It was a rowdy session Thursday in the House of Representatives when the proposal to re-introduce two-party system in the country was defeated.
Voting on the issue, 172 lawmakers were against the proposal, 48 were in support while one legislator abstained.
The decision did not go down well with opposition lawmakers and they attempted to stage a walk-out, though belatedly.
The House was forced to adjourn following the uproar caused by the decision to jettison the proposal.
The lower chamber has been sharply divided over the issue since it was introduced into the ongoing amendment of the Electoral Act 2006 about two weeks ago.
Its defeat on the floor of the House has, however, laid to rest anxiety across the country over the implications of narrowing the political space to two political parties and the yet-to-be-introduced independent candidacy option.
The proposal sought to return the country’s electoral system to the days of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Conven-tion (NRC), two political parties created by the then military government under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida as part of its political transition programme.
But there were apprehensions that the idea was part of the permutations of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to eliminate the crowd of over 56 opposition political parties contending with it for power in the country.
The atmosphere was tense Thursday when the lawmakers resumed consideration of the report of its Special Ad hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act because of the controversy the two-party system had generated in the past couple of weeks.
The first attempt to decide on the matter through a voice vote became controversial and generated rowdiness across the length and breadth of the chamber as the voice vote was not in favour of the proposal.
House Speaker Dimeji Bankole had an uphill task piloting the rowdy proceedings and he inquired if all members had their smart cards to enable them to use the electronic voting platform to resolve the controversy.
The response was negative – many of the lawmakers were not with their cards. This situation forced Bankole to call for a division of the House so as to have all members present divided into two groups of pro and anti-two-party system. The numbers were then counted to arrive at the final decision.
The move to insert a provision limiting the number of political parties in the country to two with independent candidature as a third option began on Wednesday, May 12, 2010. The proceedings of that day had barely begun when the Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Mohammed Ali Ndume (ANPP Borno), proposed the insertion into Section 80 of the Electoral Act, a provision that “there shall be two political parties and independent candidacy”.
The proposal was immediately greeted with shouts of two… two… two… by some members who also raised two fingers to demonstrate their support for the re-introduction of the two-party system.
However, confusion ensued thereafter as some members kicked against the proposal during the debate. The prolonged rowdiness and the seeming unwillingness of the contending groups to agree on a common party structure ahead of the 2011 polls forced the House to adjourn, leaving the proposed amendment inconclusive.
The next day, the House also failed to reach a consensus on the matter and was again forced to defer voting on it till the following week. However, by the next legislative day, strong indications emerged that the lawmakers had changed gear and were now gunning for the second proposal to limit the number of political parties to five rather than two.
As it was on the first day, the second attempt was rowdy as several lawmakers who contributed to the debate supported the two-party system, while others supported the five-party structure. However, the lobby came to a climax when some members of the PDP rose to their feet in apparent support for the five-party system.
The lawmakers shouted PDP slogans and displayed their five fingers as a symbol of the change in the previous game plan. Even with the seeming support from the ruling party, the House could not agree on which way to go.
The kite for a return to the two-party model was first flown when some former state governors under the auspices of Governors’ Forum 2007 paid a surprise visit to the House and urged Bankole to consider the option of returning to the days of two-party system.
The ex-governors were led to the House by the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah. Others in the entourage included Dr. Peter Odili of Rivers State; Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu of Nassarawa State; Alhaji Adamu Aliero of Kebbi State; Dr. Chris Ngige of Anambra State; Chief Achike Udenwa of Imo State; and Alhaji Abubakar Audu of Kogi State.
The delegation expressed disgust at the overcrowded political turf and urged the House to slash down the 57 political parties in the country to a “bearable” number before the 2011 general election.
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