President Buhari has backed lawmakers’ position on direct primary.
The move to stop the retention of the direct primary clause in the Electoral Act Bill collapsed yesterday.
According to The Nation, House of Representatives Speaker said President Muhammadu Buhari is in support of the direct mode of selecting candidates for elections by political parties.
Also, the National Assembly disclosed plans to forward the Electoral Act Bill to the President this week for assent.
Hailing the parliament for the retention of the clause, some All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains said it will foster greater participation of members in party affairs.
There had been a sharp disagreement between the National Assembly and governors over the direct mode.
While the Senate and the House of Representatives retained direct primary in the Electoral Act Bill, the governors are insisting on the indirect primary.
APC governors under the aegis of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) declined to react to the Speaker’s statement.
The Director-General of the Forum, Dr. Salihu Lukman, said APC governors will not react to mere visits by any leader of the National Assembly to the Presidential Villa over the bill.
Gbajabiamila, who spoke with State House Correspondents in Abuja after meeting with the President, said Buhari supported direct primary.
He described the President as a product of direct primary because of his popularity, adding that he has opened up the political space for the youths to participate.
He noted that the indirect primary has not helped the growth of democracy.
He assured that the President would sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.
Gbajabiamila said: “If I tell you we didn’t discuss the Electoral Act amendment, which is what I am sure you are asking about, if I tell you we didn’t discuss that, I will be lying to you.
“We had a very robust discussion and our position is known to the President.”
On the position of the National Assembly, Gbajabiamila added: “Are you not aware that the National Assembly has passed the direct primary and electronic transmission of election results? That is the position of the National Assembly. It has passed through both Houses.
“We have passed the law. The official position of House of Representatives and the Senate, we are for direct primary. We are for empowering the people at the grassroots level. Let everybody participate in governance.
“Democracy is defined as a government of the people, for the people and by the people. ‘People’ is used three times in that definition. And it doesn’t start from general elections. It starts from primaries. So, we have made it very clear abundantly.”
Gbajabiamila defended the direct primary, saying: “It (indirect primary) has been like that for a long time and it’s not helping our democracy. It is not growing and deepening our democracy.
“We have passed Not Too Young To Run Bill, which the President was very happy to be a part of because he wants to encourage young people. But it’s just a bill on paper.
“You pass Not Too Young To Run Bill, but at the same time, you close the space for the young ones for whom you have passed Not Too Young To Run Bill.
“You have continued with your indirect primaries. How will the young people get involved? Now, they have a chance with the direct primaries.
“You have opened up the space and they can get in and mobilise themselves and if they are popular enough, they win the election. They are not dependent on any godfather”.
Gbajabiamila disagreed with Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, who said that direct primary would be too expensive for political parties and the electoral commission to handle.
He said: “I have heard that argument about cost. And this is what I have to say: do you put a price tag on democracy? I don’t think you should.
“What is too much and what is too little to buy freedom and democracy? I don’t think you should put a price tag on it. So, how much will be okay for him? He should tell us how much will be okay for him.”
On the allegation that members of the National Assembly were fighting because they had been edged out by governors, he said: “The indirect primary is easier for me, at least, as far as my constituency is concerned. But, because I don’t want to be selfish, because I want to look at the bigger picture, I will rather go with direct primaries. Let everybody go and vote. If they vote me out, they vote me out. It is as simple as that.”
On whether the Bill had been transmitted to the President, the Speaker said: “It’s on the way. You can be sure of that. We get the bill transmitted now that he is back very soon. We are hopeful it will become law and Nigerians will be better for it.”
A PDP Senator representing Kaduna South District, Danjuma Laah, drummed support for the direct mode to enhance transparency and strengthen internal democracy.
He said the direct primary is the only democratic way of allowing political inclusiveness and direct participation by members to make their choices.
In a statement by his media assistant, Victor Matthew, the Senator said: “ The only viable platform that I will like to contest is the PDP which is the most credible alternative in Southern Kaduna, and nobody will impose indirect primaries for our people again. That option is completely ruled out. It is not an issue at all.”
Laah said indirect primary will truncate the voice of the people.
He added: “I don’t think the people want any indirect primary or any consensus, but the thing is, if you don’t adhere to their desire for an open primary then there will be problems and our chances should be slim by any means possible.”
An APC chieftain in Ondo State, Olugbenga Falaiye, said direct primary will produce popular candidates.
Falaiye, who is a House of Representatives aspirant in Akure Federal Constituency, described direct primary as a leveller for party members.
He told reporters in Akure, capital of Ondo State, that direct primary would eliminate the financial inducement of party delegates.
His words: “I am in support of direct primary. Direct primary is good leverage. It is when you are popular that a direct primary can favour you. The indirect primary is being manipulated by money bags.
“Even the President cannot singlehandedly fund a direct primary. How many people can you pay? The people have to accept you by voting for you in a direct primary.
“Direct primary will make seducing people with money to vote a particular candidate a thing of the past. If the people like a candidate and vote for the candidate, you do not have to give them money to vote during the main election. You have to be popular, you have to be in their mind and they will make you their leader.”
A group, the People’s Life Improvement Foundation, said the direct system will give eligible voters the chance to oppose the imposition of candidates by godfathers.
In a statement, its President, Chief Precious Elekima, said: “It is very sad to discover that governors are opposed to the window of freedom given by the National Assembly to Nigerians to freely elect their leaders.’’