All eyes will be on the Independent National Electoral Commission and the 18 political parties (which will be battling for the love of Nigerian electorate) as the long journey to elect a new set of leaders for the country begins
The dire situation of the Nigerian economy painted at the recently concluded Kaduna State Investment Summit by the 14th Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi Lamido ordinarily should be a cause for worry for the 18 presidential candidates jostling to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari. Even, the Emir had expressed his fears for the person that will take over as the next president of the country on 29, May 2023. But such assertions are unlikely to scare off politicians from the 2023 contest.
Indeed, with the formal kick-off of the campaign, candidates are already fanning out into different parts of the country trying to sell their ambitions for the presidential and national legislative elections that will take place on 25 February 2023 as well as the governorships and State Houses of Assembly on 11 March 2023.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, 18 political parties will field presidential candidates, while for legislative elections, 1,101 candidates are vying for 109 Senatorial seats and 3,122 candidates for House of Representatives seats. A total of 4,223 candidates are contesting 469 legislative positions.
There are cases in courts across the country challenging the validity of some of the candidates based on the primaries that produced them.
However, the uncertainty concerning some of the candidates as a result of the court cases has not diminished excitement about the coming election.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the Labour Party, LP and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP considered the front runners among the 18 political parties that will be on the ballot for the 2023 election.
The APC has former Lagos governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as its presidential candidate while former vice president Atiku Abubakar is the flag bearer of the PDP considered the main opposition party.
On the other hand, Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State and presidential candidate of LP, is considered the third force, capable of upstaging the two main parties in the battle for the 2023 presidency.
However, Rabiu Musa Kwanwaso of NNPP is contesting that position with him. With the election over three months away, Nigerian politicians are confronted with the longest campaign period that will put their resources, resilience and creativity under serious strain.
Crisis in Parties
Yet, some of the leading parties have also been confronted with hobbling crises at the national and state levels that analysts said if not tackled very soon may affect their prospects in the election. For one, while the main opposition PDP has kicked off its campaign, the party is still battling with crises over the primaries that led to the emergence of Atiku as its presidential candidate.
Five governors of PDP led by the chief executive of Rivers are still insisting that the chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu should quit office following the emergence of Atiku as the presidential candidate of the party.
Wike is insisting that with the emergence of Atiku from Adamawa in Northeast Nigeria as the presidential candidate, the position of national chairman of the party currently occupied by Ayu from Benue State in North-central Nigeria should be rezoned to the Southern part of the country, according to the constitution of the PDP.
Wike has in his camp, Governors Samuel Ortom, IfeanyUgwuanyi and OkezieIkpeazu and SeyiMakinde alongside other PDP chieftains mostly from the South. But Atiku, his running mate, Gov. IfeanyiOkowa and other PDP chieftains have refused to support the removal of Ayu from office, at least, until after the 2023 election.
The PDP National Chairman, whose position was strengthened by the vote of confidence passed on him by the National Executive Committee, NEC of PDP in response to the call for his removal by the Wike group has also insisted that he will not be bullied out of office.
This was despite the series of corruption accusations levelled against him recent by the Rivers State Governor. In protest over the continued stay of Ayu in office, Wike and his group have so far kept off the campaign of Atiku.
He had insisted that Ayu must go for him and his group to fully join the push for Atiku’s presidential ambition.
However, while seemed Atiku has moved on with the launch of his campaign despite the crisis, analysts said how the crisis spurred by the disagreement with the Rivers State Governor and his allies is resolved will be one of the key determinants of the ambition of the former Vice President.
While there is no equivalent of Wike’s crisis in the ruling APC, the party, as at the time of writing this story last week, however, is yet to kick off the campaign for Tinubu to succeed Buhari because of hiccups in the composition of its Presidential Campaign Council.
The initial 422-member PCC list released by the Campaign was withdrawn after different interest groups, including governors of the party and members of the National Working Committee complained of being left out. However, the party seemed to have overcome the setback and is planning to kick off its campaign for four more years in Aso Rock presidential villa. This is because, Buhari will launch Tinubu’s manifesto and the campaign council of Friday 21 October, 2022.
However, analysts said the issue of the Muslim-Muslim ticket will be a major obstacle to the ambition of the party to remain in power beyond 2023. The LP presidential candidate, Obi is also battling with members of the NWC of the party over the composition of his PCC.
This followed protests that greeted the release of the PCC on Wednesday, October 12 from key stakeholders of the party who argued that they were not carried along in the composition of the 1,234- member PCC. The party and its presidential candidate have to return to the drawing board the next day for a meeting with the aggrieved groups.
At the end of the meeting, the National Chairman of the Labour Party, Barrister Julius Abure issued a statement promising that a rejigged PCC that will accommodate all interest groups will be released.
