Another political transition in Nigeria is in the offing as political campaigns for the 2023 general election commence officially tomorrow.
This entails that candidates contesting in the general polls can now seek votes formally from Wednesday, September 28, in line with the time table released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Accordingly, officials of INEC and leaders of the 18 registered political parties will meet in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, to discuss ways to ensure issue-based campaigns that will lead to violence-free polls next year.
LEADERSHIP reports that less than five months before the ballot, no clear frontrunner has emerged with major candidates all confronting challenges on their path to the top political seat in Africa’s most populous country.
The top candidates are a former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC); a former vice president on his sixth bid, Atiku Abubakar of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); a former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi of Labour Party, who is generating a following among young Nigerians, and former Kano State governor Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
INEC, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) have restated the need for operators in Nigeria’s broadcast industry to avoid activities that could jeopardise peace in the nation.
They spoke in Abuja during a sensitisation forum on political broadcasting in Abuja, with the theme, ‘Towards a Fair and Responsible Broadcast Coverage of the 2023 General Elections.
The event was to remind operators of broadcast industries of their critical roles in ensuring a democratic process during the 2023 general elections.
In his remark, INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said the 2023 general election would take place against the background of the new Electoral Act.
Yakubu urged political actors, the broadcast media, and other critical stakeholders to familiarise themselves with the laws.
He said the media plays an indisputable role in ensuring a more effective public enlightenment in the coming 2023 general elections, urging the media and other political actors to act within the confines of the law.
“Political party candidates and their supporters, as well as the media have a responsibility to operate within the confines of the law and the provisions of the Commission’s regulations and guidelines. Issue-based campaigns are essential for safe electioneering. In turn, this will create the atmosphere for the successful deployment and conduct of all electoral activities.
“Campaigns should be devoid of hate speech, abusive or seen intemperate or slanderous language, insinuations or innuendos likely to provoke violent reaction, physical attacks on supporters of one party or another or the destruction of campaign materials.
“More specifically, section 95 of the Electoral Act defines the responsibilities of political parties and candidates, the media and public institutions. It also provides sanctions for violations. For instance, in the course of our numerous interactions with political parties over the years, many of them have complained about the denial of access to public facilities for their meetings or rallies, exorbitant charges for signages and billboards and equal access to the state media.
“Using the power of incumbency to deny opposition parties access to public facilities is outrightly illegal. Section 95, subsections, 2, 3,4, 5, and 6 are unambiguous, and worth quoting poverty as follows. Section 95 subsection 2 says state apparatus, including the media, shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election.
“Section 95 subsection three says and I quote that media time shall be allocated equally among the political parties and candidates are similar hours of the day. 95 section subsection forces at any public electronic media equal time shall be allotted to all political parties or candidates during primary times or dissimilar hours each day subjected to the payment of appropriate fees.”
He reiterated that the commission would do everything within its power to ensure that the 2023 general election is free, fair, credible, transparent, inclusive, and verifiable.
Similarly, NBC’s director-general, DG, Mr Balarabe Ilelah, urged operators of the broadcast industry to ensure that reportages are made within the ambit of the law.
He warned that the commission would not hesitate to sanction any individual and organisation that breaches the broadcasting codes.
He added the commission would shut down broadcast stations that run fowl to the NBC broadcast code.
He said, “Remember that broadcast stations are held responsible for any breach. The stations will therefore assume and accept editorial responsibility. I will also use this opportunity to remind broadcasters not to allow any form of hate speech, fake news, use of derogatory or divisive remarks and any incendiary broadcast on their platforms.
“NBC is not going to take it lightly with any station. If you want to remain after the end of the election, you must make sure that you operate within the law. And if you want to end your broadcast before the election, okay, you can go ahead and break the law. NBC will not fold its arms to see things are done in a wrong way.
“The broadcaster is not allowed to deny any group access to airtime, any form of denial of access is prohibited. However, if your political content is indecent and hateful then a station is allowed to turn it down and give reasons why it cannot be taken.”
On his part, the president, National Union of Journalists, NUJ, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, advised NBC, and other regulatory bodies not to see the media as competitors but as partners in delivering the Nigerian project.
Similarly, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, represented by the assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, Bala Ciroma, warned the media against reportage that could jeopardize national security before or during the 2023 general elections.
Ahead of the 2023 general electioneering campaign, the INEC has also warned the 18 registered political parties and politicians in the country to avoid hate speeches, abusive language, and all actions capable of truncating the outcome of the elections.
