Electoral Bill: Direct primary is not plausible – Jega

 Electoral Bill: Direct primary is not plausible – Jega
Prof. Attahiru Jega

According to Attahiru Jega, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has said that political parties use of direct primaries may not work out effectively for the time being.

He claims this is due to the fact that many members of certain political parties are not officially registered.

Mr Jega made the remarks at a Yiaga Africa-organized town hall meeting on the Electoral Amendment Bill on Sunday.

The event aimed to re-echo requests for the bill’s passage in the National Assembly as soon as possible, as well as to resolve the bill’s drafting difficulties.

Clause 87 of the bill, which was ratified by the National Assembly in 2021, permits political parties to select candidates for elective seats solely through direct primaries.

President Muhammadu Buhari rejected the bill in December of that year, citing insecurity, the cost of conducting direct primaries, and infringement on Nigerians’ rights to engage in governance as grounds for his decision.

However, the president stated in a recent interview that if the section is changed to include consensus candidates and indirect primary possibilities in the process of picking a candidate for an election, he will sign the measure.

Similarly, Mr Jega feels that direct primaries will not be possible at this time due to systemic flaws, despite the fact that he believes the country needs new electoral laws ahead of the general elections.

He claimed that the clause was added to the bill to let legislators resolve personal concerns with their governors. They perceive or know for a fact that governors manipulate indirect primaries, he said, and they’re seeking for a means to free the primary.

“Some people believe that governors do influence the outcome of indirect primaries and some feel direct primaries is a way out of this, but the question is, how many parties have a credible register of members?

“Give INEC the law to begin preparations for the 2023 elections. Any governor that manipulates direct primaries under this present condition will also have the capacity to manipulate indirect primaries. Which of the parties have a clear register of members. Any governor that has the capacity to manipulate direct primaries has the capacity to do so for indirect primaries.

“The challenge is how do you ensure that members of parties are properly registered. Governors can only manipulate the delegate list but with a faulty register there will be room for manipulation even in direct primaries,” he said.

The passage of the bill, according to the former INEC chairman, will go a long way toward strengthening the integrity of Nigeria’s elections.

“This country will be better off if we go into the next election with a new electoral law which will enhance the integrity of the preparations and conduct of the elections.

“What we are saying is that you cannot throw the baby away with the bath water. Let’s think more carefully. The good things in the bill should be signed into law immediately so that INEC can start serious work for the 2023 elections, ” Mr Jega said.

With the legislation now back to the National Assembly, the lawmakers have to either amend the bill and send it back to the president for assent or override his decision.

For the moment, many Nigerians simply want the bill approved so that fresh electoral reforms may be implemented in time for the elections in 2023.

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