The 2022 Electoral Act Albatross for Parties, INEC
For the parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the challenge will be how to comply with the stipulations of the Electoral Act 2022. The need for the parties to comply with the Electoral Act was one of the issues discussed when the National Peace Committee brought the presidential candidates together for the signing of an accord in which they commit themselves to a peaceful campaign for the 2023 election recently. At least, 15 of the 18 presidential candidates signed the accord. The candidate of the ruling APC was represented by his running mate, Kashim Shetimma.
At the event, the Chairman of, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu emphasized that the Electoral Act 2022 provided for a campaign in public by political parties to commence not earlier than 150 days before polling day of which that of national elections had officially commenced on Sept. 28.
According to him, the campaign would continue until 24 hours before polling day (Feb 23, 2023) for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly), and March 9, 2023, for state elections (Governorship and Houses of Assembly).
He affirmed that the parties INEC will be on watch out as political parties, candidates and their supporters traverse the country holding meetings, rallies, processions and door-to-door campaigns, selling their ambitions to ensure compliance with the Electoral Act.
“This is often a delicate period characterised by excitement and anxiety. In line with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and in our determination to play our role as a regulator, the Commission will vigorously monitor compliance. To ensure that parties shun abusive, intemperate or slanderous language as well as insinuations or innuendoes likely to provoke a breach of the peace during the electioneering campaigns,” he promised.
Despite such promise, analysts said INEC may find it difficult to monitor compliance with the Electoral Act stipulations in terms of limitations on campaign spending.
The 2022 Electoral Act stipulates N5 billion and N1 billion respectively limit campaign funds for the presidential and governorship candidates while for the senatorial and House of Representatives candidates, the limit is N100 million and N70 million respectively.
But there are fears that politicians may not comply with the spending limit as stipulated by the Electoral Act.
In addition, INEC had also said political parties are barred from receiving funds anonymously and operating a foreign account abroad. The parties cannot also receive funds donated anonymously. “In other words, a political party cannot open an account and have monies remitted into that particular account outside the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “Secondly it makes it clear that no political party shall under any circumstance retain any funds remitted to it outside the country. And if such funds are remitted to the political party from outside the country, that particular political party has a constitutional and legal obligation to turn in such funds to INEC within 21 days from the date of receipt of such funds,” INEC National Commissioner, Festus Okoye said in a recent interview.
At a conference on political campaign finance recently in Abuja, the chairman of INEC also said every candidate will be made to declare his or her bank asset as part of the move to monitor campaign spending. Prof Yakubu who was represented by Ajayi Kunle, a national commissioner of INEC promised that the services of the Central Bank, Department of State Services (DSS), EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), banks and others will be deployed to enforce the spending on campaign limit and impose sanctions for any infringement.
“Political parties and candidates should study and familiarise themselves with the electoral legal framework to avoid any infraction of the law and the unhappy consequences that will follow any act of misdemeanour.’’
‘No, Go Areas’
In addition, political parties will also have the duty of keeping off the religious houses as they go on their campaign. As pointed out by Barrister Kayode Ajulo, Section 92 of the Electoral Act, 2022 stipulated that places set aside for religious worship, police stations and public offices are out of bounds for politicians during their campaigns.
According to him, sections 92, 93, 94, 95 and 96 of the new Electoral Act have prohibitions with penal consequences for campaigns in places of worship, palaces, and places with public offices. In the same vein, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room a news conference organised to mark the beginning of the campaigns for the 2023 election urged parties, candidates and their supporters to desist from cyberbullying concerning the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The Situation Room noted that cyberbullying and other forms of online intimidation characterized discussions on the 2023 election even before the formal kickoff of the campaign. Ms Ene Obi, Convener of Situation Room, said all political parties and candidates must respect and uphold the provisions of Section 92 (1-6) and Section 93 of the Electoral Act 2022 to ensure peaceful elections.
She added that political parties must also refrain from equipping and employing persons to ferment violence with the intent to discredit another candidate or party while the use of abusive language or campaign materials that could cause religious or ethnic unrest must be avoided. According to her, penalties for such behaviour are clearly stated in Sections 92 and 93 of the Act for political parties and candidates who contravene the rules of conduct at political campaigns.
Yet, another concern is how to ensure that security agencies not only provide adequate security for the proper and peaceful conduct of rallies but remain neutral. Thus, for the candidates, the challenge is to keep to issues even as they are about their campaigns.
Promises, Promises, Promises
Already, the PDP candidate has launched his campaign manifesto where he outlined how he intended to move Nigeria and Nigerians forward if elected in 2023. Specifically, the former Vice President stated his readiness to restructure Nigeria to boost the national economy and security if given the opportunity. His manifesto focused on five key areas, including national unity, economic development, national security, education and restructuring of the nation.
