Presidential ticket: Consensus plot unsettling APC, PDP
• Presidency Seeking Legal Opinion To Sign Section 84(8), Says Borofice
• Consensus Undemocratic — Tinubu Group • APC Stakeholders Say No To Imposition
• Adopting Consensus Recipe For Tragedy — Senator Kadiri
• Electoral Act, Not Constitution, Qualifies Delegate, Says Amadi
As Nigerians await President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to the amended Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022, the plan by the two major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to adopt the consensus option during their primary elections has left the parties confused and indecisive on a number of actions.
This is as a sizeable number of the party hierarchies and stakeholders have maintained that the consensus option is unworkable and undemocratic.
Checks by The Guardian revealed that the decision to adopt consensus followed the discovery that the use of statutory delegates was unknown to the Electoral Act and the constitutions of the political parties.
Interestingly, given the development, some fringe political parties like the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) are said to be waiting in the wings to capitalise on the likely implosion of the major parties over the contentious issue of consensus.
In separate interactions with The Guardian, stakeholders, including the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, Prof. Ajayi Borofice, a member of the fourth Senate, Senator Alex Kadiri and Director of Abuja School of Social and Political Thought, Prof. Sam Amadi, said the move would engender confusion in the electoral system.
It would be recalled that the Senate, last Tuesday, passed a bill that stipulated the use of statutory delegates during conventions and primary elections by political parties.
As the bill awaits Presidential assent, Deputy President of Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, who sponsored the bill, had explained that Section 84(8), which precluded statutory delegates from voting in party conventions was an unintended error or omission.
Corroborating Senator Omo-Agege’s position, the Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Borofice, stated: “This part of the Electoral Law (Section 84(8)) was in the previous one, and somehow it was omitted. So, what was done was to just provide this additional information.
“As to whether the President will sign or not, I don’t know, but I am sure the President will receive legal advice and legal opinion on this issue and whatever he says, we have to abide by it.”
The Deputy Majority Leader noted that although this is the first time that in the middle of primaries, the Electoral Act is being tinkered with, many issues will be taken into consideration by Mr. President before signing or withholding assent.
“It may be expedient, but it will not be acceptable. So, let’s leave Mr. President to exercise his rights. I don’t think democracy will collapse if it is not assented to. Again, it is not good to disenfranchise some people,” he stated.
Borofice, who is also a Presidential hopeful on the platform of APC, said he is open to consensus if it was going to be in the interest of his party.
His words: “Don’t forget that as a member of this Senate, we recommended direct primary, but the President sent it back that we should also consider indirect. And when we sent it back, we said direct, indirect and consensus.
“So, as a member of the Senate, I think whatever the party decides, it is acceptable to me because as a member of the senate I participated in the debate, I participated in passing the bill, so, I cannot tell you that I do not believe in consensus.”
Borofice, however, noted that the Electoral Law is superior to the party’s constitution, stressing, “it is the leadership of the party that will decide and it is based on the number of considerations that the leadership will arrive at the decision to say okay we are going to do this process (consensus).”
However, Amadi, who is a former chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), contended that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ought to provide a guideline that would govern parties’ primary polls.
While noting that the delays could diminish the quality of the electoral process, Amadi stated: “The Electoral Act is superior to the party constitution, and by the way, there is no conflict between the Electoral Act and the constitution.
The constitution of the country does not give anybody the right to be a delegate, it is the Electoral Act and the party constitution that should do so. So, if the Electoral Act says there are no statutory delegates, you don’t refer to your constitution.”
On the plans by APC and PDP to adopt consensus to avoid the hurdles erected by the Electoral Act, Amadi said anything in politics is okay as long as it is legal, remarking that consensus is allowed by the Electoral Act once they (parties) follow the rules.
His words: “What they call consensus in the Electoral Act is not really consensus, it is a form of indirect primary. Basically, people can withdraw, that is what it is. Some people decide to withdraw and sign that they withdrew, that is consensus. So, it is basically the same thing.
“So, if there are 20 people running on that day and 19 withdraw in writing voluntarily, then the remaining person is the candidate and once it is done in writing, then it is binding.”
But rejecting any attempt to adopt consensus, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu support group said it was undemocratic to impose consensus on aspirants, stressing that the party should be prepared to do things the right way.
According to the convener of the group, Alhaji Mohammed Doka, who briefed journalists in Abuja, “Tinubu is ready for the indirect primary election and that is the position of majority members of APC.
“We are against consensus. A good number of persons within the party, including major stakeholders, are of the view that we should have an indirect primary. Even the state governors under the aegis of Progressives Governors Forum said there should not be any consensus in the Presidential primary.”
Also, APC stakeholders under the auspices of the All Progressive Congress (APC) rebirth group, warned against the use of the consensus approach to impose a Presidential candidate on the party.
Convener of the group, Comrade Aliyu Audu, who spoke to The Guardian yesterday, said despite the high number of Presidential aspirants in the party, attempts should not be made to impose any candidate in the guise of consensus arrangement ahead of the party primaries next Sunday.
He expressed the view that “if we allow the conduct of the primaries to be free, then there shouldn’t be a problem, because whoever loses will know he lost fair and square.
“The caveat here is that the primaries must be free, fair, credible and transparent. And if APC cannot give free and fair primaries, then they are simply telling Nigerians that they cannot be trusted as a government to ensure free, fair general election.
“If the Presidency decides who should succeed Buhari, then what is democracy? It becomes an appointment. So, the very fact that the villa is divided is a pleasure to me. I do not even think that it is right for the villa at this stage to tell us who our next President should be.”
In his contribution, a former APC national treasurer, Adamu Fanda, said it behoves the party to ensure the conduct of a free and fair primary election. He declared: “Let the delegates elect who will fly the party’s ticket and at the end of the day, I am sure all those who lost out in a free and fair contest will come and support the winner. But, if you do hanky-panky, it would be disastrous for the party.
“That is the only thing that would achieve victory for the party. There can’t be consensus because first, the definition of consensus says all the aspirants must agree and I don’t see all the aspirants agreeing. So, the issue is the party should not even look at the issue of consensus in the presidential primaries.”
Yet, sounding the alarm bell, Fourth Republic Senator, Kadiri, remarked that it would be tragic if any party decides to adopt consensus, alleging that the INEC deadline and logistic challenges might compound the situation.
Kadiri, who represented Kogi East from 1999 to 2003, warned political parties against adopting consensus, saying that using it as a model for picking candidates for the contest for the presidency will be tragic.
“It means that you are abbreviating the mandates of the delegates, which is not democracy. That creates room for imposition and we will be heading for anarchy sooner or later.
“We would be killing democracy in Nigeria by not allowing the people to participate in the election. What is consensus? What is direct or indirect? If you must do election, whether primary or general election, go to the people who have the votes, let them express their interest and the people they prefer,” he remarked.
While noting that all the parties are playing mind games, Kadiri recalled how APC shifted its convention earlier, only for PDP to shift its own after, stressing, “They keep pushing but as it is now all the parties must conclude their primaries by May 29 or else they would have no candidate.
“APC wants to see what PDP is doing, PDP wants to see what APC is doing. If you want to put somebody up as your candidate, why must you wait for the other parties to commit themselves before you do the right thing?”