The window for the Presidential/National Assembly Election campaigns opened last Wednesday, September 28, 2022, and as the process for engaging the public gets under way, the scene is set for fireworks. A number of stakeholders have reminded politicians, their supporters, and the media of the rule guiding their activities.
If one understands that the nation is already charged and that there is a tense atmosphere, they will be able to appreciate this reminder more. Nigeria, a deeply divided country along ethnic and religious lines, is currently dealing with widespread insecurity as well as significant economic difficulties. As a result, it is anticipated that the election drums will beat louder than in previous polls because Nigerians are more aware of what is happening in their political environment.
As the major political parties attempt to position themselves before the electorate and compete to gain more supporters either by persuasion or enticement, it is also not surprising that the frills, thrills, jabs and counterjabs, among other political gimmicks, will increase and the political atmosphere will be enveloped with lots of apprehension.
Parties Signed Peace Accord
The 18 registered political parties running for office in the upcoming general election signed a pledge last Thursday to conduct themselves peacefully before, during, and after the 2023 elections as a means of ensuring a peaceful campaign and election.
The National Peace Committee (NPC), which is co-chaired by former head of state General Abudulsami Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar II, Cardinal John Onayeikan, Bishop Hassan Kukah, and other distinguished statesmen, has drafted a peace agreement with the sole purpose of assisting efforts to ensure free, credible elections in Nigeria.
The peace agreement was signed at the International Conference Center in Abuja by the chairmen and presidential candidates of each of the 18 political parties that had registered there.
In his message of goodwill at the occasion, President Muhammadu Buhari was visibly concerned about the possibility that politicians might resort to making personal attacks, insults, and incitements in the lead-up to their respective campaigns.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies, politicians, political parties, and all other stakeholders were urged to put Nigeria’s interests ahead of those of their respective regions and sections.
Buhari issued a warning against politicians engaging in personal attacks, insults, and incitement as a substitute for issue-based campaigns.
“As President, I have consistently reaffirmed my commitment to a peaceful, transparent, and credible election, and what the Peace Committee has been doing over the years is consistent with my belief that Nigeria needs peace in order to achieve credible elections,” he said.
“However, the spread of false information and fake news continues to pose a serious threat to Nigeria’s democratic system. The emphasis has shifted from issue-based campaigns to enhancing the potential for insults, incitement, and personal attacks. Additionally, it has greatly reduced the decorum and civility of public discourse.
Buhari sees the National Peace Committee’s efforts to get all political actors involved in issue-based campaigns free of incitement, insults, and attacks as a positive development.
The general election in 2023 is more than just a vote; it’s a chance to support Nigeria, defend Nigeria, and uphold her progress.
In order to ensure that Nigeria is prioritized above regional and sectional claims, he called on all Nigerians, political parties, officials, security forces, the election management body (Independent National Electoral Commission – INEC), and all stakeholders.
Speaking, former president Goodluck Jonathan shared his personal observations from watching elections in some African nations where there had been notable improvements in the electoral process.
He expressed the hope that Nigerians would use the general election of 2023 as an opportunity to demonstrate that the nation is committed to sustainable progress and development by working to ensure a free, fair, and transparent election.
Samuels Isopi, the head of the EU delegation, stated that Nigeria should be viewed as making a decisive step toward holding credible elections in 2023.
According to her, INEC must be given the freedom to organize elections independently as allowed by the constitution.
Ensure Issue-Based Campaign, Compliance with Electoral Act – INEC
As the general election campaign for 2023 gets underway, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also reminded political parties and their supporters to play by the rules.
The new Electoral Act will be in effect for the 2023 general election, according to INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu. He added that political actors, the broadcast media, and other important stakeholders must become familiar with the laws.
He gave the assurance that it would keep an eye on adherence to the Electoral Act’s spending restrictions on political parties.
Yakubu stated that INEC will keep an eye on compliance to make sure that parties refrain from using derogatory language that could lead to a breach of peace during the electioneering campaigns.
He has said that the 18 Party Chairmen and Presidential candidates shouldn’t be the only ones who take the commitment to nonviolent, issue-based campaigns seriously.
Yakubu applauded the National Peace Committee’s efforts in getting the 18 presidential candidates and the national chairs of the 18 registered political parties to sign a peace agreement, and he urged the political parties to uphold the letter and spirit of the agreement.
Additionally, he urged the parties to spread the message of peace to their supporters, members, and candidates across the nation.
“Considering the link between peaceful campaigns and credible elections, on the one hand, this is significant. The Commission is grateful for the NPC’s constructive contribution to Nigeria’s elections’ ongoing improvement.
“The Electoral Act 2022 provides that political parties may begin their public campaigns not earlier than 150 days before election day,” he said. So, on September 28, 2022, political parties began their official campaigning for the 2023 General Election. In the case of national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) on February 23, 2023, and on September 9, 2023, this will continue until 24 hours before voting day.
