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2023: INEC’s bell rings as parties gear up for primaries

James Kwen

Not long ago Nigerians were reminded to launch into the process of achieving a better nation. This came with a quadrennial sound that tolled in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, signifying the official commencement of the 2023 general election, including the presidential poll.

The hands of the clock of next year’s election chimed at midday on Saturday, February 26, with the provision of timelines for electoral activities by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which was sequel to the assent of the Electoral Act 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Consequently, the electoral body reviewed the timetable of activities for the election and scheduled the Presidential and National Assembly elections as well as the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls for Saturday, February 25, 2023 and Saturday, March 11, 2023, respectively.

INEC, no doubt, according to key stakeholders, has got on the right foot by fulfilling one of its duties which requires the commission to publish the notice of election not later than 360 days before the election. The notice is published to facilitate preparation and planning.

“In compliance with Section 28 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022, which requires INEC to publish the Notice of Election in each State of the Federation and the FCT stating the date of the election and the place where the nomination papers are to be delivered; and in line with the first activity in the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election, the commission hereby publishes the Notice of Election (Form EC 60A) today, Monday, February 28, 2022.

“The conduct of party primaries, including resolution of disputes arising from the primaries will start on Monday, April 4 and end on Friday, June 3, 2022. Submission of nomination forms to INEC through the online portal for Presidential and National Assembly election will commence from June 10 to June 17.

“Submission of nomination forms to INEC through the online nomination portal for Governorship and State Assembly elections will begin July 1 and end July 15. Campaign by political parties for Presidential and National Assembly elections; governorship and State Assembly elections will commence on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 and Wednesday, October 12 2022, respectively.

“The last day for campaigns by political parties for Presidential and National Assembly elections; Governorship and State Assembly elections is

midnight on Thursday, February 23, 2023 and midnight on Thursday, March 9, 2023,” INEC said.

The development has further put those aspiring for political positions on their toes with elections in sight and a three-month window, beginning from April, for political parties to conduct their respective primaries.

Although the new law was greeted with applause by Nigerians, including the nation’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), observers say beyond the assented Electoral Act 2022, INEC, aspirants and electorate need to swing into action to ensure a free, fair and credible 2023 polls.

“We are very prepared for the general elections. In February, this current state executive celebrated two years in office and since then, all efforts have been geared towards the 2023 election. So, at the level of the party EXCO, we are working assiduously towards free and fair primaries for all levels of elective offices,” Hillary Otsu, state secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, said.

Otsu said all aspirants have been assured there would be free and fair primaries, adding that since 2015, the party has always succeeded in conducting unquestionable primary elections in various elective positions in Edo State.

On whether anyone has indicated interest to run for the nation’s top job, he said: “Recently, we received a young man in his thirties, who showed interest in running for the office of the president and promised to come fix a date to meet with the state working committee.”

The party’s scribe equally commended President Muhammadu Buhari for assenting to the bill, noting that if he had not done it, “I think he would have put a spanner in the works as regards the progress of election activities in the country.”

Going forward, he said the recently-signed electoral law has given a new meaning to Nigeria’s electoral process with the level of credibility to increase from 40 percent to 80 percent.

“Once the 2023 election comes to pass and this electoral law prescription is followed, I think Nigeria will be on his way to higher level in terms of democracy. I think every election in this country will attain a level of credibility that will be impressive to even the international communities,” he said.

He, however, said that the only thing that will impede the shift in credibility to some extent is If the citizens do not go out to register and collect their PVC to vote, “then we are still going to leave the electoral process below standard.

“This is the time when all well-meaning Nigerians should register, get their PVC and vote because there will be a paradigm shift in 2023,” he said.

Otsu expressed the optimism that the 2023 poll will be in their favour, saying that “in the presidential election, the main opposition party will not win up to five states.

“I am totally convinced that there is no right-thinking Nigerian that will want to vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC). If you look at all the bye-elections that had taken place, like in Cross River, it is obvious that if this electoral law had been passed earlier and put into place, APC would not have gotten any of those seats. So, it is the same way I look at 2023,” he added.

Speaking on the level of preparedness by the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peter Igbinigie, the party’s publicity secretary in Edo, said they are working in tandem with the national level that has scheduled to hold the party’s convention on Saturday, March 26.

“By the time the convention is over, all the state executive members will retire back to their respective states with a view to commencing the agenda towards the election. As at today, we have people aspiring in all the positions at the national and state assembly level because there is no governorship election in Edo State by next year.

“We know that by the signing of the electoral bill into law, there are going to be a lot of variations in the systemic way our elections will go and it turns out to be so. Now that the stage is set coupled with the fact that the National convention is scheduled for March 26, we would have to wait till after the convention.

Read also: INEC mulls suspension of CVR in July — official

“The fact that we are waiting for the convention doesn’t mean the party is not doing its job at the state level with a view to get across to persons who have interest in the respective positions.

“Although, we are in opposition in Edo State but we want to get it right this time. We want to get candidates that will represent us. We have come to realise that the capacity of persons we bring forth to the people to chose is important. So, what we are trying to do is to ensure we get it right at the primary level.

“If we can do this, then we can present candidates who will fly the flag of the party; we will ensure they are acceptable and have the wherewithal. We are going into an election with the party that is in government at the state level, and that means, for us to weather the storm, we must project people that have the general acceptability across the party, candidates who can garner sympathy and votes of the people.

“We are not unmindful of that and that is what the party is currently doing. We hope the convention will hold as scheduled. Once the convention is over, I can assure you we will fly the flag in Edo,” Igbinigie said.

On registration and collection of PVC, he said: “At various levels in the state, we have mobilised our leaders to take their persons to their respective wards and units to ensure they register because the election is going to be determined by the PVC at the end of the day.”

As the 2023 general election is fast approaching amid increasing calls for a better nation, Anselm Ojezua, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged Nigerians to obtain their Permanent Voters Card and use it to collectively elect the kind of leaders they desire.

This, he said, would bring a change to the quality of government that can address the citizens’ needs, pointing out that an elected official is a reflection of the mandate that it gets.

Ojezua, while speaking with BusinessDay in Benin City, equally commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for being proactive in immediately announcing their programmes and calender after the Electoral Act 2022 was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“The timetable was crafted to be in accordance with the law, and kudos to INEC. Thankfully, over some time now, the electoral process is gradually becoming transparent, and the more transparent it is, the less likely it can be abused by anybody. Therefore, I believe that people have more confidence in the ability of INEC to give us a credible election and they should participate in it.

“The truth is that we have a situation where people are very critical about government. Therefore, if you are concerned about installing the right government, if you have an opinion as to what type of government you believe Nigerians should have and you don’t have a Permanent Voters Card, then you are not serious about it.

“The first step towards participation is registration, once you register, you must follow up and obtain your PVC and, at the appropriate time, use it,” Ojezua said.

Also, lending his voice on the need for citizens to get their PVC, Samson Osagie, a former minority whip in the House of Representatives urged the election management body to continue to enlighten the public to get their voters cards on time so that they can vote during the elections.

“But if there are problems arising from security challenges and other logistics, I think there should be some modified arrangements where electoral officers in the various local government areas can go round the wards so they can get the registration machines and distribution of PVC closer to the people in their respective wards.

“This will facilitate the process of making sure that more Nigerians are able to obtain their PVC and vote during the elections,” Osagie said.