• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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2023: Optimism grows on back of INEC timetable release

James Kwen

The release of the election timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the signing into law of the amended Electoral Act appear to have given a fillip to more Nigerians to participate in the 2023 elections.

Nigerians, who spoke with BusinessDay, said there seemed to be a surge of optimism in the polity, with many making up their minds to exercise their civic rights in 2023.

Aham Okebugwu, a civil right activist, said, “Many Nigerians thought that Buhari was not going to sign the amended Electoral Law and they had told themselves that there was no need to go and vote, when their votes would not count.

“They thought that the President was up to some plots to allow the APC rig the election. But the signing of that bill and the subsequent release of the election timetable have convinced such citizens that 2023 would not be business as usual. I assure you that many more people would now go for their PVCs in readiness for the election.”

Sanni Yabagi, national chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), said, “Of course, Nigerians are prepared; I mean everybody is looking forward to 2023. We should have a new government and possibly new approach to doing things.

“Obviously, Nigerians are not happy with the prevailing state of affairs; you can see that there is serious hardship in the land. Insecurity is at its peak. I mean we have not had it this bad. That is why people want change – a new platform, new political party and to a large extent different set of people.”

Mustapha Dabiri, a Lagos APC chieftain and former state chairmanship aspirant, told BusinessDay that Nigerians were enthusiastically looking forward to the elections.

He said, “I think the President has done a good thing; you can see that optimism is high now and Nigerians are happy and looking forward to the general election next year. I think for Nigerians, and especially the political actors, the signing into law of the amended Electoral Bill has given us hope and a level playing field for everyone.

“I can tell you that women, youths, all segments of the population are anxiously waiting to make positive change with their votes. But my message to Nigerians is that they should be prepared to get their PVCs; I would also implore government and relevant agencies to sensitise Nigerians using different approaches.”

But Gideon Ayogu, a communication consultant and public affairs analyst, said Nigerians could be divided into two classes as regards their level of readiness for the polls.

He said, “The first class of people are those who are highly politically-conscious, who are registered voters and who understand the critical nature of the upcoming polls.

Some of the Nigerians who fall under this category are not necessarily those who have made up their minds on the candidate(s) to cast their votes for.

But the central point for them is the desire to have a say in choosing the next set of Nigerian leaders. This category of Nigerians is, however, in the minority.

“The next category are those in the majority. These are Nigerians who do not have a valid voter’s identity. They have registered in the past but are yet to validate or update their details and those who are yet to register to vote.”

According to him, the current data from the Continuous Voter Registration exercise from the INEC show that millions of eligible Nigerians are yet to be captured in the national database of eligible voters.

“For me, the proportion of Nigerians who are ready can be said to be in the minority. More effort needs to be put into sensitising the public in this regard, especially if we are to curb increasing apathy among eligible voters,” Ayogu added.

Bukola Saraki, a former Senate president, while expressing his view on Arise TV about the release of INEC’s timetable and the president’s assent on the electoral bill, said, “This is an opportunity for all Nigerians over the age of 18 to be part of the efforts to build a better future and fight for real solutions for our country.”

Read also: New law shifts pressure on INEC

Following the President’s assent last Friday, INEC had on Saturday released its timetable for the 2023 general election.

It said, “Publication of notice of election will take place on Monday, February 28, 2022; conduct of party primaries, including the resolution of disputes arising from them – Monday, April 4, 2022 to Friday, June 3, 2022; submission of nomination forms to INEC via the online portal for Presidential and National Assembly election – 9.00am on Friday, June 10, 2022 to 6.00pm on Friday, June 17, 2022; submission of nomination forms to INEC via the online nomination portal for Governorship and State Assembly elections – 9.00am on Friday, July 1, 2022 to 6.00pm on Friday, July 15, 2022, and Commencement of Campaign by political parties for Presidential and National Assembly election – Wednesday, September 28, 2022.”

The activities and schedules also include the commencement of campaign by political parties for Governorship and State Assembly elections, October 12, 2022; last day of campaign by political parties for Presidential and National Assembly elections – midnight on Thursday, February 23, 2023, and last day of campaign by political parties for Governorship and State Assembly elections – midnight on March 9, 2023.

Presidential and National Assembly elections are scheduled for February 25, 2023 while the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls are fixed on Saturday, March 11, 2023.