From Fred Itua, Abuja
The relative peace in the National Assembly, specifically the Senate, may suffer severe strain if plans by the leadership of the National Assembly, headed by Ahmad Lawan, to foist direct method of conducting primary elections on political parties is brought to the floor.
There is also fears that the cold war between Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, may rear its ugly head at resumption following last week’s exchange of words between the two.
The House of Representatives had passed a version of Electoral Bill and approved direct primaries for political parties while the Senate passed both the direct and indirect methods. The Senate and House had a fortnight ago inaugurated a conference committee to harmonise the differences in the passed Electoral Bill.
Daily Sun, however, learnt that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has concluded plans to bring to the floor of the Senate direct primary for political parties as an amendment bill relying on its numerical strength.
A meeting of the conference committee of both chambers was to hold last Friday in Abuja but the Clerk of the Committee was reportedly asked to put off the meeting where they would have agreed on direct and indirect primaries.
A source told Daily Sun that the leadership of the APC-controlled Senate is disposed towards parties conducting their primaries directly.
“The meeting did not hold because both the Senate president and his deputy are said to be afraid that the Conference Committee may not be able to give them what they want which explains why the matter against parliamentary proceedings will be brought up in order to use the majority position of APC to achieve this. With this development, if it is achieved in the Senate, there will be no need for harmonisation to be carried out by the conference committee.
“How parties will conduct their primaries has been passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House passed a version and said they want Direct Primaries, the Senate passed that says it wants both Direct and Indirect which has always been what was there.
“Now, a conference committee on Electoral Act Amendments has been set up , they were supposed to meet in the hotel on Friday, but the Clerk wrote to inform that it has been put off, only for us to hear from grapevine that the Senate wants to bring back that which has been passed to the floor on Tuesday so that they can use their weight as they have always done, to pass only the direct method of primaries.
“What it means is that if they bring it to the floor, it will be passed and it means that if it passes through direct primaries, then there will be no need for harmonisation by the committee. The Senate president and his deputy wants to bring it to the floor because they are afraid that the Conference Committee will not be able to give them what they want which is direct primaries. Even the House Committee wants it to be followed by accepting the Senate version of direct and indirect primaries.
“Now the Senate president wants to impose direct primaries on Nigerians. The Senate had agreed on direct but the leadership of the Senate wants to turn around by bringing up at plenary on Tuesday a decision which had been reached and a Conference Committee set up.
“Now, you want to bring it back at plenary as Constitution amendment when everything has been settled. Right now, it is a personal interest. When APC did direct primary to get President Muhammadu Buhari as its candidate, it claimed that Buhari scored 52 million, but during the real election where both APC and non-APC voted for him, it was 13 million.”
Meanwhile, barring any last minute changes, Abaribe has concluded plans to challenge Omo-Agege during plenary. Last week, Omo-Agege, faulted comments by Abaribe in an interview he granted to a national television where he accused the APC of sabotaging plans to approve five per cent for host communities.
Omo-Agege had, through a point of order, explained that at no time did the APC senators conspire to reduce the five per cent equity share approved for host communities in the joint committee’s report to three per cent.
An aide confirmed that the inority Leader plans to react and further prove his point that APC senators led by Lawan and Omo-Agege, frustrated the five per cent funds for host communities.
Daily Sun could not verify when the issue would be raised on the floor