Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said that President Muhammadu Buhari is in support of the direct primary for political parties to produce candidates for elections.
The Speaker stated this in an interview with State House correspondents after meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
This paper reports there had been a sharp disagreement between members of the National Assembly and Governors over the mode of primaries for different political parties.
While the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill approved direct primaries for political parties, the Governors are insisting on indirect primaries.
But the Speaker said that Buhari has been a product of direct primaries because of his popularity, adding that direct primaries open up the political space for the youths to participate.
He noted that the indirect primary, which has been the practice in the selection of candidates for political parties for elections, has not helped the growth of democracy in the country.
He gave the assurance that the President would soon sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law as he is back from official engagements.
On whether Buhari is in support of direct primaries, he said: “Mr President has always been. We all know that. The whole world knows that. He has always been from his inception in politics because he is a very popular man.”
Gbajabiamila, while speaking on his discussion with the President, said: “Several issues, which one are you interested in? I will tell you whether it was part of it or not. Yes, the issue of national development and the synergy with the National Assembly. This tripartite committee, if I tell you we didn’t discuss the Electoral Act amendment, which is what I am sure you are asking about, if I tell you we didn’t discuss that, I will be lying to you. We had a very robust discussion and our position is known to the President.
When asked to state the official position of the National Assembly, Gbajabiamila said “are you not aware that the National Assembly has passed the issue of direct primaries and electronic transmission of election results? That is the position of National Assembly. It has passed through both houses.
“We have passed the law. The official position of House of Representatives and the Senate, we are for direct primaries. We are for empowering the people at the grassroots level. Let everybody participate in governance. Democracy is defined as government of the people, for the people and by the people. People is used three times in that definition. And it doesn’t start from general elections. It starts from primaries. So, we have made it very clear abundantly.”
While reacting to the view expressed by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State that it would be too expensive for political parties and INEC to handle direct primaries, he said: “Here is what I have to say. I have heard that argument about cost. And this is what I have to say. Do you put a price tag to democracy? I don’t think you should.
“What is too much and what is too little to buy freedom and democracy? I don’t think you should put a price tag to it. So, how much will be okay for him? He should tell us how much will be okay for him.”
On the concern that the National Assembly was fighting because they had been edged out, he said: “Let me tell you something very clearly, and I have said it over and over again, the indirect primary is easier for me, at least, 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 rather go with direct primaries. Let everybody go and vote. If they vote me out, they vote me out. It is as simple as that.”
On whether the Electoral Act Amendment Bill had been transmitted to the President and when it would be done, the speaker said: “It’s on the way. You can be sure of that.”
Asked to speak on the takeaways from his discussions with the President, Gbajabiamila said: “Very good, hopefully, we get the bill transmitted now that he is back very soon. We are hopeful it will become law and Nigerians will be better for it.”