It is implied that political parties, candidates, and their supporters are free to travel the nation holding meetings, rallies, processions, and door-to-door campaigns for the ensuing 148 days. In addition to sponsoring indoor and outdoor advertisements, they will grant interviews and publish other campaign literature. This is frequently a delicate time that is marked by apprehension and excitement.
The Commission will vigilantly monitor compliance in accordance with the Electoral Act 2022 and in our determination to fulfill our role as a regulator to make sure that parties refrain from using abusive, intemperate, or slanderous language as well as insinuations or innuendos likely to cause a breach of the peace during the electioneering campaigns. Similar to this, the Commission will carefully watch for adherence to the Electoral Act’s spending caps. The law has sanctions in place. To avoid breaking the law and the unfavorable repercussions that will follow any misdemeanor, political parties and candidates should educate themselves on the electoral legal framework.
The 2023 General Election will be held in 1,491 constituencies across the country, including one for the presidency, 28 for governor, 109 for senator, 360 for federal office, and 993 for state assembly. Every stakeholder is significant. Every election matters. The dedication to a nonviolent and issue-based campaign should therefore be felt beyond the 18 Party Chairmen and Presidential candidates in attendance today.
To simply sign the Peace Accord is insufficient. It is more crucial to follow both the letter and the spirit of the law. To ensure compliance, you should convey the same message to all of your candidates, members, and supporters across the nation. This will be your personal way of expressing gratitude for the NPC’s work and a confirmation of your involvement in maintaining electoral peace in Nigeria.
Electoral justice, which would enable every Nigerian to experience electoral fulfillment, was Yakubu’s ultimate goal, he declared, assuring of his firm commitment to delivering a free, fair, and credible election.
Regarding the expected role of the media during the campaign and the actual election, Yakubu stated that the media will unquestionably play a crucial part in ensuring greater public awareness of the upcoming general elections in 2023. He also urged the media and other political actors to act within the bounds of the law.
Political party candidates, their supporters, and the media all have a duty to act in accordance with the law and the commission’s rules and regulations.
Campaigns based on issues are necessary for secure electioneering. This will then foster the environment necessary for the deployment and smooth running of all electoral activities.
It is categorically unlawful to use one’s position of authority to bar opposition parties from using public facilities.
Avoid Hate Speech, Fake News – NBC
During the campaign and the election next year, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has once again emphasized the need for operators in the country’s broadcast sector to refrain from engaging in any actions that might endanger the country’s peace.
Balarabe Ilelah, the director general of the NBC, warned that the commission would not hesitate to punish any person or organization that violated the broadcasting codes and urged broadcast industry professionals to ensure that their reporting is done within the bounds of the law.
Therefore, the stations will take on and accept editorial responsibility, he said. I’ll take this opportunity to remind broadcasters that they should not tolerate fake news, derogatory language, or any other incendiary broadcasts on their platforms. With any station, NBC won’t take it lightly. Make sure you follow the law if you intend to continue in office after the election. And okay, if you want to break the law to end your broadcast before the election. NBC will not give up when it sees something done incorrectly.
No group may be denied airtime by the broadcaster; this includes any kind of access denial. A station is permitted to reject political content and provide justifications for doing so if it is offensive and hateful.
Comrade Chris Isiguzo, president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), has also counseled the NBC and other regulatory bodies to view the media as partners rather than competitors in completing the Nigerian project.
Abide by Electoral Act, Shun Violence – Police
Usman Alkali Baba, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), has urged the leadership of the political parties and their presidential candidates to abide by the rules and regulations of the Electoral Act 2022 in an effort to maintain peace before and during the upcoming general election.
He enumerated all the prohibited behaviors that candidates and their supporters were expected to abstain from in order to comply with electoral law.
According to Baba, complying with the provisions of the Electoral Act that forbid raising campaign funds from abroad as well as those governing donations and spending caps for parties, were two major provisions that were extremely important to the election.
He also mentioned Section 225 of the Electoral Act, which raised concerns about the falsification of election-related documents.
The Police IG issued a warning against politicians and non-state actors using thugs or armed security to carry out partisan objectives, adding that the Police will not tolerate any such behavior before the elections.
Additionally, in advance of the 2023 election campaign, the IGP issued a riot act to the staff. Baba tasked the senior officers with creating a safe and supportive environment for campaigns because the public realm would soon become very busy and prone to crimes with political overtones.
The IGP advised them to adhere to the requirements of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security’s Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Election Duty, both of which were published in 2020. (ICCES).
He emphasized that the Electoral Act and the electoral process do not apply to security organizations created by state governments and local communities that operate under various nomenclatures and structures.
The police chief forbade officers from performing any kind of campaign-related work for political or community actors because doing so would be illegal and pose a risk to democracy and national security, Baba continued.
The IGP urged all AIGs and Commissioners to take an all-inclusive approach by communicating with the leadership of the parties, RECs, and other pertinent stakeholders.
To ensure that the security agency upholds law and order throughout Nigeria, Baba further directed increased intelligence gathering and deployments.