As controversies over the amended electoral act intensified, the House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, has met with President Muhammadu Buhari with a view to convincing him towards giving assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as passed by the National Assembly.
Gbajabiamila, during the meeting with the president held behind closed doors, told Buhari that the bill before him, awaiting his assent, was not to harm anyone but to complement the Not Too Young To Run act and advance the country’s democracy as he had often campaigned for.
The meeting held on Thursday came barely nine days after the Senate passed the bill into law following a public hearing and contributions from different stakeholders across the country.
And since the passage of the bill, the Governors of the All Progressives Congress, led by Kebbi state governor, Atiku Bagudu, were said to have begun lobbying the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami with a view to getting him to convince the President to withhold assent to the bill.
Speaking after meeting with the President, Gbajabiamila explained that the intention behind some of the provisions in the amended bill was to strengthen democracy and increase participation across the country.
The speaker noted that the inclusion of direct primaries in the bill was to bring more youths on board and to credence to the selection of aspirants before they become candidates vying for political office in the country.
He said: “We want everybody to participate in government, democracy is defined as the government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The word people is used three times in that definition and it doesn’t start from the general election, it starts from the primaries.
“So why don’t we leave the process as it has always been, why Direct Primary? And the reason is that it’s been like that for a long time and it’s not helping our democracy. It’s not deepening our democracy. We passed the Not Too Young To Run bill which the President was very very happy to be a part of because he wants to encourage the young people but it’s just a bill on paper.
“You passed the Not Too Young To Run bill and at the same time, you closed the space against the Young ones you passed the bill for to run. You continue with your Indirect Primaries, how do you want the Young ones to get involved? Now they have a chance with the Direct Primary, we have opened up the space, they can get in and mobilize themselves and if they are popular enough, they win the election. They are not dependent on any godfather.”
“Am I fighting because Indirect Primary will not favour me? No, but let me make something very clearly and I have said it over and over again, the Indirect Primary is easier for me as far as my constituency is concerned, the Indirect Primary is easier for me but because I don’t want to be selfish, because I want to look at the bigger picture, I will always support Direct Primary.”