The Independent National Electoral Commission will need about 17,618 officials to supervise the primaries of the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, if political parties are restricted to direct primaries for the 2023 general elections.
While the National Assembly is on the verge of limiting parties to direct primaries in the ongoing amendments to the Electoral Act 2010, INEC has expressed fear over the logistical problems it would create for the commission.
According to INEC, big parties like the APC and the PDP with large membership will conduct the exercise at the ward level. The commission will also need about two officials to supervise the poll in each of the 8,809 wards in the country based on an assumption the primaries would be held on two separate days.
Presently, there are 18 registered parties in the books of INEC, indicating that the electoral umpire will need more personnel and resources to supervise the exercise for all parties.
While INEC has a proposed budget of N140bn for 2022, the Federal Government has proposed N100bn additional provision for the commission in the 2022 Appropriation Bill presently before the National Assembly to cater for the 2023 general elections.
INEC may be forced to seek additional funding to conduct parties’ primaries, with the new development.
The National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, Festus Okoye, expressed concerns over the burden that direct primary would place on the commission.
Okoye appeared on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television, where he raised issues against direct primaries.
He said, “Speaking authoritatively, it is going to be a serious matter. This is because if a political party, for instance, wants to conduct a direct primary and wants to do primaries only at the registration area level or what we call wards, the implication is that in a presidential election, they are going to be doing direct primary in 8,809 registration areas. And the implication is that the Independent National Electoral Commission has to deploy monitors to all those locations. And we may not just deploy one monitor; we may deploy two, so you have to times that by two.
“Now, if the political party decides to do presidential primaries separately, do gubernatorial primary separately and do national and state assemblies primary separately, the implication is that we are going to go back to these 8,809 registration areas three times.”
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, who also featured on the programme, and who stated that he was speaking for himself and not Senate’s spokesperson, said the Electoral Act should allow parties to determine any mode of primary.
“As far as I’m concerned, a political party is a voluntary organisation and should be free to determine who flies its ticket,” he stated.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on Sunday, Basiru stated that it should not be the business of the National Assembly to dictate any form of primary for political parties.
He, however, said the direct primaries remained the best to strengthen internal democracy if there must be a legislative provision on the issue.
The lawmaker said, “The issue of primary is the domestic affairs of political parties. However since Section 87 has introduced direct and indirect primaries, the best approach to achieve internal democracy is direct primary.
“Ordinarily, by my understanding of politics, it should not be the business of national legislators to decide any form of primary.
“Nevertheless, if there must be a legislative provision, then the direct primary best represents internal democracy.
“I am in support of direct primary but my position is that whether direct, indirect, consensus or imposition, it should not be in the law.
“If the law must provide for anything, it must be direct primary because it best represents internal democracy.”
Meanwhile, the PDP has said the alleged insistence of the ruling APC to foist direct primaries on all political parties is a part of a larger plot to cause confusion in the polity.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said this in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday.
Ologbondiyan said, “The APC is just out to create confusion in the polity. This explains why the party is using its majority in the National Assembly to reverse our democratic gains.
“It is even more shocking that the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila are pushing this agenda which is clearly aimed at pushing the nation into an electoral crisis using this amendment.
“The right thing to do is to allow political parties conduct their internal elections within their resources as it is currently the practice.
“Surely allowing parties to conduct their elections based on resources available to them will strengthen our democratic culture.”
When contacted, the National Secretary, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, who is also the party spokesperson, declined comments. ,,