From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

Senate President Ahmad Lawan met on Monday with President Muhammadu Buhari, declaring that the National Assembly has done its job by transmitting the recently passed electoral amendment bill 2021 into law to him and that the expeditions now was for him to sign into law.

Lawan stated this while speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting with the President, urging however that he not be stampeded into signing until he is properly advised by the relevant ministers and aides.

Recall that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had last Thursday said the President was in support of direct primaries after they met at the Presidential Villa.

Many state governors, across the two main parties as well as the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are against direct primaries and have urged the president not to sign the bill into law because of the clause that mandates political parties to conduct direct primaries in selecting candidates.

Asked how the ruling All Progressive Party (APC), can ensure stability when governors who are critical stakeholders are not happy with direct primaries as contained in the bill, Lawan said: ‘Well, you see, sometimes this kind of disagreements happen. And when they do, I think the best way forward is for people to engage. I always believe, and I’ve conversed for this, that National Assembly members are major stakeholders, governors of APC are major stakeholders and in fact, the presidency is a major stakeholder, in fact, as the biggest stakeholder because it runs the administration, and our party must always try to bring everybody together. I don’t think there will be any day that you will have a political issue that everybody will say the same thing about it that agrees with you without any amendment.

‘So when we have any section of a party disagreeing with something we should be engaging that’s why we are politicians, we must have that kind of a platform where we discuss the issues, let’s understand each other, and then we make whatever it is that will make this disagreement minimised. Or maybe where possible, eliminated completely.

‘So I don’t think it is right to say that governors have disagreed. Maybe some governor’s might have said they don’t like it this way. But that’s normal. So it’s for us to engage and engage and engage. And I believe that.’

On if the National Assembly was willing to let go of the direct primaries if need be, the Senate President said: ‘This is not something that we should be talking about now because it has passed the legislature and it’s no more with the legislature. So this is something that is now with Mr President, if we are talking about the electoral amendment bill, the National Assembly has finished its work. And the bill has been transmitted to Mr President. And I think at this moment, all eyes will be on what happens to the bill from the executive side rather than the legislature.

‘Yes, of course, when we send a bill to Mr President, we expect the bill to be signed. But there are two things that can happen. Mr President could decide to of course, after consultation with his advisers, sign, or if he doesn’t want to sign he may have his reasons. But I believe that whatever we do in the National Assembly, especially this ninth National Assembly, we think deep, we think wide, we will consult very broadly before we take any position. So I believe that whatever we send to the executive arm of government, Mr President for his assent, these are things that are well thought out. And I believe that the expectation of members of the National Assembly will be that this bill is signed. But this is then again, not my own calling, it is for Mr President to take his decision.’

Asked what was the president’s response, Lawan said: ‘No, I’m not supposed to tell you what the President said. Because Mr President has his spokespeople. So I am neither Femi Adesina nor Garba Shehu. What I can tell you is, amongst other things, because that’s not the only thing, amongst other things we have discussed this. And my opinion is National Assembly has done its work. And members of the National Assembly have expressed themselves. This is the majority view and is for Mr President to look at it and of course, the expectation of the National Assembly is to get the presidential assent.’

On how long he thinks it will take for the President to assent to the bill, he said ‘I don’t know why this appears to be the only issue. You see, there is no need for you to lobby for any bill to be signed if you are the chairman of the National Assembly, because you are simply a presiding officer, and you coordinate the views of your colleagues. The majority of my colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives say this is where they want the bill to go. This is the provision they want in Section 52, 3 rather. So I don’t have to come and say Mr President sign this. Mr President has his own processes when a bill is sent to him from the National Assembly. I’m sure he has the Attorney General and others to advise him. So why should I stress myself to say, just sign? We expect that he will sign, but how he does that is his calling. And I think we should allow him to just follow the processes he is used to, but the expectation of members of National Assembly is that the bill is signed.’

Asked if direct primaries were the best way to go in his opinion, the Senate President said: ‘I don’t have a personal opinion here, because I’m not here alone. So I don’t have a personal opinion. My opinion is that of the National Assembly Members.”

Lawan said the meeting was to consult with President Buhari on the current situation, in the National Assembly.

‘We are doing in our budget and we hope that by the middle of December, or before Christmas, we should be able to consider and pass the budget by the grace of God. Work has reached a very commendable level, as we expected that. Also, you know that we have impending issues at our party. We have our congresses still to be conducted in a few states about two or three. And of course, going forward, how we are able to reconcile the different shades of opinions that are causing disagreements in the party,’ he said.

‘You will call that the party, with the endorsement of Mr President, had constituted a national Conciliation Committee under the chairmanship of Distinguished Senator Abdullahi Adamu. And we are very optimistic that, on that committee, with all other leaders in the party, we’ll be able to reconcile our people in different parts of the country who might have disagreed.

‘You also know that we have legislation that is awaiting the consideration of Mr President, and for us in the legislature, we’re finished our job of passing the bills, particularly the Electoral Act, Amendment Bill, is now for Mr President, to engage with his assistants and those who normally advise him, for him to take the next most appropriate action. We are also very desirous of ensuring that the APC is so stable before the Congress, the convention, ultimately, because we want our convention to be hitch-free. We want every member of this party who comes to attend the convention to do so with a clear mind that whoever becomes the Chairman, for example, whatever leadership emerges, is a leadership that has the respect of everyone in the party, because we want Mr President to continue to work with a solid and strong party, APC.

‘We want this administration, and President Muhammadu Buhari to continue to do the very good work it is doing across the country and consolidate at the end of his tenure. Before then, we are very hopeful that we are able to have projects, the legacy projects commission like the second Niger bridge, the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano highway, the Lagos-Ibadan, and, of course, these kinds of projects, we want to ensure that we are able to get them commissioned by Mr President. So we discussed a lot of things, both in government in the party.

‘And of course, the security situation in the country can never escape our discussions. And we believe that we have done far so well, in the northeast, we have done far so well in the South-South, especially the Niger Delta. And our challenge is in the Northwest, and we are determined to ensure that we give the government every possible support. Mr President wants to ensure that before he leaves, that the Northwest like the other parts of this country would experience better stability than we’re enjoying today.

‘So on the whole, it’s not something new that I come to see, Mr President, there are so many things that when we see Mr President, we tell him what we feel and what we should do. But of course, he has his own advisers, but he hears the perspective of the legislature as well. And I’m very happy that Mr President is so available to us each time we want to see him discuss matters of governance, matters of our party, and of course, matters that go even beyond those two areas, but I’m happy that what we have discussed are things that will make this country better.’

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Source: news