The Chairman of Senate Committee on Air force, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, has accused the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, of introducing mandatory direct primary clause into the Electoral Act Amendment Bill “to favour someone”.
Na’Allah, representing Kebbi South Senatorial District, explained that the Speaker’s idea of direct primary was to favour someone, whom he failed to name.
President Muhammadu Buhari had withheld his assent on the controversial bill over inclusion of mandatory Direct primary among other reasons.
Former INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega and Members of the Civil Society had mounted pressure on the National Assembly to withdraw the controversial clause and transmit the bill back to Buhari for his assent.
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Apata, particularly said the bill “is too good” to be thrown away because of the Direct primary clause.
On Wednesday, the National Assembly bowed to the pressure, removed the clause that makes direct primary mandatory for the election of candidates in political parties from the electoral act amendment bill and equally passed it into law.
Speaking on Thursday when he featured on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme, Na’Allah pointed accusing fingers at Gbajabiamila over the controversial clause.
He also said that during the discussions at the committee level, the issue of direct primaries was never brought up.
“We are hearing that that law (direct primary) was intended for an individual. I don’t know. I honestly don’t know but I must say and maintain that the process was not painstaking enough,” the Senator said.
Na’Allah said “The issue of direct primary came at the dying minute on the floor of the House of Representatives when they were considering the report of the committee of electoral matters. What it means is that it was never discussed or adopted by the committee of the House but that it came as an amendment allegedly because I don’t have the records, by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
Na’Allah said the second argument by Gbajabiamila that the direct primary had become necessary in order to protect federal lawmakers from overbearing governors, showed that the proposed law was done for personal reasons.
“And I have seen the Speaker doing whatever was humanly possible to defend that position. But what would prove me right is that in one breath, I heard the Speaker saying that because of the rate of return at the National Assembly, there was the need to protect the members of the National Assembly from the influence of governors, therefore the resort to direct primaries.
“Now, the catch there is that personal interest was allowed in the process. That is the catch because he particularly said the turnover of members is very disturbing and that there is the need to protect members of the National Assembly from the governors.
“In the first place, that argument will fall flat because it means that decision was taken to promote personal interest against the oath of office that we have taken as members of the National Assembly.”
Speaking at the plenary on Thursday, Gbajabiamila gave a vague reaction to Na’Allah’s position.
He said, “Honourable colleagues, I am constrained to say at this point that I watched with dismay this morning, some members of this National Assembly exercising their freedom of expression and speech, and that is well within their right. But when you exercise such freedom, be careful not to mislead the public; be careful not to malign, unjustifiably, this institution.
“This leadership has allowed people to express their opinions at all times; I have no problem with that. But when you begin to call the institution which you are a part of names, unwittingly maligning even yourself, we need to draw a line especially when you are peddling untruths. And I just thought it was important that we mention this so (that) in future we will be guided both by the freedom of expression and by the truth.
“It was a show of disgrace as far as I’m concerned – I don’t care what anybody says – the things that were uttered by members of this National Assembly. A show of disgrace! (I am) extremely disappointed.”