2023: Desperate moment
...As candidates, parties employ propaganda, subterfuge, hate speech to win votes
Today marks the beginning of another year and ushers in the much-expected and critical election in the life of Nigeria.
From now, electioneering activities are expected to peak with political actors and candidates intensifying campaigns and strategies to aid their victory at the polls.
This makes the year 2023 decisive for the Nigerian electorate, while ushering desperate moments for parties and their candidates vying for the various elective positions.
Moreover, considering that from today, the presidential and National Assembly polls on February 25, 2023, are less than two months, the parties are truly in desperate moments, pushing and pulling their last games to ensure victory.
Of course, building up to the elections, in the last few weeks, there have been increased alignment and realignments of politicians and political actors to political platforms and parties where their interest would be best taken care of.
Also, in recent weeks, various organisations and media platforms have initiated dialogues, debates, town hall meetings platforms for presidential candidates, to unfold their agendas and interact with Nigerians on how they intend to reposition the country in different sectors.
Some of the presidential candidates have also taken extensive tours across the states and constituencies to have first-hand knowledge of the challenges that lie ahead of them if they are elected into office in 2023.
Across Nigeria, expectations are high among Nigerians that this election would be an opportunity to elect a credible leader that would reposition the country and set it on the path of prosperity, like its peers globally.
However, with the campaign at full swing, observers are increasingly concerned about the desperation of politicians in the quest to win at all cost.
In recent weeks since the campaigns began, political motivated attacks, killing and violence have been on the rise across Nigeria.
Experts say that the ploy by politicians to emerge victorious at all cost, poses a sizable threat to electoral integrity in 2023, despite technological advances.
Experts and concerned Nigerians have charged candidates and Nigerians to concentrate on discussing issues rather than heating up the polity.
Despite repeated promises by candidates at various levels to play by the rules, politically motivated violence and attacks have been on the alarming rise.
Since October, reports of attacks or murder of politicians and clashes by candidates’ supporters have been on the rise.
Some weeks ago, gunmen killed Victoria Chintex, women leader of the Labour Party (LP), in Kaura LG of Kaduna State.
Just two weeks ago, a Labour Party House of Assembly candidate, Christopher Elehu, was murdered in Imo State by suspected assassins in Onuimo Local Government Area.
In November, the convoy of Olajide Adediran, PDP gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State, was attacked during his campaign tour of Badagry Local Government Area, with several people wounded and cars destroyed.
Mike Ejiofor, retired director, Department of Security Service (DSS), said that hate speech and violence are threats to the country in the build-up to the 2023 general election.
Ejiofor said that candidates should concentrate on discussing issues rather than heating up the polity.
According to him, “You don’t buy my vote, you don’t buy the vote of Nigerians; what we should do as electorates is to vote our conscience.
“If the people are doing well, you can vote for them and if they don’t do well you can vote them out of power. So, when they bring money to you, collect it and vote your conscience. We must not vote for the person that did not do well.
“There are security threats towards the 2023 general elections. There would be fake news, violence, personalities, health issues among others, instead of what the person wants to offer.
“So, we must concentrate on discussing issues rather than heating up the polity.”
Similarly, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) recently raised the alarm that desperate political actors that are out to win at all costs could disrupt the outcome of the 2023 polls if not checked.
The organisation also noted that worsening insecurity across the country also remains a threat to the polls.
Idayat Hassan, CDD’s director, in a statement, observed that the 2023 elections would be one of the most challenging elections to be conducted in the country.
She said: “Boko Haram conflict that defined the 2015 election is yet to be quelled, but with bandits operating across the North West, violent secessionist agitation spiralling in the South East, and farmer-herder clashes ongoing across the country, the 2023 election is set to take place amidst nationwide insecurity.
“The June 5 attack on a church in relatively stable Ondo State, in South West Nigeria, which saw more than 50 people killed, was a stark reminder of the insecurity challenges that will affect the safety of election materials and personnel, and a major challenge for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),” Hassan said.
Sola Ogundimu, political analyst said impunity and collaboration between security agencies and politicians had aided the trend.
Ogundimu said there is a need for security agencies to rise to the challenge ahead of them.
“The fact that we do not prosecute people who carry out these crimes is responsible for why they keep happening.
