42 days to polls: Parties in last alliance talks as campaigns hot up

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… Election’ll determine future of Nigeria – USAID, others

… INEC Chair, Kwankwaso, Obi, to speak at Chatham House

… LP candidate challenges others on educational records, health status

… APC plotting to derail presidential election, PDP alleges

With exactly 42 days to the 2023 presidential election, candidates of the 18 political parties have stepped up campaigns and engagements with Nigerians, even as some push last alliance talks amidst claims and counterclaims, CHIZOBA OGBECHE and ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU writes.

The 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections are scheduled to hold on February 25, exactly 42 days away.

Since the commencement of the campaigns, four presidential candidates: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of All Progressives Congress (APC); former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Peter Obi of Labour Party, and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) have stood out as major contenders in the race.

These candidates are moving around the country consulting with various stakeholders, campaigning in states and attending series of Town hall meetings to interact with the important segment of Nigeria voting population.

This is as some parties have continued with merger talks to secure the much needed votes for their candidates, amidst claims and counter claims.

SDP collapses structure for Tinubu

Earlier in the week, the media had been awash with reports that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) had collapsed its structure for the APC presidential candidate.

The Secretary of SDP, Mr Alpha Ahmed, said the alliance with Tinubu became imperative because of his track record in generating economic resources and their judicious use.

“We need a man with an idea that can transform a nation, using economic resources, generating resources. Revenue generating strategy, nobody is better in terms of generating resources than Tinubu,” he said.

Ahmed was, however, silent about the presidential candidate of SDP, Mr Adewale Ebenezer Adebayo.

He further stated: “Look at all the revelations he did in the Chatham House meeting; he built a modern state that is capable of standing as a country of its own. Nobody has contradicted that. We all know what he had done in Lagos.”

However, the party, Thursday, denied the claims through its National Publicity Secretary, Rufus Aiyenigba, at a news conference in Abuja.

He urged members of the public to disregard the “false claim” stating that it was not in the interest of the party or the nation.

Aiyenigba said that the party’s attention was drawn to a claim by “one Alfa Mohammed’’ that the SDP was considering an alliance with the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.

He said that Mohammed, a former Deputy National Publicity of the SDP, was no longer a member of the party and could not be speaking for it having been expelled.

Aiyenigba said that the party had at several times disavowed false publications from Mohammed and “his disregard for decorum.”

Those actions, he said, led to Mohammed being relieved of his position as deputy publicity secretary of the party in November 2018 before he was suspended from the party in March 2019 by the National Working Committee (NWC).

He added that Mohammed was later expelled by the National Executive Committee in August 2019 which was upheld by the subsequent National Convention of the party in June 2022.

 “Currently as we speak, Mohammed is a member of the APC and even a strong member of one of the support groups of that party called the South West Agenda for Asiwaju.

Aiyenigba said that Mohammed’s alleged anti-party activities were formally reported to the Inspector General of Police in August 2022 and was requested to call him to order over his alleged “impersonation, false pretenses and conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace”.

He said that SDP, along with its presidential candidate, Adebayo, was not in the 2023 elections race for the fun of it, but to win.

Opposition working for APC

On his part, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Kalu, has said the voting base of the ruling APC in the North-west and North-east geopolitical zones remained intact.

Kalu stated this in an interview on Channels Television’s Political Paradigm programme on Tuesday.

According to Kalu, the NNPP candidate, Kwankwaso, and LP candidate, Obi, and other candidates were indirectly “working” for the victory of the APC flag bearer, Tinubu, by dividing southern votes.

The APC chieftain also said he does not believe in pre-election polls which have put Obi ahead of the 18 presidential candidates including Tinubu.

“I don’t believe in the poll; the poll is not realistic,” Kalu said. If the poll wants to be realistic, Kwankwaso and Peter Obi are working for us because nobody has touched our base; nobody has touched the strongest base of APC. The North-west and the North-east are our base.

“But come to the South-East, it is divided, come to the South-South, it is divided, it is finished with Obidients. Nobody has touched our base; our base is still intact; it is as good as anything.”

According to the lawmaker, pre-election polls were conducted among the elite and not true representation or reflection of the thinking and general voting behaviour of the electorate.

INEC Chair, Kwankwaso, Obi to speak at Chatham House

As the campaigns hot the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the NNPP presidential candidate, his LP counterpart, would speak at the Chatham House research event billed for next week.

Giving the details of the event on its website, the international think tank group explained that the event is part of a series of events and outputs examining Nigeria’s 2023 elections and political developments.

In its schedule of events, Obi, who is a former Anambra state governor, will discuss his vision for policy and governance reforms in Nigeria, including the priorities for tackling deep-rooted insecurity and corruption, and measures to promote social and political mobility for Nigerian citizens on 1January 16, 2023.

While the INEC boss would discuss preparations and priorities for ensuring electoral integrity and inclusivity on January 17, 2023.

He would also discuss key challenges and plans for the conduct of the elections, including election security and the use of new technological systems.

On his part, Kwankwaso would discuss his policy ideas for improving systems and services in Nigeria, with a particular focus on the country’s education sector and the wider priorities for ensuring secure and inclusive service delivery on January 18, 2023.

Health, education records as campaign issue

The LP candidate, Obi, has challenges other candidates on educational records, health status.

Obi enjoined Nigerians to vote for competent persons, who are mentally and physically prepared for the task of providing leadership for a sick nation such as ours.

The LP candidate made the appeal in an interactive session with students of the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus, UNEC, Business School, in Enugu, yesterday.

