
To a large extent, it is also a matter that should define the ideological orientation of parties.
“It is worrisome that APC members in the National Assembly are the ones pushing for this amendment.
Rather than leaders of the party negotiating among themselves on what needs to be done to produce internal agreement to resolve all challenges facing the party, increasingly structures of the party are being abandoned and other structures outside the statutory organs of the party are being used to attempt to address perceived problems.
This creates problems of confidence in the capacity of structures of the party to address challenges facing the party.
The whole scheming pushing party leaders to use structures outside the statutory organs of the party may not be even about addressing challenges facing the party but perhaps about realising political aspirations of some party leaders and power blocs,” he added.
The PGF DG appealed to the National Assembly to rework the Section 87 of the Bill on direction primary and take it thorugh all the legislative processes including public hearing to enable Nigerians also contribute to making the law presenting it to the President.
Electoral Act Bill: PGF DG tasks lawmakers to clear ambiguities