17 August 2010

Nigeria: Jonathan Under Pressure to Veto New Electoral Bill

Abuja — The passage of the amended Electoral Act by the National Assembly has introduced a dramatic equation into the 2011 elections, a development that has led to mounting pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan to withhold his assent.

Section 89 (g) of the amended law provides that no government official or unelected person shall vote at the primary election.

This effectively denies the president the full complement of votes from his appointees, notably ministers, special advisers, chairmen of boards of parastatals and ambassadors. Commissioners are also ruled out at the state level.

By this calculation, Jonathan has lost over 2,000 delegates who may have voted in his favour at the party convention.

With a significant number of president-appointed delegates no longer eligible to vote as delegates, and with primaries now taking place at the state level rather than at a national convention held in one location, state governors now firmly hold the ace.

A consensus by the 28 PDP governors will ultimately decide who wins the party's presidential ticket for the 2011 election.

THISDAY learnt that some political forces are now mounting heavy pressure on Jonathan to veto the bill so that the old Electoral Act will be used for the forthcoming elections.

Although a clean copy of the bill is yet to be transmitted to him for assent, Jonathan is being advised to stop the bill from becoming law and damn the consequences. If he settles for that option and the election is held today, he would win the party's ticket outright.

But this presents problems as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may not be ready for the election which is expected to take place early next year.

As it stands, INEC cannot announce election dates until the bill is signed by the president. Depending on the way things go, it is feared that the country could be headed for a crisis if the issue is not resolved in good time.

It would also dent the president's image, following promises he has already made to ensure there is a free, fair and level-playing field for all.

But another group is suggesting that he should decide to write his name in gold by accepting the changes that are about to happen.

In this case, he would have to battle it out squarely with big names such as former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and former vice-president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who have both declared their interest to run on the platform of the PDP.

Permutations are going wild and it is expected that the intense horse-trading that has characterised the past one week would continue.

A total number of 3506 delegates are expected to vote in the presidential primaries.

Based on the general trend, if the primaries were held today, Jonathan would carry the day with 1,564 delegate votes. IBB comes closely behind with 1,050, followed by Atiku with 127.

Significantly, however, the undecided 765 delegate votes could yet be the most important factor to determine who would pick the party's presidential ticket.

THISDAY delegate count is based on the two politicians who have declared their interest and Jonathan whom the PDP has already given the green light to throw his hat into the ring.

There could yet be a dark horse in National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Mohammed Aliyu Gusau, who is expected to signify interest in the race soon. Another dark horse could be a Northern governor backed by his colleagues at the last minute.

The PDP delegate numbers used by THISDAY were drawn from all its members at the National Assembly (96 senators and 290 members of the House of Representatives), all its 28 governors and their deputies, members of state houses of assembly, the president, vice-president, all the 774 party chairmen at local government level and all its elected local government chairmen.

Others are all members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) members, state party chairmen and secretaries, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), National Executive Council (NEC) chairmen, all members of the Board of Trustees (BoT), all members of the zonal working committees, women leaders of the 36 states and the FCT, one national delegate elected in each of the 774 LGAs, former members of the NWC who are still members of the party, former deputy president of the Senate and deputy speakers of the House that are still members of the party.

A quick run of the delegate votes show that Jonathan could secure the support of delegates from 17 states and FCT, while Babangida could win the primaries in nine states. Atiku is tipped to win in Adamawa State, his home.

As many as nine states are still undecided either because no clear pattern has emerged yet or because of the likely emergence of other aspirants. The PDP in a state like Lagos is in serious crisis following the vacuum created by the imprisonment of Chief Bode George.

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