By TUNDE EIGBIREMOLEN
The much awaited campaigns for the 2023 general elections kicked off on September 27, 2022 in accordance with Section 94(1) of the new Electoral Act 2022. The campaign is expected to last for 150 days, a day to the general elections.
It is expected that politicians who are seeking political power, during this period, will take their campaigns to the electorate in order to woo or convince them to vote their political parties.
For the avoidance of doubt, Campaign involves selling of parties manifestos and candidates’ expected programmes to eligible voters, to pave the way for election into political office.
In Nigeria, against the rules of the game, campaign is usually characterised by political violence, unguarded utterances and sponsoring of thugs by politicians.
Instead of engaging in issues based campaign, our present crop of politicians spend their precious time on campaign of calumny, character assassination and above all name callings of political opponents.
The unwanted campaign which involves the use of foul languages has continued to heat up the polity and sowed the seed of hatred among Nigerians.
Though, the Electoral Act 2022, Police Order, and public disturbance laws explicitly stipulated the punishments for violent campaigns, desperate politicians have often overlooked and continued to promote same.
There are already obvious signs that the 2023 elections will be shaped by ethnic and religious fault lines. For instance, the decision of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to opt for Muslim/Muslim Presidential ticket in a polarised country has continued to generate uproar among the Christian community. No doubt, this has further created the opportunity for hate speech and abusive language.
While it is cheering news that President Muhammadu Buhari had, during the UN General Assembly meeting in US, promised to conduct credible elections in 2023, this can only happen, if our politicians play the game according to the rules.
It must be noted that decent, refined, civil, non-violent and Issues based campaigns usually give rise to good, successful and peaceful elections.
Unless our politicians see political campaigns as central to good elections and adopt refined campaigns for the 2023 general elections, as being practiced in developed countries, we might well forget about having peaceful elections.
For instance, the 2023 general elections campaign should and must be centered on how to address the myriad and escalating security challenges in the country, the deteriorating economy, recurring crisis in the educational sector as exemplified by unending ASUU- FG tangle, infrastructure deficit, dwindling fortunes of the Naira, Pervading and crushing Poverty among the majority of the Nigerian populace and above all, Unity among the diverse ethnic groups of the country, for it to be adjudged Issues based.
With the frightening monster of insecurity in the country, our politicians should tell us their strategies to tackle the multi-faceted challenges. From all indications, especially now that the American Embassy has issued a Security advisory of impending terror attacks in Abuja, thereby withdrawing it’s Citizens from the Nigeria, it is manifestly obvious that our beloved nation is currently bleeding.
While the notorious IPOB members are daily making lives difficulty in the South-east, bandits and terrorist groups in the North have occupied ungovernable spaces, sacking and destroying communities.
Nigerians are waiting to hear from these Party candidates what they have in their kits to squarely address these spate of insecurity in the land.
Nigerian economy in the last four years has nosedived with government at all levels struggling to meet their financial obligations.
Nigerians expect that the conversation during the ongoing campaign should be centered more on how to address the twin evil of oil theft and fraudulent subsidy payment, the poverty conundrum, the ill – fated education sector and the general insecurity in the country.
It is only through issues based campaign that Nigerians will know the right candidates who have the solutions to the country’s problems.
The conversation should also include the issue of reforming Nigeria’s campaign finance laws .
Political campaign finance refers to funds used to promote the interest of political parties and candidates. In Nigeria, the framework governing political campaign finance is the Electoral Act which in Sections 91(2) and 91(3) spell out the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate of a political Party.
We have had instances in the recent past where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had berated the leadership of political parties in the country for operating in utter violation of key aspects of the Electoral laws as amended.
During the ongoing campaign for 2023 general election, the conversation should also include the sanctions for such electoral breaches by leadership of affected political parties.
Media Organisations must also be alive to their responsibility while Regulatory authorities must watch out for campaigns of calumny or hate speech on the media platforms and exert sanctions where necessary.
Religion, ethnicity, tokenism, violence should be kept far away from the ongoing campaigns while the real Issues of zoning, integrity, performance, pedigree, transparency and capacity to deliver should be on the front burner.
For now, mundane and petty issues should be kept out of our campaigns and replaced with real, pertinent and critical Issues of nation building that will bring succour to the people of Nigeria.
For once, what we deserve and desire right now is absolutely a sincere and honest campaign on the part of political party Candidates; that is not coloured, that will promote peace and tranquility and bring about prosperity for the generality of Nigerians.
**TUNDE EIGBIREMOLEN, is Editor and Media Director