The nation’s electoral umpire particularly urged the 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 proper and peaceful conduct of political campaigns, rallies, and processions.
INEC chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu who gave the charge at the ongoing two-day capacity-building workshop on the Commission’s Progresses, Innovations, Preparations for the 2023 General Elections and Critical Issues in the Electoral Act 2022 in Lagos on Monday also charged the media on equal coverage and visibility to all political parties.
He said, “We urge all 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.
“A political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings. Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.”
Meanwhile, INEC and leaders of the 18 registered political parties will meet in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital to discuss ways to ensure issue-based campaigns that will lead to a violence-free 2023 general elections.
Also expected at the event tagged, “Citizens Get-Together: Meeting with the Stakeholders”, are advocates, students and youths groups as well as security agencies and other relevant organisations.
Organizers of the event and good governance advocacy group, the Unity House Foundation (UHF), in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt yesterday, said it was designed to engage the public and political class on the need to be civil, decorous and focused on the issues.
The statement, which was signed by UHF National Leader, Kingsley Wenenda Wali, said thedirector General of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Professor Eghosa Osaghae, will be the guest speaker at the event.
Next President, Governors Must Get Two-thirds Spread, Says INEC
Meanwhile, INEC has said the winner of the 2023 general election must score the highest votes and the required two-third spread in the 36 states of the federation as contained in the Electoral Act 2022 and the Constitution.
The national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, who said this yesterday in Lagos at the ongoing two-day media capacity building workshop on the commission’s progresses, innovations, preparations for the 2023 general elections and critical issues in the Electoral Act 2022, said there shall be a second election between the person with the highest votes and the person with the spread, but not necessarily the second highest votes scored.
He said, “By section 134 of the Constitution where there are more than two presidential candidates, for a presidential candidate to be declared duly elected, he must secure the highest number of votes cast at the election; and not less than a quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
“In a governorship contest, the candidate must secure the highest number of votes cast and quarters of the votes cast in two-thirds of all the Local Government Areas of the State.
“In the event of a candidate not securing this threshold, the Commission must conduct a second election. Not all the 18 registered political parties sponsoring candidates will participate in this second election.”
Okoye said only two political parties and two candidates will be on the ballot for the second or runoff election.
He said the first will be the presidential candidate that secured the highest number of lawful votes in the federation.
APC Launches Electioneering With Prayers, Peace Walk Wednesday
Meanwhile, as the 2023 electioneering process kicks off in earnest, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has said it will commence its presidential campaign with a special prayer session and peace walk in Abuja tomorrow.
A statement issued yesterday by the director, Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, noted that all members of the council are to partake in the prayer session before participating in a peace walk to mark the commencement of the 2023 campaign for the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima.
He said all nominees for the campaign council will be issued their letters of appointment tomorrow.
The director urged support groups that yet to formally register with the presidential campaign council to do so immediately for proper harmonisation.
Onanuga stated: “There will be a Peace Walk immediately after the prayers. All nominees will be issued their letters of appointment the same day.
“On behalf of the Chairman of the campaign council, President Muhammadu Buhari, our candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, we congratulate all members of the campaign council.
“The appointments into the council is a call to serve the party which will demand total commitment and sacrifice from all. It is the council’s strong belief that all members will work hard to deliver a resounding victory for our great party in the 2023 Presidential election.
“We also want to use this medium to express our profound gratitude to all support groups registered with the campaign council. We are aware you have been working assiduously to promote our candidates and the party across the 36 states and FCT.
“There will be a Peace Walk immediately after the prayers. All nominees will be issued their letters of appointment same day.
“The party and the candidates acknowledge your hardwork and great financial and human resources that have been voluntarily expended since we began this journey. We urge you to continue your good work. The PCC will work with the support groups as we move along into the campaign season.”
Keyamo Refutes Report On PMB’s Call For His Sack As Campaign Spokesman
Meanwhile, the minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), has spurned a report suggesting that President Muhammadu Buhari and members of the Aso Rock cabal were angling for his removal as spokesman for the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council.
He said the said report is the handiwork of the opposition who think by planting stories they can destabilise the ranks of the governing party and the campaign council.
An online paper (not LEADERSHIP online) had quoted a presidency source as saying Buhari and members of the cabal accused Keyamo of always de-marketing the current administration despite being a serving minister.
It cited the latest interview on Channels Television in which Keyamo had said Nigerians were hun
gry and can’t wait to have a new leader who would satisfy their hunger.
The report further claimed the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, also insisted on Keyamo’s removal following the latest interview on Channels Television.