Political campaigns: A call for decorum

The 2023 general elections are impressively on course with the opening of an epoch stage today, September 28, 2022, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – the commencement of campaigns for national offices by political parties, 152 days to the elections.

INEC, which has undertaken eight out of the 14 items on the calendar and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 general elections, had on September 20, 2022, published the names of presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial and House of Representative candidates contesting the elections on the platforms of the various political parties.

Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said at a two-day workshop for INEC Press Corps in Lagos on Monday that on October 4, 2022, the commission will release the final list of candidates standing nominated in relation to state elections (governorship, deputy governorship and state assemblies).

Represented by National Commissioner Festus Okoye, he said: “On 28th September 2022 Presidential and National Assembly campaigns will start while that of Governorship and State Assembly candidates will start on 12th October 2022. The Commission will continue to adhere to set timelines in carrying out its activities.”

The commission, therefore, urged the “18 registered political parties to critically study and pay attention to the provisions of the Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Police Act and the Public Order Act for the proper and peaceful conduct of political campaigns, rallies and processions.”

On the responsibility of the media, Yakubu cautioned that “a political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.

“Let me also remind the media of their constitutional and legal obligations. State apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election. In other words, equal coverage and visibility shall be allotted to all political parties by all print and electronic media organisations.

“The commission is conscious of the critical role of the media in our political and electoral process and believes that democracy will only grow and flourish through adherence by the media to professional and ethical standards. Indeed, true democracy cannot exist without effective information flow.

Already, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have constituted their campaign councils which are expected to take off in earnest today.

Instructively, former President Goodluck Jonathan has asked presidential candidates of the various political parties and their supporters to shun violence and bad politicking ahead of the 2023 elections.

In a congratulatory message recently in Abuja, Jonathan acknowledged the democratic exercise that produced Atiku Abubakar of PDP, Bola Tinubu of APC, Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP), Rabiu Kwankwaso of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and Adewole Adebayo of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The emergence of Malik Ado-Ibrahim of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Dan Nwanyanwu of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and Dumebi Kachikwu of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) were also noted. He said their victory at the end of the primaries has shown their “belief and interest in the progress of our nation.”

The former president, who accepted defeat in 2015 to become an icon of democracy revered by Nigerians and the international community, urged the candidates to make the nation’s array of challenges the centre of their campaign.

“As you progress towards the electioneering campaigns, it is important that the issues confronting the country and credible solutions take centre stage. I urge you to conduct your campaigns in a manner devoid of acrimony, divisiveness and treachery so that at the end of the day Nigeria will win, democracy will triumph and humanity will be better for it.

“As I have always said, no ambition is worth the life of another. As candidates, you must eschew violence and acts that will encourage any form of bloodletting or exacerbate the national fault lines. We live in a season of unprecedented violence and all political leaders have a responsibility to de-escalate the tension in the country. The candidates by conduct and language must prioritise non-violence and peaceful coexistence,” Jonathan said.

He described the 2023 general elections as another opportunity to “rebuild the dreams of our founding fathers and revitalise our economy.”

“The importance of this election imposes on the election managers and security agencies a historic burden to continue deepening the reforms of our electoral system. A transparent election will go a long way to increase the confidence of Nigerians in our democracy and restore trust in our public institutions,” he said.

Blueprint is in sync with former President Jonathan on the need for issue based campaigns and adherence to the principle of politics without bitterness. It is notable that the 2023 general elections are unique considering that they are transitional from one government to another at the centre and many of the 36 states of the federation, whose governors have served out their two-term of eight years constitutional limit.

Majority of the members of the National Assembly would also be exiting office, having lost their return bids.

This, therefore, calls for decorum by candidates during electioneering. The candidates and their parties have the onerous responsibility to assist the electoral umpire to deliver free, fair, credible and acceptable elections in 2023.