From Fred Itua and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

Leadership of the National Assembly, yesterday, flayed the indirect primaries adopted by political parties to elect candidates for the 2023 general elections, saying it was injurious to democracy.

This is as lawmakers condemned the high turnover the mode of primaries caused in both chambers of the National Assembly with a staggering 60 to 70 per cent of serving members losing their bids to secure return tickets.

They described as a crime, a situation where for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), only 2, 322 delegates across 774 local government councils, elected a presidential candidate for about 200 million voters in the 2023 general election, just as 774 ad-hoc delegates did same for the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They said the process only succeeded in turning few Nigerians who made it into the delegates list into millionaires overnight. 

The leadership of the National Assembly vented their anger at a public lecture organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) on June 12 Commemorative Democracy Day.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, in his keynote address said glaring imperfections were observed in the indirect or delegates mode of primary conducted by most of the political parties.

“The imperfections and undemocratic nature of the indirect mode of primary election was envisaged by the National Assembly by making direct primary the only option, which however was kicked against by President Buhari and some people with vested interest .

“We were told to widen the scope, we did by adding indirect and consensus, but unfortunately, most of the political parties used the indirect which gives room for very few people to elect party candidates for a country with 200 million population, out of which 90 million are registered voters. The damage has been done and democracy in Nigeria injured with just 2, 322 delegates electing presidential candidate for a party as big as the ruling APC.

“The mode of selection or electing the delegates was even fraudulent with one or two party chieftains in a state compiling list of delegates who were turned to millions at party’s congresses or convention grounds. The legislature is the most hit as half of the serving 469 federal lawmakers failed to secure return tickets from their various parties, particularly APC and PDP leading to institutional memory loss.”

He, however, said the tenets of democracy would continue to be depeened in the country by way of addressing the various imperfections and lapses in our electoral laws.

Earlier, while welcoming members back from their break, Gbajabiamila expressed disappointment over the loss suffered by several members of  the House in the just concluded party primaries.

Related News

He expressed dismay that some members who sought return tickets as well as those who sought nominations for other offices lost out in the primaries.

He lamented that the lawmakers lost their nominations because of the delegate system of nominating candidates, which were allegedly skewed against them. He said the parliament had fought for direct  primaries without success.

Nevertheless, Gbajabiamila stated that the failure of several members of the House to get return tickets was more or less a loss to the country’s democracy and the legislature as an institution.

Corroborating Gbajabiamila, former deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, said the National Assembly did the right thing by first making direct primaries mandatory mode of conducting primary by the various political parties.

He, however,  said the National Assembly capitulated when President Buhari refused to assent to the bill by accommodating indirect and consensus options.

“Unfortunately, we all saw what happened with the indirect primaries used by the major political parties. We saw in my own party ( PDP) where only five delegates voted to elect candidate for a federal constituency covering five local government. We saw how the few delegates were turned to overnight millionaires in both the APC and PDP,” he lamented .

Director General of NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, said the process of allowing the highest bidders to pick political parties’ tickets for elections is worrisome.

He said the phenomenon of vote buying at the general elections should also be looked into by relevant authorities and stakeholders in the general interest of participatory democracy and sanctity of electoral process .

Meanwhile, the fallout of the primary has seen Abdullahi Yahaya has officially resigning his position as senate majority leader following his defection to the PDP in Kebbi State.

In the same vein, Enyinnaya Abaribe who also defected from the PDP to APGA is expected to be replaced as senate minority leader.

VERIFIED: Nigerians (home & diaspora) can now be paid in US Dollars. Earn up to $17,000 (₦27 million) with premium domains. Click here to start