Udora Orizu writes that following the defeat of most lawmakers in the 9th National Assembly at the just concluded party primaries, the House of Representatives is set to override President Buhari’s veto on party’s statutory delegates
The House of Representatives at the plenary last week resolved to file a motion for overriding President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to assent to Clause 84(8) of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which provides for Statutory Delegates.This move, came on the heels of mass failure of majority of lawmakers currently serving in the Senate and House of Representatives to secure their return tickets at the political parties primaries held last month.
Following unsuccessful attempts to amend the Electoral Act in previous assemblies, lawmakers in the 9th National Assembly successfully amended the act, though they also had an initial setback over the decision to make the direct mode of primary compulsory for political parties in 2021.
President Muhammadu Buhari, however, withheld his assent, citing the cost of conducting direct primary elections, security challenges, others issues and therefore insisted on direct, indirect and consensus as modes for selection of candidates for elective positions by political parties.
The House thereafter re-amended the law to include the direct the options while the Senate included direct, indirect, and consensus modes. President Buhari signed eventually signed the Bill into law on February 25, amid outcry over his delayed assent to the legislation.
While political parties were close to conducting primaries to elect candidates for the 2023 general elections, the lawmakers realized that the Act did not provide for members elected into public offices and executives of the parties, known as statutory delegates, to participate and vote in the conventions, congresses or meetings of parties.
This means that without the provision by the law, President Buhari; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, members of the National Assembly, governors and their deputies, members of the State Houses of Assembly, chairmen of local government areas, councillors, executives of political parties, amongst others, would have been disenfranchised.
Convening for a special session on May, 10 and 11, both chambers re-amended the law to recognize statutory delegates at primaries, congresses, and conventions of political parties.
However, after National Assembly, on May 13, transmitted the bill to the President for assent, Buhari had yet to sign the amendment bill into law. With the President’s refusal to assent to the Bill, the party primaries were held by May end with statutory delegates not allowed to vote.
As the primary elections took place nationwide, many lawmakers in both chambers of the National Assembly totalling over 200 in number lost the opportunity to return and vice versa. However, while some of didn’t seek reelection or withdrew from the race, there are also those who won’t be returning because they won their tickets to pursue their governorship ambition in their respective states.
In the upper chamber, three members which includes Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Deputy Whip Ajayi Boroffice and Senator Ibikunle Amosun won’t be returning as they chose to contest for presidency, they however lost the ticket to former Lagos Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Those that won governorship tickets include: Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central); Uba Sani (APC, Kaduna State); Teslim Folarin (APC, Oyo Central) and Senator Sandy Onor (PDP, Cross River State); Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (APC – Adamawa Central) and Emmanuel Bwacha (APC, Taraba South).
Those who withdrew from the governorship race in their states are: Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia State); George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East); Gershom Bassey (PDP, Cross River South); Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North); Yusuf Yusuf (APC, Taraba Central); James Manager (PDP, Delta South); and Senator Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu West).
Abaribe withdrew from the race, resigned as the Senate minority leader and subsequently dumped the PDP for the All Progressive Grand Alliance to contest again for Senate.
Those that are not seeking re-election include: Senators Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central), Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), Emmanuel Orker-Jev (PDP, Benue North West), Oseni Yakubu (APC, Kogi Central) and Theodore Orji (PDP, Abia Central), among others.
For the lower chamber, three out of the 10 principal officers will not be part of the 10th assembly when it’s inaugurated next year. They include Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno), Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) and Deputy Minority Whip, Hon. Adekoya Abdul-Mojeed (PDP, Ogun).
Monguno decided to leave the House and contest for Senate, following the emergence of Senator Abubakar Kyari as the Deputy National Chairman of the APC. He won unopposed for one of the three senatorial seats in Borno state.
Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu’s defeat is one of the most shocking outcomes of the PDP primaries. Okechukwu who represents Aninri/Agwu/Oji River Federal Constituency in Enugu State lost the party’s ticket to Anayo Onwuegbu, with Okechukwu condemning and rejecting the process.
As expected from every pre-election cycle, disputes, grievances, blames and so on always arise.
Lawan Urges Political Commitment, Gbajabiamila Faults Delegate SystemResuming plenary on June 14 after the conclusion of primary elections, the principal officers of the National Assembly, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila aired their views on the outcome.
President of the Senate in his remarks called on lawmakers to stay committed to the political system of their respective parties not minding the outcome of the just concluded primaries.
According to him, the electoral process in the just concluded primaries have thrown up issues that must be critically looked at by the National Assembly.
He said: “Some of us participated in the congresses for their Senatorial Districts, some of our colleagues went for Governorship of their states, and four of us went for the Presidency of our great country. We have recorded different results from those activities, but as politicians, it is never over until it is over. We should continue to support the political system that we believe in. Those of our colleagues who have recorded successes, we wish them more successes in the general elections. Those of who have not succeeded as much, we are hopeful that between now and then, the situation may be better.”
On his part, House Speaker faulted the way political parties conducted primaries leading to the failure of some members of the National Assembly to get tickets of their respective parties to seek re-election in the 2023 general elections.
Gbajabiamila specifically frowned at the failure of the parties to allow statutory delegates to vote for candidates at the primaries, as the National Assembly proposed in the amendment to Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022, which the President Muhammadu Buhari has yet to assent to.
He opined that his colleagues who lost out at the primaries did not lose because they were rejected by their constituents, but because of the process (delegate system) which members of the House of Representatives foresaw.
This delegate system, he lamented, made many lawmakers to lose out because they were not given a fair shot, as the process is not what it’s supposed to be.