“We hear candidates and politicians are killed every time, was there an arrest? We simply just talk about it for one or two days and move on, even the party where the murdered person belongs does not do anything.
“I think we need to do more. The security agencies need to be equipped, some of them even work with politicians to protect these boys who carry out these acts,” Ogundimu said.
Pius Oiwoh, immediate past chairman, Benin branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), dismissed speeches made by supporters to undermine candidates’ chances ahead the 2023 presidential poll, saying that candidates will be assessed by their pedigree and track records that would be brought to bear to prevent the nation from collapsing.
“Social media is now being used seriously to promote hate speeches about candidates. Sincerely, this time, I think people are not moved by what they say about anyone. People have made up their minds and will not be moved by those speeches.
“The truth is that Nigerians are now getting wiser and irrespective of what people come to say or do to malign and undermine a particular presidential candidate; the moment people realize what we are passing through as a nation and where we hope to be, then they will know those speeches against candidates will not help anyone.
“The truth be told, Nigerians have come to realize that for you to be able to lead this country to where we rightly desire to be, you must have the capacity. So, people are going to be judged by their pasts and not what people say,” Oiwoh said.
The legal practitioner stressed that the 2023 election will afford Nigerians the opportunity to elect who will truly lead, steer the country’s ship to safety and turn the tide of spiraling insecurity, dwindling economy and high level of corruption in the country.
According to Oiwoh, “Nigerians cannot continue to be impoverished and go through such squalor and hardships that we have gone through over time. Our votes are our power, our votes are our strength to be able to do the right thing this time around. Otherwise, we will have ourselves to blame.
“Nigerians are looking for a president who is ready to turn around our economy. Nigerians are fed up with a system that continuously assures us that it will reduce corruption. Corruption is even at its peak despite the anti-graft agencies we have. If the issue of corruption was tackled, I am sure, to a large extent, poverty and all forms of ills in the society that tend to undermine merit and undermine the principles that will allow equity and fairness would have been taken care of. So, we want a president who will guarantee us that corruption will be minimized in our society.
“Our economy is down; the ship is capsizing and we need a president who will guarantee us and steer the ship of this nation to a proper destination. The level of insecurity has assumed a worrisome direction. Painfully, when this administration of president Muhammadu Buhari came on board, it identified these three components, viz economy, corruption and insecurity as the major core areas. But, unfortunately, he could not achieve any of them. These are the areas that affect us as a people.
“The time has come for us as a nation to walk the talk about corruption, economy and security. Many people have left the shores of this country and investors have relocated from this country. Even those who have the human capital, particularly medical doctors, are trooping out of the country.
“The next president has so much to do and that is why we must look at the track records of the candidates to be able to determine who among them will rescue this country from going down the drain,” he said.
Oiwoh opined that Nigeria, by nature, has talented citizens and is blessed with abundant natural and mineral resources but the leaders are the problems.
“Nigerians have come to learn that the little money given to them will not sustain them for four years of bad leadership. People have learnt their lessons terribly. There are a lot of things that the immediate fund politicians give cannot cater for. I believe and I expect that Nigerians we see now will collect the money and vote their conscience.”
Read also: Will new voters swing the 2023 election?
Sharing his views, Douglas Ogbankwa, a lawyer and convener, Vanguard for the Independence of the Judiciary, said the fulcrum of electioneering is now issue-based and Nigerians are no longer moved by persuasive words considering past experiences.
“I think Nigerians are wiser now, so, any person using hate speeches is actually demarketing his or herself. The citizenry want to hear how issues like insecurity, value of the Naira, bureaucratic bottlenecks hindering investments among others facing the country can be resolved. This is what the citizens will use to determine who will rule them in the next four years.
“Apart from the incorrigible few, a lot of Nigerians know that when they buy them and their votes, they have actually sacrificed themselves for the next four years and do not have the right to complain. I think Nigerians, right now, want to vote on who they believe in and not those looking for sympathy.
“Following the EndSARS protests, the power of the youths is obvious and there is a clear direction to the ruling class that it is no longer business as usual for every politician, it is a people-based campaign and for any politician that want to come for a second term, the person should be ready to involve the people about his or her programs and should be able to make populist decision that will affect the people as a whole,” Ogbankwa said.