The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila on Thursday explained why he called for the adoption of direct primaries as the only method through which political parties should elect candidates to stand for elections in the newly passed Electoral Bill, 2021.
The Speaker said direct primaries would bring more accountability and adequate representation as political office holders would not be restricted to pleasing a group of few people selected as delegates, but would work for the interest of the generality of their party members, and by extension, the electorate.
Besides, Gbajabiamila said he observed that many Nigerians, especially the youths, want to participate fully in the election of those that would represent them right from the grassroots level, hence his resolve to champion direct primaries.
The Speaker, while hosting a delegation of the Nigerian youths on a thank-you visit for his role on direct primaries led by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, said he preferred a situation where the political space is opened for all, including the youths, to participate fully.
This is even as Nigerian youths thanked the Speaker for single-handedly moving for the amendment in the Electoral Act to have direct primaries as the only method of electing parties’ candidates.
Gbajabiamila said some members of the political class may not be comfortable with the arrangement, but that the majority of the masses are in support of direct primaries, which he said would give them the opportunity of deciding who would represent them.
Advancing some of the reasons, Gbajabiamila said: “If I know that my return will depend on some few men, I may care about you. But if I know that my return will depend on my accountability and representation to the people, I will do the right thing.
“It is important for this generation to open the door of leadership to the next generation. We must allow every Nigerian to participate fully in the process of leadership. I, therefore, stand with Direct Primary.
“That’s why I said at different fora that I’m for direct primaries. We have to do this for the sake of the institution.
“When you gather yourselves (as youths), chances are that you’ll win. Democracy is a government of the people. Democracy is not just a general election. It starts from the primaries.”
The Speaker, therefore, challenged the Nigerian youths to “take advantage of the new amendment,” saying “power is not served a la carte.
“I’ll ask that you carry that advocacy out there because it’s for you.”
He noted that the youths are part of the reasons why lawmakers exist, saying, “The youths are the greatest asset of any nation, not just in Nigeria.”
He said Nigerian youths are thriving in different spheres of life, but that when it comes to politics, they do not show much interest.
“Since the Not Too Young to Run became law, you’ve not taken advantage of that. The Act appears to be a paper tiger. The enabling environment to work for that Act isn’t capitalised on.”
The Speaker also said the fact that the President Muhammadu Buhari led government provides adequate funding for the youths showed that it recognised that the youths are the future of the country.
He thanked the minister for leading the delegation to thank him for the role he played in ensuring the inclusion of direct primaries as the only method of electing political parties’ candidates for elections.
Speaking earlier, Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, said the visit was to thank the Speaker for moving the amendment for direct primaries, which he said would accommodate the Nigerian youth in the political space.
Mr Dare, who led a delegation of about 20 youths, said: “I want to thank the hoinourable members and the House for the support they’ve been giving us for the past two years of our stewardship. I want to also thank you for your support for the youth of our country.
“Between 65% and 70% of our population are less than 25 years. So, we can’t ignore the youth. I want to plead on behalf of the Nigerian youth that you continue to support youth development. You should also expand the frontiers of youths’ inclusivity.
“When the president signed the Not Too Young to Run Bill, it paved the way for many youths.
“Another door was opened two nights ago. The kudos goes to you and the National Assembly. We support you for direct primaries. It will open the door for Nigerian youths. They will stand in a position to have more say in the political space.
“As a journalist, and it has been recorded, I know that you moved the amendment of the Electoral Act that has led us to where we are (on direct primaries). I want to urge you to continue to work for the people and champion for the people. I urge you not to relent.
“We believe that the House of Representatives is a true representation of the Nigerian youth,” Dare said, adding that the delegation comprised representatives from the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), the Nigerian Youth Parliament (NYP), among others.
“We’ve enjoyed tremendous support from Mr. President in our ministry. I want to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for leading this country to the right path. The Nigerian youths are committed to democracy.”