The interactive session was entitled: ‘State of the Nigerian Economy: The Way Forward.”

PDP raises alarm over plot to derail polls

This is as the major opposition party, PDP, Friday, alleged that the ruling party, APC, was plotting to derail the presidential election.

The PDP also lambasted alleged attempt by the APC to mislead the public by falsely claiming that it has no candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District Election.

Addressing journalists, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba claimed the APC is churning out many narratives with the view to allegedly blackmail critical election stakeholders to accede to its design to postpone the 2023 general elections, particularly the February 25, 2023 Presidential election.

Continuing he said, “Our Party had earlier alerted the nation of a well-oiled plot by the APC to orchestrate security situation and promote circumstances to warrant the postponement of the 2023 general elections by the INEC.

“The ultimate intent of the APC is to use such unfounded circumstance to derail the entire electoral process and impose an undemocratic situation on our country.

“The PDP hereby insists without equivocation that the February 25, 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections date is sacrosanct. February 25, 2023 date is already locked in for the Presidential and National Assembly elections, the security agencies have given their assurances, the federal government has also given its assurance; Nigerians are ready for election and will not accept any postponement of elections under any guise whatsoever.

“The APC and its Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, know that they have no chance at all in the coming elections, having been rejected by Nigerians because of their multiple failures, recklessness, humongous corruption, violence and continuing infliction of pains, hardship and life-discounting experiences on Nigerians in the last seven and half years.

“Nigerians are not ready to continue with a hopelessly corrupt, miserably incompetent and viciously insensitive political party, the APC, which has mortgaged the future of our country with an accumulated N77 trillion debt as revealed by the Debt Management Office (DMO).

“This explains why the APC and its Presidential Candidate continue to promote and encourage violence in various parts of our country including attacking INEC facilities.

“The APC and its leaders are desperate to use their doomsday orchestrations to frighten and blackmail INEC to alter the electoral schedule after which the APC will take advantage of the situation to unsettle the general election, foist a constitutional crisis and truncate the nation’s democratic process.

“The PDP therefore charges INEC, as an independent institution not to succumb to the blackmails of the APC but focus on its preparations and fix its eyes on delivering a free, fair, transparent and credible election on February 25, 2023.

“The PDP also demands that security agencies should place APC leaders on watch list and take urgent steps to halt APC’s implementation of Tinubu’s directives to his party members, as contained in the recently leaked video, to deploy violence and underhand dealings in the 2023 general elections.

“Nigerians are eager to vote on February 25, 2023. They have suffered a lot and cannot wait to kick out the vicious, insensitive and corrupt APC and vote in the PDP and Atiku Abubakar to rescue and rebuild our nation.

“Atiku Abubakar is poised to win the majority of votes cast across the country and secure 25 per cent in all the states of the federation to emerge President on the very first ballot. Those trying to push the run-off narrative or postponement of elections should perish the thought. They should get ready for elections or quit the race.

“On the Borno Central Senatorial District election, our Party has been made aware of mischievous and misleading claims by the APC, that the PDP has no candidate for the Borno Central Senatorial election scheduled to hold on February 25, 2023.

“For clarity, the PDP states in an unequivocal term that our Candidate for the Borno Central Senatorial election remains Hon. Umara Muhammad Kumalia as confirmed in the list of candidates for the 2023 general elections as published by INEC.

“Such resort to falsehood further exposes the fact that the APC in Borno state is intimidated by the towering credibility and popularity of our Borno Central Senatorial Candidate, Hon. Umara Muhammad Kumalia among the people for which they are eager to troop out enmasse to vote for him on February 25, 2023.”

Nigeria’s future hangs on elections

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), alongside Food Basket Foundation International, Palladium and other development partners have stated that the integrity of the 2023 general elections would determine the future of Nigeria as an indivisible nation.

They made this known on Friday at a press conference tagged, ‘Safeguarding Digital Civic Space for Electoral Integrity’, jointly addressed by the agencies in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital.

Delivering a prepared speech, the Chief Executive Officer of FBFI, Funmi Akinyele, said the digital civic space is expected to play a significant role in the decisions that a myriad of Nigerians would take during the presidential and governorship elections in February and March, respectively.

“The overarching goal of this project is to protect online civic space by combating voter misinformation and disinformation while improving access to accurate civic information inclusively.

“With the advent of citizen journalism, information circulates quickly. Unfortunately, some individuals, either by omission or commission have distorted information, leading to misinformation, disinformation and malformation.

“The misuse and repression of both offline and digital civic spaces, no doubt, have contributed to the perceptions, mostly negative, of members of the international community about Nigeria.

“The Nigerian digital civic space, like any other nation in the globe, is intended to facilitate citizens’ abilities to exercise their rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression guaranteed by the constitution.

“This includes giving and receiving knowledge, beneficial encounters for raising awareness and educating one another, among other things. In the information age, technology offers a number of avenues for improved global connectedness. Nigeria’s 222-day Twitter ban in 2020 highlighted the threat to constitutional liberties and the possibility of repression in the digital civic sphere.

 “This highlighted the autocratic tendencies of some government figures who preferred to use their authority to stifle the public’s right to free speech,” she explained.

Akinyele urged that the integrity of the elections must not be compromised for the betterment of Nigerians and the legacy of the country.

She was supported by the Chief Executive Officer, Social Impact Consulting, Efua Edeh, Head of Research, SBM Intelligence, Ikemesit Effiong and Program Officer, AGCSDI/Learner Corner, Anita Graham.