He however enjoined his colleagues to set aside their feelings about recent electoral experiences and focus on serving the mandate they still have.
Gbajabiamila said, “The past two months have been dominated by political pursuits across the country as political parties carry out various activities to nominate their candidates for the forthcoming general elections. All of us, members of the House of Representatives, have not been exempt from this process. Unfortunately, as is always the case in electoral contests, some of us who sought the nomination of our parties to return to legislature have not gotten it. Others who sought nomination to contest other positions have also fallen short in that quest. It is rather unfortunate that the process went the way it went. I make bold to say here that the legislature has once again suffered losses.
“I am aware that many of our members who are probably not coming back because of this same process. The loss really is not for members who lost, it is a loss to democracy, to the institution and to the country. When we fought for direct primaries in this house, we knew exactly what we were saying. It pains me very deeply, that the process has gone the way it has gone. I have experienced political loss. And I can speak to the feelings of loss and disappointment that arise as a result. From that experience, I wish to share with you the everlasting truth that none of us is defined by the outcome of any election at any one time. It is necessary to note that the process by which the Electoral Act became law has highlighted valuable lessons we will do well to take cognisance of. These lessons should inform and motivate us to improve the National Assembly’s law-making process.”
House to Override Buhari’s Veto on Statutory DelegatesAt the plenary, the next day members of the House of Representatives resolved to file a motion for overriding President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to assent to the Clause 84 (8) of the Electoral Act (Amendment) bill, 2022, which provides for Statutory Delegates.
It is now over 30 days after the National Assembly passed and transmitted the proposed legislation to the Presidency, the window within which the parliament can veto the bill should the President fail to assent to it.
Two members of the Peoples Democratic Party namely the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon Toby Okechukwu and Hon Ben Igbakpa who failed to get tickets for re-election, had protested on the floor of the House last Wednesday.
Igbakpa representing Ethiope federal constituency of Delta State raised a constitutional point of order, citing section 58 (8) of the 1999 constitution which empowered the National Assembly to enact laws and also override the President with two third majority of the members’ vote.
He urged his colleagues to rise up and take the pen, collect signatures and override Mr. President and give Nigerians the enabling electoral law.His words: “On the 11th of May with your colleagues you brought all of back from our various constituency so that we can work on the electoral act as amended, graciously that was done on the 11th of May it was done. And by 12th this amendment was transmitted to Mr. President. Mr. President did not just ignore, he traveled out of the country on a condolence visit to Dubai and that created a lot of problem for the country. There were tension and many of our political parties out of the tension created that will now be for us in the 2023-2027 electoral process. Nigerians are crying for good leadership and the leadership recruitment process starts with our primaries.
“We are to make laws and present to Mr President, and where he does not sign, that same section 58 gives us the powers to make sure that we pass that law without Mr. President’s assent. There’s no where that is said that one arm of Government is subservient to the other. I think we are beginning with the good work you are doing Mr. Speaker. I just said you are a very good man, a wonderful man with your leadership but by the time you leave this seat by June next year Mr. Speaker Nigerians will not remember the good thing that you have done for me as a person, for the one you have done for our colleagues, they will remember you for the laws that you passed that has bettered the lot of Nigerians. And that is why we cannot continue to act as if we are under the executive arm of Government. This Constitution gave us the powers just as it gave to them. We must wake up as a Parliamentary where we passed our law and we are sure we have done the right thing we should start overriding Mr. President because this is just the beginning.”
On his part, Okechukwu had alluded that the electoral act has been weaponized, calling for activation of relevant Constitutional powers to address the lacuna.
He said: “I want to take notice regarding the very copious and auspicious comments you made yesterday regarding the Electoral Act where in circumstances, it has been weaponised; where as a matter of fact, there was an aspiration to make the law a more perfect law to remove every ambiguity; and where there isn’t any material difference between the 2010 Act and that of 2022. And suddenly, majority of members, where it has been weaponised, have become victims. Something is wrong in an environment, in an institution where the two leaders of the Senate would have to cross to other parties because of inherent inclement condition.
“Anything that occasions it, anything that warrants it, if it is our Electoral Act, if is our politics, if it is the environment where we are operate, we need to retool. And like you said, we got to do a better work and we have to fight on. For me, it is just a battle that is lost, the war is on and we should go ahead to make sure that that law is retooled, made clear. And if it requires this parliament to take action to override what has not been signed, we should be willing to do so.”
In his ruling, the Speaker Gbajabiamila who affirmed that Mr. President was in breach of the 30 days provided to communicate his decision to withhold assent, urged Igbakpa to formally present a motion in that regard.
“Thank you for your point of order basically some of what you said is that there is a need in your own opinion for the house to override the withholding of accent to the electoral amendment. Clearly the Constitution says it is 30 days leeway and we have gone beyond the 30 days. But the Constitution also says that it is not automatic that you override, but if you are convinced as a House that that amendment must stand.
“If you are not convinced with the argument advanced by the President or in some cases and in this case, there is no arguments advanced, then you can override. But for us to override I believe the required two-thirds and it cannot be by voice votes neither can it be by way of signatures unless of course you gave enough signatures by two-thirds. So what I will suggest is that you bring the application, the formal motion notice perhaps tomorrow whenever you are able to do that and we will determine whether or not this House is ready to override or not, I think that’s the proper procedure,” The Speaker said.
As lawmakers resume plenary this week, the motion to override the President’s refusal to assent to the amended electoral act bill is expected to be presented at House plenary by Hon Igbakpa with some honourable members as co-sponsors.