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As campaigns for the Presidential and National Assembly elections by the 18 political parties kick off in earnest September 28, the candidates should in line with democratic norms commit to a peaceful, free, fair and rancour-free issue-based rallies and shun every negative attitude, propaganda, hate speech, mud slinging that are capable of disrupting electioneering activities ahead of the 2023 general poll in the country.
We believe that such code of conduct has become imperative more than ever before since it is clear to all that Nigeria today, is not working in all respects, as envisaged by its founding founders especially against the backdrop of the social, economic, political and technological challenges starring citizens in the face and demand that rather reign insults on each other, the contestants must focus on the real issues and proffer practical and lasting solutions to the myriads of problems confronting the people.
And instead of emphasizing our national fault lines and primordial sentiments of religion, ethnicity, region and disinformation to woo eligible voters and gain political advantage, it is our strong view that the political class should use the campaigns to speak eloquently and convincingly to such issues as the need to revamp the ailing economy, safeguarding lives and property, fighting bribery and corruption, unemployment, poverty, hunger, addressing comatose health sector, oil theft, education particularly the recurring strikes in public universities and as well as devolution of power to the federation units.
It is note worthy that in compliance with Section 32(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently published the final list of candidates for national elections, namely the presidential, senatorial and House of Representatives and hinted that on October 4th, the final list of candidates for state elections (Governorship and State Houses of Assembly) would be published.
The INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, further disclosed that campaigns in public by political parties would officially commence on 28th September, 2022 as provided by Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 adding that: “Activities towards the 2023 General Election will enter the critical stages this month… This will be followed on 4th October, 2022 by the publication of the final list of candidates for State elections (Governorship and State Houses of Assembly).
“Campaign in public by political parties will officially commence on 28th September 2022 as provided by Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022. As campaigns commence, we appeal to all political parties and candidates to focus on issue-based campaigns. This is the best way to complement our efforts to ensure transparent elections in which only the votes cast by citizens determine the winner”.
We completely agree with the INEC boss that campaigns and elections should not be a do-or-die affair but peaceful exercises while the candidates for the various public offices at state and national levels should be mindful of the fact that since democratic polls require an informed, peaceful, free and fair chance for contestants to win support and motivate supporters to help them gain office, such campaigns are vital to achieving those objectives.
Similarly, it must be noted that elections that are really competitive offer a just and equitable opportunities for contestants to convey their manifestos and other vital messages to the electorate and compete for the over 95 million people expected to cast their ballots during next year’s general election slated for February 25 and March 11.
In other words, the candidates should of necessity see the campaigns as opportunities for them and political parties to present their messages clearly to citizens with a view to helping voters make informed decisions regarding their choice on election day as well as ultimately help ensure a level playing-field and the conduct of election that truly reflects the will of the electorate.
It is our strong opinion too, that campaign messages must be devoid of desperation, parochial sentiments and attacks on political opponents by politicians who are bent on winning at all costs thereby inflicting more injuries on Nigerians who have been traumatized and confronted with various hardships due to the abysmal performance of the All Progressives Congress, APC as indicated by all human development indices and living standards.
For instance apart from her ignoble position of the poverty capital of the world, with high unemployment rate, about 20 million-out-of school children according to latest global data by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, and second most terrorized nation on earth which is not only shameful and regrettable, Nigeria deserves the best set of qualified, visionary and patriotic leaders at the federal and state levels to be able to frontally address these challenges for the progress and wellbeing of citizens from May 29 next year when they will assume office.
We are concerned about the level of mischief, misinformation, hatred and ignorance and propaganda going on in public space especially the social media even ahead of the official commencement of campaigns which if not nipped in the bud pose significant threat to our fragile national unity and democracy even as it is expedient for the Department of State Services, DSS and the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC to closely monitor the media space to curb the excesses of such media handlers and influencers.
The political gladiators are also reminded of the danger that a reckless resort to disinformation, religion, tribe and region and calumny as campaign strategy portends for our disunited nation. In specific terms also, it is our view that the presidential candidates should this time around come up with properly documented manifestos in hard and soft copies that must be published on the websites of the political parties for citizens to fully understand and hold them accountable when eventually they are elected and sworn into office.
Similarly, the National Orientation Agency, NOA is further enjoined to intensify efforts on its core mandate of creating necessary awareness in the minds of the public awareness through enlightenment to reject divisive politics and desperate politicians trying to polarized them but interrogating campaign messages objectively with a view to check the motive and the intent behind such information before deciding on voting for candidates of their choice.
Experience from the recent sporting arena namely the World Athletics and Commonwealth games where our athletes excelled with Nigerian Tobi Amusan setting a world record in the 100 meters hurdles in far away United States and others won laurels for themselves and fatherland, showed that citizens love their country and are very happy when the country is winning, but only begin to recline into primordial issues of tribe, state of origin and religion when those who benefit from same begin to promote such narratives.
Therefore, we demand a promotion of new patriotism and consciousness that Nigerians can stand above primordial and parochial sentiments in favour of national interest in the overall peace, unity and wellbeing of the country rather than allow anybody to use them to achieve selfish ambitions that will be detrimental to the common good and the greater majority. Apart from an elite consensus on the way forward, the contestants in their respective manifestos must set workable agenda not only for development but blue prints on how the country will work better under the incoming administration and better the lot of the over 200 million people.
Besides, the presidential candidates must of necessity move beyond the usual rhetorics, verbal tirades, mud slinging campaigns and be sincere on their policies that should be geared towards making the necessary adjustments or restructuring to the federation with a view to permanently addressing the issues of inequality, respect, patriotism, equitable distribution of our common wealth, true federalism, as no patriotic and sincere candidate will want to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in May next year and continue with a dysfunctional system.
Equally, all stakeholders including the INEC, the security agencies, the electorate as well as the National Peace Committee, NPC led by retired Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar are further enjoined to in the national interest, discharge their functions professionally without fear or favour in engendering the needed political atmosphere for hitch- free campaigns and avert bloodshed, before, during and after the 2023 general election knowing full well that we all need a country that is peaceful, united and stable to be able to conduct any election or carry out social and economic activities.
We welcome the forthcoming interaction between the NPC and the 18 presidential candidates of the political parties who are expected to sign an undertaking for peaceful campaigns and elections on Thursday even as the contestants are further challenged to embrace former President Goodluck Jonathan humane disposition and admonition that his personal ‘ambition is not worth the blood of anybody’ in order to ensure that the pursuit of their individual ambition doesn’t throw the nation into avoidable crisis whose outcome may be unpredictable.
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