ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT: IBB, ATIKU, SARAKI TACKLE JONATHAN
The battle for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been shifted to the National Assembly where key aspirants from the North launched moves to ensure the proposal from President Goodluck Jonathan seeking amendment of certain portions of the Electoral Acts other than the time extension required by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not sail through.
Following the inability to work within the available time-frame for the conduct of the 2011 elections, INEC had requested for time extension through the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Acts, on the basis of which the Executive forwarded a proposal for fresh amendment of the amended constitution and the Electoral Acts, to the two chambers of the National Assembly.
However, beyond the areas bordering on the timelines for INEC in the Act, the President sought amendments to section 87, sub section 12 (A,B) and sub section 13 of the Act which give the party caucus the power to determine the standard bearer of the party for elections and also give rights to appointed government officials to vote during congresses.
Daily Sun learnt that the camps of presidential aspirants, such as General Ibrahim Babangida, Abubakar Atiku as well as Governor Bukola Saraki swung into action to ensure the lawmakers did not amend the contentious sections and in the event of its' recommendation for amendment, it does not scale through passage into law.
The aspirants saw the request by President Jonathan for the amendment as self-serving as they argued that amending the section of the Act would only confer undue advantage during the presidential primaries on President Jonathan who is also an aspirant and would be competing at the congress where the standard bearer of the PDP would be decided.
Following the development, the presidential aspirants undertook serious lobby of the legislators with a view to persuading them, especially, members of the Constitution Review Committee not to amend the sections proposed for amendment by President Jonathan but leave the provisions for direct and indirect primaries as stipulated in the 2010 Electoral Act which was accented to earlier by the President.
Some of the lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives had met on how to tackle the issue before it was presented for consideration yesterday. Some of the lawmakers who spoke to Daily Sun on their opposition to the amendment said it would be 'undemocratic and uncharitable to ask every Tom, Dick and Harry appointed as assistant to decide who gets the party's ticket to contest elections to represent the people.'
In his reaction Senator Smart Adeyemi told Daily Sun that the proposed amendment other than that of time extension for INEC would not enjoy the lawmakers' support because it would not serve theinterest of democracy in the country.
According to him, beside the advantage such amendment would confer on the President, he argued that the situation would be worse at the state levels where governors in anticipation of the law had appointed hundreds of aides they hoped to use at congresses to get elected as candidates of their party for second term in office.
Said he: 'that of the President is even inconsequential, how many ministers and other aides will be able to vote at congress, but as for the governors' aides, the number is unimaginable. So if we are rejecting it, it is not because of the President. The discussion is on, but we are opposed to it.'
Similarly, the House Minority Leader, Ali Ndume said he would mobilize his colleagues to vote against such amendment because according to him, it would bring back the hand of the clock of reforms which the nation is trying to put in place. Speaking on an African Independent Television (AIT) Political discussion programme, Focus, Ndume argued that the amendment, ' if carried out, was not going to affect the PDP alone but all the parties and that if done, for the purpose of one individual for a reason, would happen when the reason no longer exists, are we going to have another amendment.
'We will not allow it, its undemocratic. For me I would have loved the direct primaries when members of the party choose who their candidate will be as opposed to the indirect but now they are proposing that its only a group of people that should do the selection, which is wrong, I won't be a party to that. Media Coordinator of Abubakar Bukola Saraki Presidential Campaign Organisation (ABS 2011), Mohammed Garbadeen confirmed that the group was working to ensure such obnoxious amendment did not find its way into the Electoral Act.
He said; 'we obviously cannot accept that. It's only time extension that we bought into. Nobody will just sit down for the President to have his way. We are calling for a level playing field for all, and the proposal from the President for the amendment will not guarantee that. We want level playing field for all aspirant to test their acceptability.
'If all rules are adhered to and every aspirant given same chance, I can bet you Governor Saraki will be a candidate to beat, he is youthful and represents the generational change Nigerians are yearning for', he stated.
Also some pro-democracy groups have indicated their readiness to join in the fray to have the proposal shot down at the National Assembly.
Alliance for Credible Election (ACE) and Lawyers of Conscience have at different for a called on the lawmakers not to oblige the President on the proposal because it would not help in deepening democracy.