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EX- REPS SPEAKER, DEP BACK CONTROVERSIAL ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT

By NBF News
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Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na'aba, and his deputy, Austin Opara, have lent their support to the contentious bill to amend the 2010 Electoral Act, saying it will widen the democratic space. The amendment, sponsored by Mr Igo Aguma and Mr CID Maduabum, to make members of the National Assembly automatic members of the National Executive Committee of their respective political parties, had sparked off controversies.

Throwing his weight behind the bill, Na'aba, said the bill was timely because federal lawmakers were validly elected representatives of the people and deserved to be members of their parties' NEC. By so doing, he said representatives of the people would be part of decision-making process of their parties.

Also, taking a swipe at antagonists of the bill, Opara said it was myopic to support a situation where a few powerful individuals in the party would be determining the fate of other party men in a dictatorial manner. He argued that the clause that seeks to make federal lawmakers automatic party NEC members would not in any way lead to perpetuation of officeholders, noting that in the past, there had been instances where NEC members had lost re-nomination bid, assuring that the amendment was not self-serving but intended to widen the democratic space.

'Those who are opposing the amendment are not sincere; they are simply myopic. They have argued that the bill is self-serving, but it is not so. It is at the NEC that major decisions of the party are taken. It is not where tickets and party positions are shared. 'So, they are mixing up the issues. We have seen where NEC members had lost their re-election bid. It will not in any way perpetuate political office holders.'

Opara, who lost the contest for the gubernatorial ticket of his party, while condemning the dictatorial manner in which parties were run in Nigeria said what obtained in virtually all the parties was a situation where about 36 persons determine the fate of every other member of the party.

'What we have today is where 36 persons or so, 36 governors decide who becomes councillor, local government chairman, state legislators, members of the National Assembly and even the president. ' I believe that is not good for our party system and indeed our democracy. It is democracy by governors and for the governors. Now juxtapose this against a situation where about 400 persons sit at NEC of the party. So allowing National Assembly members to participate in NEC will broaden the decision-making process.'

Describing the Bill as one major input towards salvaging political parties which had been hijacked by some 'powerful persons', Opara expressed optimism that the amendment if eventually passed into law would ensure internal democracy in the party system in Nigeria.