Speaking recently in Lagos during a forum of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Atiku laid out his economic plan to salvage the country’s economic fortunes.
He promised that he would launch a $10 billion Economic Stimulus Fund within his first 100 days in office to boost micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) and aid inclusive economic growth if elected.
He also promised that he will also embark on the privatization of refineries, and public enterprises, remove the electricity value chain from the exclusive list and give states the power to generate, transmit and distribute electricity to make more power available for Nigerians.
Atiku added that he will also restore investors’ confidence in the Nigerian economy, invest in infrastructure finance, and the power sector, undertake far-reaching fiscal restructuring to improve liquidity in the economy and stimulate growth, create jobs, wage war against hunger as well as ensure that over the medium term, recurrent expenditure should not exceed 45 per cent of the budget among others.
Also, Obi has promised to restructure Nigeria’s security architecture for better performance if elected president in 2023 in his manifesto, titled “Prospects of Transformative Governance In Nigeria”. He also promised that he will arrest the deteriorating state of the nation’s insecurity, rebuild Nigeria’s military power, promote economic growth, and enhance its technological prowess to improve Nigeria’s diplomatic influence in sub-regional, regional and global affairs.
He also promised to tackle the problem of high youth unemployment in Nigeria, zero tolerance for corruption, blockage of leakages, and cutting the cost of governance; with an avowed commitment to transparency and accountability in government business.
In addition, the LP presidential candidate said his administration will prioritize production-centred growth for food security and export; securing and uniting Nigeria, leapfrogging Nigeria from oil to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR); while expanding physical infrastructure through market-driven reforms; as well as initiating human capital development that empowers competitiveness and robust foreign policy that restores Nigeria’s strategic relevance among others.
At Arewa Joint Committee at Arewa House, Kaduna recently, Tinubu also gave insight into his blueprint for Nigeria’s development. The former Lagos governor promised to consolidate the investments of the President Muhammad Buhari administration in all sectors.
He also said his government will initiate workable policies to ensure that insecurity is nipped in the bud in the North and across the country while harnessing the resources the whole country is endowed with for greater economic development.
He said he would focus on tackling underinvestment and effective management, pay attention to modern economic drivers such as the digital economy, creative industries, sports and entertainment sectors for the benefit of youths, initiate measures to infrastructure, ease of doing business and support private businesses to attract foreign direct investment to create jobs, re-industrialise the country and accelerate economic development.
“Using my experience of building human capital, industries, and institutions, which has led to Lagos being one of the largest economies on the continent, I will reposition our existing industries and make them a competitive source of industrialization and growth not just for the North but the entire country. It is time to fetch water from a dry well I, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, have done it before and I will do it. We will find a way where there are no roads!.”
He added that he is going to encourage investment in the agricultural sector, and reduction of the number of out-of-school children in the North, the APC presidential flagbearer said, “Education is the most effective weapon against poverty. Comparative with other countries, education in Nigeria suffers from a funding deficit on account of our population and limited resources. I will provide the required leadership and mobilize investment for the development of the sector. We will work with both state and local governments to reform and retool the system. These reforms will give special attention to the welfare and training of our teachers and lecturers as necessary catalysts for the better system we desire.
“We will work with stakeholders to evolve creative solutions to the funding needs of our higher education that will bring a terminal end to challenges of funding and the attendant perennial industrial actions. To ease financing for basic education and expand access, we will cut down on the counterpart fund required by states to access UBEC grants to an affordable percentage. Millions of our children are currently roaming the streets instead of being in classrooms. My administration will invest heavily in infrastructure to allow for proper integration of these children into our conventional schools,” the former Lagos governor said among other promises.
Every Vote Will Count
And contrary to claims in some quarters, INEC had also insisted that the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and Result Viewing (IReV) portal for accreditation and transmission of election results has come to stay in Nigeria.
At the opening of training for 82 master trainers on election technology for the 2023 general election in Abuja on Tuesday, 19 October, the INEC Chairman vowed that the Commission will continue to deploy technology to enhance the transparency of the electoral process and elections in Nigeria.
“Of these innovations, most Nigerians are more familiar with the BVAS which doubles as a device for accreditation as well as the upload of the Polling Unit level result sheets to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal in real-time on election day. These innovations have increased transparency and public confidence in the electoral process. They are also part of the legal requirements for conducting elections in Nigeria,” he said. The INEC Chairman added that there is therefore the need to commence the training of election officials early and for a longer period for optimal understanding of the processes and procedures to serve Nigerians better.
Also at the event, Prof. AbdullahiZuru, the Chairman, The Electoral Institute (TEI), said it was necessary for electoral officers to know and understand how to use the technical devices as they “ensure that every valid vote counts.”
Indeed, this will be the ultimate wish of all Nigerians at the end of this tortuous road to 2023.