Opinion: DIRECT PRIMARIES IS CONSTITUTIONAL – By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN
Under and by virtue of Paragraph 15 (b) of Part 1 to the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended, INEC shall register political parties in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and an Act of the National Assembly.
By virtue of section 222 (a) of the Constitution, no association, by whatever name called, shall function as a political party, unless a copy of its constitution is registered with INEC.
By virtue of section 223 (1) (a) of the Constitution, the constitution and rules of a political party shall provide for period election on a DEMOCRATIC basis of its principal officers.
By virtue of section 224 of the Constitution, the Programme as well as the aims and objectives of a political party shall conform with the provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution.
By virtue of section 40 of the Constitution, INEC is conferred with power to register or refuse registration of political parties.
From all the above, the Constitution, the Electoral Act and indeed INEC, are to regulate the activities of all political parties, including their various constitutions. That being the case, the reason adduced by the President, for withholding his assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, that the said Bill violates the constitution of the political parties, is not supported by the Constitution which created the political parties in the first place.
The registration of political parties is regulated by INEC in accordance with the Constitution and the Electoral Act. Thus, the constitutions of all political parties are to conform with these laws and not the other way round. It is the political parties that will amend their constitutions to conform with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Since the President assumed office, he has withheld his assent to virtually all amendments of the Electoral Act, even though he promised electoral reforms during his campaigns. What this means is that the President prefers to retain all the manifest flaws bedeviling our electoral system, from which himself and his ruling party are benefiting to the detriment of our democratic advancement.
Although the President is entitled to the discretion of his assent to any Bill presented to him, however the reason adduced for the exercise of such presidential discretion must be legal and valid. It is clear that the discretion has not been properly exercised in the national interest, in this particular case.
I therefore urge the National Assembly to invoke the provisions of section 58(5) of the Constitution to pass the Bill into law, through two-thirds majority of both Houses.
God bless Nigeria.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN