•Resignation Before Election, Unworkable Consensus Clauses In Contention
•Lobby Begins Against Presidential Assent As Buhari Gets Bill Today

A row has broken out over the reworked Electoral Bill, it was learnt yesterday.

The Bill is due to be delivered to President Muhammadu Buhari today for his assent.

But, governors, especially those of the All Progressives Congress (APC), are leading the opposition to the reworked Bill.

It was gathered that they will mount pressure on the President to withhold his assent until two clauses are amended or dropped.

The clauses in contention are resignation by appointed political office holders, including ministers, commissioners and others before 2023 election primaries; and the ‘unworkable’ consensus option in picking candidates by political parties.

It is rampant for appointed political office holders to remain in office while contesting in their party’s primaries.

The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has also been uncomfortable with the re-amended bill.

Our correspondent learnt that the governors and some ministers were not happy with what they termed as “alleged two dangerous clauses in the re-amended bill on Electoral Act.”

The clauses include the provision for consensus and another which makes it mandatory for all political office holders to resign if they want to contest for any elective post in 2023.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said it might be a battle of the fittest by the governors and the National Assembly this week.

The source said the two groups have resolved to take the battle to the President, who will ultimately decide.

The source said: “The National Assembly has inserted two new clauses on consensus and resignation by all political office holders before contesting for 2023 poll.

“While the senators and members of the House of Representatives agreed on consensus, they recommended that before a consensus candidate can emerge, all contestants must sign a written agreement that they have consented to the adoption of such an aspirant.

“They inserted in the re-amended bill that if one of the contestants is dissenting, no one can become a consensus candidate. Instead, all the contestants will either go for direct or indirect primary election.

“The senators and the Representatives put the difficult clause on consensus to stop the governors from imposing any anointed aspirant. The governors can no longer work to the answer.

“It was a subtle way of paying back the governors for rejecting direct primary. The lawmakers were unhappy with the way the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), the APC Caretaker Committee and the governors swayed the President to change his mind on direct primary.

Read Also: Electoral Bill: Lawmakers okay consensus with tough conditions

“The lawmakers said for a long time, consensus has been in the party’s constitution but it has been observed in the breach. Now, they decided to make it a law.”

Asked why the lawmakers opted for a tough clause on consensus, the source added: “Due to imposition by governors, 70 per cent – 80 per cent of the lawmakers at the state and federal levels do not return to legislative chambers.

“They were more pained that those popular with the electorate were often denied tickets by governors. They are out to checkmate the governors at all cost.”

Another source hinted that a clause to make all political office holders resign before contesting in 2023 will hurt the governors, some party leaders and ministers aspiring to seek presidential, governorship and National Assembly tickets.

According to the resignation clause in the re-amended bill, all political office holders at the state and Federal Government level are expected to resign before the primary election for any elective office they are seeking.

“The Office of the AGF feels if this clause or caveat is allowed in the Electoral Act, it will be discriminatory.

“And you know it is being speculated that the AGF is nursing an ambition to be the next governor of Kebbi State. Perhaps, the AGF and other ministers are being targeted to leave the cabinet. The intra-politics in APC is affecting the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment bill into law.

The source added: “Governors, ministers, APC members holding various offices and party leaders believe that there was no precedent for such a law in Nigeria. They claimed that resignation is only applicable when an officeholder has secured the ticket at the primary election for any elective office.

“They see the lawmakers as inserting a backdoor method to compel ministers with aspirations to quit office.

“But senators and Representatives do not want those in office either as ministers, commissioners and board members to use state resources to pursue their ambitions.”

It was gathered that the President is now left to take a final decision on the Electoral Act.

Another source said: “The governors, ministers are ganging up to prevail on the President not to sign the new bill on amendments to the Electoral Act.

“The APC governors, who are in the majority, have secured an appointment to meet with the President during the week.”

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