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Why The Governors Made BUHARI Oppose Direct Primaries

•The Story Of All The Behind The Scene Moves

Many Nigerians still don't know why Pres. Mohammadu Buhari refused to sign the Electoral Bill sent to him by the National Assembly. A lot more people don't even understand why he is opposed to the Direct Primaries clause in the bill.

Although Pres. Buhari has given the reason why he wants the Direct Primaries clause deleted, after which it should be sent to him, for signing, City People has discovered that there is more to it.

President Buhari reportedly wrote leaders of the 2 chambers of the National Assembly after refusing to sign the bill into law because of the huge cost of conducting direct primaries among other reasons.

President Buhari had up till Sunday, December 19, 2021, to sign the bill into law, or the lawmakers with a two-thirds majority can veto the president and pass the bill into law. But so far, Buhari has the strong backing of the Governors, especially those in the APC camp.

Among the opponents of the idea of direct primaries are members of the Progressive Governors’ Forum of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who are in favour of indirect primaries being operated presently.

Since their spirited attempts to scuttle the lawmakers’ effort did not scale through, insiders revealed that their next move was to lobby President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the bill into law.

Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, who is a member of the Governor’s forum aligned with the president, warning that the Bill would have truncated democracy and led to lots of litigation if signed into law. This is believed to be the position of most Governors.

City People has discovered a lot about the politics FOR, and AGAINST Direct primaries. We can authoritatively reveal that Direct Primaries will favour Lawmakers and new politicians who are very popular, while Indirect Primaries will favour mainly Governors. City People gathered that Buhari was not really opposed the idea, but was put under pressure by Governors.

For those who still don't catch the drift, let's quickly explain that Direct primaries mean the situation where All registered members of a political party will vote. It means an Open system where all registered members of the party will come out to vote for their choice candidate. It is unpredictable and relatively difficult to manipulate because you cannot predict the choice of hundreds of thousands of party members.

In the case of Indirect Primaries, it will involve Delegates, most of whom were selected or manipulated to win as delegates. Some are party leaders, excos and sometimes political appointees of a Governor.

What it means is that if a Governor does not like a particular candidate or does not want any lawmaker to return, he can easily instruct the delegates to vote the person out during the primaries. As it is, many of the lawmakers want to return and feel their fate and political fortunes rest with the Governors who control the political party in their states. So they made the law for Direct Primaries so that they can return on their own merits.

Many political watchers also don't know that the electronic transfer of results is one of the clauses, some politicians are opposed to, especially those in the North.

The current Electoral bill was passed and adopted 11 years ago and has produced 3 Presidents and many governors across the state.

The debate around the electoral bill is not a new development. It has been a key drive point that has been clamoured for at every successive government since the advent of the 4th republic. One key thing to note however is that, at most times, it is usually the Opposition party that usually calls for e review of the electoral bill. Chief Bode George recently appealed to President Buhari that once he allows the bill to fly, all his “many sins” will be forgiven.

The Bill has 21 clauses that contain amendments of the Electoral Act, but the stipulation of direct primary for the nomination of candidates by political parties is one of the most debatable clauses of them all.

Not originally part of the amendment, a motion for direct primaries was moved by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill after the public hearing in July.

Femi Gbajabiamila noted that it would bring more accountability and adequate representation as political office holders would not be restricted to pleasing a group of people selected as delegates, but work for the interest of the generality of party members, and by extension, the electorate.

There was so much apprehension in APC back in 2017 when the party launched its effort on restructuring with a nationwide direct assessment and collation of the wishes of the people. Most Nigerians were in favour of and advocated for restructuring and True Federalism based on thirteen parameters – resource control, LGA autonomy, decentralization of security system and the Judiciary up to the appellate level, fiscal federalism and revenue allocation, devolution of powers, independent candidacy, etc. Based on the findings and the report of the party’s committee on True Federalism, Nigerians became very excited that Nigeria may just be taking a bold step to get it right for once. There was optimism in the air.

four years down the line, it became evident that the APC, may not be as enthusiastic about its commitment to True Federalism. While the lawmakers are looking at the possibility of making history by entrenching direct primaries in their time, the governors are stiffly against the idea and are on Buhari’s neck to reject the bill.

Looking inwards on the context of direct and indirect primaries from of elections, it is not farfetched why some politicians feel more comfortable with indirect forms of primary than the direct, people-based elections at the grassroots level.

While direct primaries involve the participation of all party members in the selection of party candidates, the indirect primaries involve the use of Delegates who are usually leaders and members of the executives at the Ward, Local government and State levels, to elect the party’s candidates at a congress or convention.

Recall that direct primaries were adopted in some states in the southwest while Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was the chairman of the party in 2019. The primary election could not save the former Lagos Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode because the whole party structure was against him at the time, and unlike other states, Lagos State doesn’t belong to the governor.

Suffice to say that the governors of states prefer an indirect party system so it will be easy to cajole delegates who would only be a few key party stakeholders and lawmakers at the state level; and for national primaries, it will comprise of lawmakers and key party members at all levels.

With direct primaries, it will be difficult for a governor or any political holder to mobilize the entire party members who may be running into hundreds of thousands in numbers. Simply put, direct voting makes vote buying almost impossible during primaries.

In the Nigerian context, political office holders, especially governors, once they win elections, begin to exhibit dictatorial tendency, and forget that their emergence has been a function of a democratic election. They lose regard for democratic norms and practice and subsequently develop a feudal mindset. Once they lay hold of the key party executives who are delegates, they just buy them to achieve their desire. On the other hand, a direct mode of primaries ensures the governors are held accountable to the electorate once they recognize they will have to come back for mandate renewal.

The direct primaries system seems to be preferred because every member of a political party has a say in picking the candidate that will bear the party flag at any election. Some people see this method as more “democratic” as against the indirect primary method.

The direct primaries method is also seen as Transparent because it gives some form of credibility to the process and does not supposedly allow the governor of any state or a “strong politician” to hijack the process.

Whether the bill is reviewed to remove the direct primaries or not, it is certain that the outcome will determine the breed of leaders that will succeed this administration come 2023.


- Joseph Seun Emmanuel


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