President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, said governors, who were uncomfortable with the choice of direct primaries as the mode of electing candidates by political parties, should have dialogued with the National Assembly and other stakeholders as against their combative approach, which failed to yield result.
Lawan, who said the National Assembly expected nothing less from President Muhammadu Buhari aside signing the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law, however, said the matter was now out of the control of the legislature the moment it was transmitted to the president for assent.
Speaking with newsmen yesterday after meeting with Buhari at the State House, Abuja, the Senate President said, the National Assembly had done its job by transmitting the recently passed electoral amendment bill 2021 to Buhari and that the expectation was for him to sign it into law.
He was of the view that President Buhari should not be stampeded into signing the bill until he was properly advised by the relevant Ministers and aides.
Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, had last Thursday said the president was in support of direct primaries after they met at the Presidential Villa.
Many of the governors, across the two main political parties, were against direct primaries and have urged the president not to sign the bill it into law, because of the clause that mandated political parties to conduct direct primaries in selecting candidates.
Commenting on how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) could ensure stability, when governors as critical stakeholders were not happy with direct parities as contained in the bill, Lawan said: “Well, you see, sometimes this kind of disagreements happen. And when they do, I think the best way forward is for people to engage.
“I always believe, and I’ve conversed for this, that National Assembly members are major stakeholders, governors of APC are major stakeholders and in fact, the presidency is a major stakeholder, in fact, the biggest stakeholder, because it runs the administration, and our party must always try to bring everybody together.
“I don’t think there will be any day that you will have a political issue that everybody will say the same thing about it that agrees with you without any amendment. So, when we have any section of a party disagreeing with something, we should be engaging.
“That’s why we are politicians. We must have that kind of a platform, where we discuss the issues. Let’s understand each other, and then we make whatever it is that will make this disagreement minimised. Or maybe were possible, eliminated completely.
“So, I don’t think it is right to say that governors have disagreed. Maybe some governor’s might have said they don’t like it this way. But that’s normal. So, it’s for us to engage and engage and engage. And I believe that.”
Asked if the legislative arm was ready to let go of direct primaries if need be, the Senate President said: “This is not something that we should be talking now, because it has passed the legislature and it’s no more with the legislature.
“So, this is something that is now with Mr. President. If we are talking about the electoral amendment bill, the National Assembly has finished its work. And the bill has been transmitted to Mr. President. And I think at this moment, all eyes will be on what happens to the bill from the executive side rather than the legislature.
“Yes, of course, when we send a bill to Mr. President, we expect the bill to be signed. But there are two things that can happen. Mr. President could decide to of course, after consultation with his advisers, sign, or if he doesn’t want to sign he may have his reasons.
“But I believe that whatever we do in the National Assembly, especially, this Ninth National Assembly, we think deep, we think wide, we will consult very broadly before we take any position. So, I believe that whatever we send to the executive arm of government, Mr. President for his assent, these are things that are well thought out.
“And I believe that the expectation of members of National Assembly will be that this bill is signed. But this is then again, not my own calling, it is for Mr. President to take his decision.”
On what the President’s response was, Lawan said: “No, I’m not supposed to tell you what the President said, because Mr. President has his spokespeople. So, I am neither Femi Adesina nor Garba Shehu. And my opinion is National Assembly has done its work. And members of National Assembly have expressed themselves. This is the majority view and is for Mr. president to look at it and of course, expectation of National Assembly is to get the Presidential assent.”
Speaking on how long he thought it might take the President to assent to the bill, he said, “I don’t know why this appears to be the only issue. You see, there is no need for you to lobby for any bill to be signed if you are the chairman of the National Assembly, because you are simply a presiding officer, and you coordinate the views of your colleagues.
“The majority of my colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives say this is where they want the bill to go. This is the provision they want in Section 52, 3 rather. So, I don’t have to come and say Mr. President, sign this. Mr. President has his own processes when a bill is sent to him from the National Assembly.
“I’m sure he has the Attorney General and others to advise him. So, why should I stress myself to say, just sign? We expect that he will sign, but how he does that is his calling. And I think we should allow him to just follow the processes he is used to, but the expectation of members of National Assembly is that the bill is signed.”
Lawan, however, said his meeting with the President was to consult on the current situation in both the National Assembly and the ruling party, APC.
According to him, “We are considering the 2022 budget and we hope that by the middle of December, or before Christmas, we should be able to consider and pass the budget by the grace of God. Work has reached a very commendable level, as we expected on that. Also, you know that we have impending issues in our party. We have our congresses still to be conducted in few states about two or three. And of course, going forward, how we are able to reconcile the different shades of opinions that are causing disagreements in the party.
“You will recall that the party, with the endorsement of Mr. President, had constituted a national conciliation committee under the chairmanship of Distinguished Senator Abdullahi Adamu. And we are very optimistic that, the committee with all other leaders in the party, we’ll be able to reconcile our people in different parts of the country, who might have disagreed.
“You also know that we have legislation that are awaiting the consideration of Mr. President, and for us in the legislature, we’ve finished our job of passing the bills, particularly, the Electoral Act, Amendment Bill, is now for Mr. President, to engage with his assistants and those who normally advise him, for him to take the next most appropriate action.
“We are also very desirous of ensuring that the the APC is so stable before the Congress, the convention, ultimately, because we want our convention to be hitch-free. We want every member of this party, who comes to attend the convention to do so with a clear mind that whoever becomes the Chairman, for example, whatever leadership emerges, is a leadership that has the respect of everyone in the party, because we want Mr. President to continue to work with a solid and strong party, APC.
“We want this administration, and President Muhammadu Buhari to continue to do the very good work it is doing across the country and consolidate at the end of his tenure. Before then, we are very hopeful that we are able to have projects, the legacy projects like the second Niger bridge, the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano highway, the Lagos-Ibadan, and, of course, these kind of projects, we want to ensure that we are able to get them commissioned by Mr. President. So, we discussed a lot of things, both in government in the party.
“And of course, the security situation in the country can never escape our discussions. And we believe that we have done far so well, in the North East; we have done far so well in the South-south, especially, the Niger Delta. And our challenge is in the North West, and we are determined to ensure that we give the government every possible support. Mr. President wants to ensure that before he leaves, that the Northwest, like the other parts of this country,would experience better stability than we’re enjoying today.”