Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nigeria Reps reject two party system

Amid protests and rowdiness, which spanned over an hour, the House of Representatives dumped a proposal to institute a two-party system for future elections in the country.

The House voted in support of a multi-party system by 172 votes to 48, while one member abstained, when the Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, called for division. But members of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress (AC) and a handful of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in the House who wanted a two-party system, kicked against the result.

The House had, on two previous occasions, failed to vote on the amendment to Section 80 of the Electoral Act 2006 to include a clause regulating the number of parties in the country.

During the previous debates on the issue at similarly rowdy plenary sessions, some members, particularly those of the PDP, had canvassed a multi-party system while the opposition spoke in support of two parties. This prompted Mr. Dimeji to defer voting to this week, citing faulty electronic voting machines his reason.

But yesterday's plenary was almost stalled as members disagreed on the voting method. The Speaker consulted with key members and principal officers even as some of the lawmakers lobbied on the method of voting.

After about 10 minutes, Mr Bankole said, "We've had enough consultations, a lot of different advise and counter advise. The simple thing to do is voice vote." But this angered some of the lawmakers who sang No! No! No! We no go gree o! We no go gree! However, the Speaker went ahead to put the question, asking the proponent of the two-party system to say 'yes' and those against to say 'nay'. Although, those against the system won, the exercise induced more protests from some members, some of who got up and moved to the front to complain to Mr Bankole and his deputy, Usman Nafada who jointly presided.

In the ensuing confusion, five staff from the serjeant-at-arms were immediately deployed to protect the mace, the House symbol of authority. Pleas by the Speaker, the chief whip, Emeka Ihedioha and his deputy, Aminu Tambuwwal failed to calm the rowdy lawmakers or make them return to their seats.

Complaining members

Bordered about the turmoil, Mr Bankole asked members who did not come with their electronic voting cards to raise up their hands at the end of which only about five of them indicated so.

"We've tried voice vote, members are complaining; we've divided the House, members are complaining. Before I go to the next level, if you know you are two-party system, move to my left, if you know you are for multi-party, move to my right." This infuriated the aggrieved members who shouted "No! No! No!" While some members of the opposition shouted "two-party system! two-party system!" others, apparently members of the PDP shouted "multi-party! multi-party! Calls for 'Point of Order' by Sani Saleh Minjibir (ANPP, Kano) and one other unidentified member were rebuffed by the Speaker.

Support for lawmakers

The Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) yesterday praised the decision of the House. The group, in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said the only way to regulate political parties is to allow the electorates to decide.

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