PDP MOVES TO AMEND CONSTITUTION

By NBF News
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The proposed amendment of the PDP constitution to introduce the United States style of direct primaries for the selection of party candidates aims to eliminate bribery and other forms of corruption presently associated with the indirect primaries now used by the party.

Ngige, Nzeribe, Anenih differ on single term
The proposal to amend the PDP constitution is coming against increasing acrimony over the proposal for a single term for executive office holders currently being promoted by the presidency. Yesterday, Senator Chris Ngige (ACN, Anambra Central), former Senator Arthur Nzeribe and former Minister of Women Affairs, Iyom Josephine Anenih expressed differing positions on the issue.

Ngige became the first ACN Senator to break ranks with the party's opposition to the proposal with his promise of a conditional support, if according to him, President Jonathan finds courage to affix rotation of the presidency among the zones in his proposed bill.

From left: Senate President, Senator David Mark; Peoples Democratic Party, PDP's Acting National Chairman, Mallam Bello Haliru; Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Waziri Tambuwal; and Deputy Speaker, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Photo: Abayomi Adeshida

Former Minister of Women Affairs, Iyom Josephine Anenih on her part, canvassed for a rigorous debate on the proposal, stating that it was the only option to move forward without the threat of violence or even national disintegration hanging over the nation.

The proposal to amend the 2009 PDP constitution aims to curb the corruption associated with the selection of delegates who ultimately select the party's candidates for elective positions.

The proposal is remarkably in conformity with Section 87 of the 2011 Electoral Act which gives the option of direct and indirect primaries to the political parties.

Under the envisaged scheme of direct primaries, all party members would be entitled to vote directly for candidates for a position with primaries rotated across the constituency. In the case of the presidential election, primaries could be rotated across the states or the geopolitical zones with each party member coming out to vote for or against the candidates.

The system would be a radical departure from the present system where delegates are selected to represent party members at various levels. In the selection of gubernatorial candidates, primaries could also then be rotated across senatorial or federal constituencies.

Vanguard could not confirm the direct involvement of the presidency in the proposed amendments to the constitution but there were insinuations yesterday that it was part of President Goodluck Jonathan's broader vision of curbing electoral tension in the polity. In line with that objective, President Jonathan recently confirmed his intention to forward a bill to limit the tenure of the President and Governors to a single term.

Exclusive Memo on planned amendment
A memo from the National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke to the National Executive Committee, NEC of the party obtained by Vanguard proposing the amendments read in part:

'Given the prohibitive cost of producing and sustaining delegates, the alarming corruptive influences on delegates, the exclusion of the generality of party members from having a say on who becomes their candidate for a particular election, time has come for NEC to reconsider its position on the desirability of indirect primary election as a mode for the emergence of the party's candidates for general election.'

According to the memo, the move to review the constitution became imperative because of 'a desirable response to the general wind of transformation blowing across the nation, as well as to align and reconcile the provisions of the party's Constitution with those of the 2010 Electoral Act and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, adding that it would also help to update the constitution generally and in particular fill the lacunae perceived during the implementation of the its provisions.'

The constitutional changes
The constitutional changes also aim to 'amend, redefine and strengthen identified provisions of the constitution for effective administration of the party at all levels and to reduce cost of elections and minimize corruption tendencies.'

The articles to be reviewed according to the memo would also fit in with an earlier approval by the NEC.

'The NEC had earlier approved the proposed amendment to Articles 12.44, 12.46, 12.48 and 16.4 of the Constitution. The amendments, when effected, would eliminate the inequities in the existing provisions which give disproportionate number of delegates to Senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly Congresses against the State Congress,' the memo read.

'Provisions of the Party's Constitution affected by the 2010 Electoral Act which prohibits political appointees from voting during primary elections include 12.17(h) (iii) (iv) (v) (vii) viii) (ix), 12.22 (c) (d) (f) and (i),' the memo also observed.

Responding to the development, a very senior member of the party privy to the memo said last night. 'We are weighing the option of using the direct as against the present system of indirect primaries where only the delegates and executive members are responsible for getting the party candidates for the elections.

We want to eliminate delegate and Executive system and at the end of the day, we want a situation where every member of the party is involved at the primary elections.'

The party had set up a 21- member Committee saddled with the responsibility of proposing amendments for the constitution of the party.

The Committee has Oke as the Chairman, with two members drawn from the Presidency, three from the National Assembly, two from the Nigerian Governors' Forum; two nominees of the National Vice Chairmen; two nominees of the State Chairmen, two representatives of the women; two representatives of Youth and three others to be nominated by National Secretariat(one of whom would serve as Secretary).

Meanwhile, former Senator Nzeribe joined the fray on a single term with a strong opposition to it, saying that the President's bid to eliminate money politics was not doable.

Speaking to newsmen in Abuja yesterday, Senator Nzeribe said he is in support of a four year renewable term. He said:

'I don't support the single term of six years, reason is that it is political and anything political is do able, money cannot be ruled out, it will be spent.'

He, however, said it was too early to say whether President Jonathan would or would not recontest for the presidency in 2015.

Mrs. Anenih on her part called for vigorous debate on the proposal saying there should be no controversy over the proposal which she said flowed from before the inception of the Jonathan presidency.

Single term not original to Jonathan-Anenih
'I know that the idea of single term is not original to President Goodluck Jonathan. The suggestion was mooted in the past but was overtaken by events. You don't always have to start from scratch, or re-invent the wheel in a bid to deliver sustainable development.

'For a President who is thinking TRANSFORMATION, I believe it is a natural thing for him to consider every possible means of turning things around for the better for us.

'The number- '4' -holds no special democratic significance; it was chosen by men and women, and can similarly be changed by men and women.

'I understand the reasons given by the President, but I am also not blind to the abuses the proposed system can introduce. What if a state is unlucky enough to 'elect' a despot or a thief? It will mean that they will be saddled with that bad leader for 6 years.

'The President has told Nigerians that he was thinking of how to reduce campaign and election expenses in terms of material and human resources expenditure.

'He was also concerned that elected officials spend the whole length of their tenure and public resources preparing for the next round of elections to actualise their second coming.'

The statement by the former Minister of Women Affairs added, 'Thank God for democracy. Democracy has its tenets which include consultations, dialogue and consensus building, and maybe most importantly the majority vote.

Senator Olugbenga Obadara (ACN, Ogun Central), however, promised to abide with the party's position saying:

'I have not seen the bill and so, I will not be able to give a comprehensive reaction to it. I will have to see the bill, study it, then I will be able to comment on it. Apart from that, I will have to wait for the direction of my party before I can either support or oppose the bill.'