ELECTORAL ACT: OKUTEPA BACKS NASS ON DIRECT PRIMARIES
Leading litigator and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, MR. JIBRIN OKUTEPA has chided commentators who lampoon the National Assembly for enacting direct primaries into our laws, arguing that the legislators have the sole mandate to prescribe the mode of primaries for political parties
The power to make laws for peace, order and good governance in Nigeria is vested in the National Assembly.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended says so. This is what the Constitution says in
section 4(1)-(3) thereof thus:
4. (1) The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
(2) The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.
(3) The power of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List shall, save as otherwise provided in this Constitution, be to the exclusion of the Houses of Assembly of States.
From the above constitutional provisions the power of the National Assembly to make laws on any matter included in the Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative Lists is to the exclusion of any other persons or authorities.
The national assembly does not share its Legislative powers with political parties or Nigerian politicians.
Not too long ago the National Assembly enacted the Electoral Act to make provisions for direct primary elections in political parties in Nigeria.
This provision has not gone done well with some political actors who feel that such provision should not be made in the Electoral Act. These political actors argued albeit selfishly that primary elections of political parties are political questions and that the National Assembly has no powers to make law on political questions.
They further argued that such provisions are anti-democratic and such not be allowed.
These arguments do not appeal to me and any reasonable observers of undemocratic impositions of candidates through indirect primaries of political parties as have seen in the past. We are all witnesses to such impositions in our political experiments since the inception of civilian rule in Nigeria.
Indeed the indirect primaries of political parties had produced more political despots and tyrannical leadership in political godfathers than democratic evolutions of candidates for our elections at all levels. Indirect parties primaries had made contests for political offices more expensive and out of reach for those with ideas of how to govern Nigeria and had produced more corrupt rulers. Those who spent fortunes to get nomination by indirect primaries spend public resources to pay their political godfathers from the treasuries of the States. The arguments that the National Assembly have no power to enact law on how parties primaries shall be conducted are not rooted in constitutional logic and patriotic thinking. The National Assembly has powers to so make the law for Political parties.
By the provisions of the constitution cited hereof the National Assembly has powers to make laws on all the items in the Exclusive Legislative List.
By the provisions of item 22 of the Exclusive Legislative List the National Assembly has power to make laws on how
election to the offices of President and Vice-President or Governor and Deputy Governor and any other office to which a person may be elected under this Constitution, excluding election to a local government council or any office in such council. Therefore the National Assembly has powers to determine the mode of or the processes of how a candidate should emerge for election under the Constitution.
Again by item 56 of the 2nd Schedule of the Exclusive Legislative List the National Assembly has powers to make law on formation and regulations of political parties.
There is nothing unconstitutional in the National Assembly enacting the Electoral Act to provide for direct primary elections for political parties.That is part of its constitutional mandate to regulate the conduct of political parties.
In any case even the constitution of Nigeria does not contemplate indirect primaries of political parties as been done by very undemocratic impositions in Nigeria.
This is what the Constitution says:
223. (1) The constitution and rules of a political party shall- (a) provide for the periodical election on a democratic basis of the principal officers and members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party.
I think that the National Assembly deserves commendations for the bold steps to democratise primaries of political parties in ensuring that members of the political parties and not few money bags have a say in those to fly the flags of their political parties.
Kudos to the National Assembly.
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