In a stout defence of President Muhammadu Buhari on his refusal to assent to the 2021 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, Ekiti Governor Kayode Fayemi says Buhari is comfortable with either direct or indirect party primary as provided for in the bill.
Fayemi, who also said he was comfortable with either mode of primary, commended what he called “President Buhari’s courage for standing on the side of the people.’’
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and former Minister of Solid Minerals under Buhari said: “As someone who had gone through both systems during my first and second primary elections to pick the party’s ticket just like President Buhari, I’m comfortable with either mode.
“By declining assent, President Buhari is standing on the side of the people …he is neither for nor against direct primaries but wants all options provided for. President Buhari’s courage must therefore be commended for standing on the side of the people.’’
Persecondnews.com had reported that the governors under the auspices of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had constituted themselves to a strident opposition to the clause that makes direct primaries mandatory for political parties.
In an interview with State House correspondents after meeting with the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday, Fayemi dismissed insinuations in some quarters that Buhari succumbed to governors’ pressure by withholding assent to the bill.
According to him, state governors do not fret about any mode of primaries whether direct or indirect.
On the mood of the governors as the President had danced to their tune, Fayemi said:“Okay, well, I don’t know what you mean by governor’s being happy. At least as the governor who has gone through a series of elections, my election to office during my first term was via a direct primary that took place in all the 177 wards in my state and my election for second term in office was via an indirect primary.
“So, I have tasted both and I can tell you that it really doesn’t matter to any governor whether you have primaries via direct mode or an indirect mode. What is governors’ interest and concern is that opportunities are given for an inclusive process. I think that is what Mr. President’s letter has brought out.
“Mr. President has not objected to direct primaries, neither has he endorsed indirect primaries. He has only said, be fair to all, let all options apply and what you decide should be determined by your own local and peculiar circumstances being mindful of questions of security, finances, and internal democracy.
“I think we all should commend the courage of Mr. President to stand with the people. And the President, you know, just like me, is not afraid of whatever mode you decide to use.
“When I chaired the primaries, the historic primaries that brought him in as a presidential candidate, I was the chair of that primaries in 2014, it was an indirect primaries.
“But in 2019, when he was coming back, he came back via a direct primary. So, Mr. President has also tasted both. And I don’t think he is somebody to be lectured about the pros and cons of either processes. What is important is to ensure that whatever process you choose in your particular circumstance, still provides a process that is as free a manner as possible.
“It’s not completely free process, but at least there is something that is called substantial compliance in electoral law. And if it meets substantial compliance, I think all of us should be happy with that. We shouldn’t really dwell too much on it.
“There has been this exaggerated expectation that direct primaries is going to provide all answers to whatever electoral challenges that we have faced and we all know that that is false.’’
On direct primary, the governor said it has its own challenges just as the indirect primary has its own challenges too.
Fayemi stressed: “A consensus approach is also not without challenges, but options should be provided. That is all I think Mr. President has said and whether governors are happy or not, it is really immaterial to governors whether it is direct or indirect.’’
On his mission to the State House, he told newsmen that he came to “brief’’ President Buhari on issues concerning the states and as well commend him for trying to stem insecurity in the country.
“Well, it is customary, I mean, as chairman of the Nigerian Governors to always exchange notes with Mr. President from time to time, especially in the yuletide season like this, I always find time to come and say hello to Mr. President. There will always be issues to discuss between the sub-nationals, and the President of the Federal Republic.
“On our part as governors, we have had cause during the year to raise issues about insecurity in our various domains. We have had cause to raise issues about economic challenges that the country is experiencing, we have had cause to raise other governance related issues.
“On the criticisms trailing the use of federal government’s intervention funds by states, we have used such funds to tackle critical challenges by the recipients. Governors are elected to attend to the affairs of their states, and protect their citizens in the best manner possible.
“You would recall that the bridge finance that we negotiated with the federal government was precisely that to bridge the gap that was created by the repayment of the previous facilities, around bailouts, around budget support, and on excess crude support, which Mr. President approved in 2017.
“The repayment of those loans had commenced because CBN wanted the money back. And because that would have left us with a very deep hole in virtually all the states, we then negotiated for these to address specific things in relation to workers welfare, in relation to infrastructure development, in relation to improving on the enabling environment for investments in our states, and these are the things that states are spending it on,’’Fayemi explained.