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Presidential race: Nigerians task candidates on security, economy

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…Campaigns should focus on unity, stability – Govs Buni, Bello

…Present roadmaps to solve insecurity, unemployment, others – Ojo

…Securing Nigeria, genuinely fighting corruption key – Chukwuani

…Candidates should focus on economy – YIAGA Africa

‘… Issue-based campaigns’ll determine our future’

In a couple of weeks from now, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will give the go-ahead for campaigns for the 2023 general elections. As a result of the dire situations the citizens have found themselves, there are concerns over what should dominate the presidential campaigns. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU seeks the views of stakeholders, experts and other Nigerians.

Presidential campaigns to kick off Sept 28

As contained in INEC’s timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections, political parties and their presidential candidates are expected to begin campaigns in the public space on September 28, 2022.

INEC’s slated date is in line with Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022. The Section explicitly states that campaigns in public by every political party shall commence 150 days before the polling day and end 24 hours before that day.

In the last few weeks, supporters of most candidates have embarked on subtle campaigns, but unfortunately those campaigns are not focused on issues that deserve attention, but on negative matters and other mundane issues like the ages of the candidates, religion, and tribe, with fake news and propaganda dominating the polity.

As the citizens urge caution, the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, both agreed that campaigns should be issue-based to enable the citizens to decide from informed positions.

Corroborating Tinubu, Obi and others’ positions, political pundits are of the view that issues from 1999 till date are the same, but with different features. To them, candidates’ blueprints on how these issues will be addressed will go a long way to enable the electorates to hold the winner accountable in future.

While these issues are said to vary from one state to another, one geo-political zone to the other, the following are issues that stakeholders have agreed are of the utmost concern to all Nigerians which the candidates should focus on during campaigns.

CDD’s position

In its contribution, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) called for issue-based campaigns, noting that next year was critical to the country.

CDD’s director, Idayat Hassan, who made the call in a recent statement, charged candidates to present feasible plans while campaigning for the elections.

“The state of the country is getting worse by the day. The rate of insecurity is now at its all-time high. The devaluation of the Naira and the disparity between it and other major currencies is at the peak. We can’t continue like this knowing very well that we are one of the fastest growing countries in the world in terms of population.

“We, therefore, urge politicians to focus on the issue-based campaigns and desist from disinformation or fake news. It is also important that politicians desist from using religion and ethnicity to further divide the country. The level of division we have seen is enough. It is time for us to unite.

“We need to adopt a whole of society approach and block leakages. It is not time for the president to go to bed. The next one year is very critical. In fighting corruption, we need a shift from sanctions to a long-term approach that will focus on blocking leakages,” she said.

Govs Buni, Bello’s takes

In their admonitions, the governor of Yobe state, Mai Mala Buni and his counterpart in Kogi state, Yahaya Bello, charged politicians and stakeholders to base their campaigns on “things that will unite and help to stabilise the country.”

Governor Buni gave the advice at the 2022 Blueprint Annual Public Lectures and Impact Series Awards tagged ‘2003 Politics: National Security and Nigeria’s Stability,’ which was held in Abuja on Tuesday.

The two governors noted that the success or otherwise of the 2023 elections hugely depends on the politicians, the political parties, candidates, their supporters, and the electoral umpire, INEC.

Buni observed that for the elections to be peaceful, to usher in good governance and developments all stakeholders must make sacrifices and consider national interests above personal interests.

He said, “Nigeria has had many tastes of very unfortunate events from birth to date, under various regimes, from the very sad civil war to ethno-religious conflicts, bloody border clashes, and lately, the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and secession among others. These conflicts had robbed the country of rich and valuable human and material resources. Nigeria cannot afford to have any more.

“Therefore, for us to succeed, we must as a deliberate policy, avoid politics of hate and the promotion of religious and ethnic sentiments that are gradually eating deep into the fabric of our nationhood.

“The government with the collaboration of stakeholders should create the required awareness among our supporters and the people of Nigeria generally to condemn and discourage inciting propaganda for a peaceful and successful election in 2023. The 2023 election provides us with yet another good opportunity to have a competence-driven election of new leaders to enhance national unity and development.

“I am convinced that the Presidential candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, His Excellency, the former vice-president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the former governors of Kano and Anambra states, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso and Mr. Peter Obi, respectively, and, of course, all other candidates cleared by INEC to contest for offices at national and state levels are leaders in their rights. I am equally convinced that as statesmen, we shall remain patriotic to focus our campaigns on issues that unite the country rather than issues that divide us.”

He charged Nigerians and the political elite to guide their thoughts from negative and destructive political dispositions that polarise Nigerians to a more robust issue-based campaign and politicking to help build unity and new hope for Nigeria and Nigerians.

On his part, Governor Yahaya Bello lamented how Nigerians have been divided along religious and the tribal lines behind various presidential candidates.

“We have our candidates in all political parties, at one point or the other they were all together. Today, they are in different political parties and Nigerians are divided behind them pointing fingers at each other,” he said.

Governor Bello appealed to Nigerians to calm down, saying that the campaign of division, tribal, and religious bigotry “will only polarise the country.”

On what he expected to dominate the 2023 campaigns, Gov Bello said, “We should be setting the agenda for our next administration.

“It is often said we all believe that the younger generation constitutes over 70 per cent. So, what agenda are we setting? Is it an agenda for the old or agenda for the young? Is it an agenda for good governance or agenda for ethnicity?

“Are we setting an agenda for religious bigotry or what? Today, what is overheating the polity is the Muslim-Muslim ticket. Let us allow Nigeria to have a breathing space. This sentiment to divide the country put us on a different trajectory, and we’ll continue to fight ourselves. And we will never think of how to unite this country.”

An analyst’s viewpoint

For political analyst Jide Ojo, campaigns should be based on issues, on road maps to tackling insecurity, unemployment and other Nigerian problems.

Ojo, in a telephone interview with Blueprint Weekend, said “it is not enough for them to talk about issues in their campaigns, but they must provide blueprints with how they will address these problems.”

He stressed that the presidential campaign as much as possible should be dominated by issues and the candidates should stay away from violence, hate speech and fake news.

“And the issues are already well known, issues of security, the anti-corruption, economy, education, health, agriculture, sports, you know, ICT, unemployment, issues of how to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Issues around youth bulge, what to do with the youth bulge, the population census. What are they going to do with the result of the census when eventually it’s held as scheduled in April 2023,” he said.

According to Ojo, “These are some of the dominant issues. Of course, there are everyday issues; the concerns are that we reduce the cost of living or that we improve the standard of living. How do we deal with the security challenge? How do we deal with the issue of infrastructure?  How do we tackle banditry?

“They are a myriad of issues that should dominate the campaigns. So, what I will say in summary is that let’s have the blueprints of each of the candidates. What are their campaign blueprints and roadmaps to solving Nigeria’s problems?”

Asked whether or not there were other issues, he said, “So, you know, there are particular issues that should dominate that are also general issues. I’m not sure that there’s any state in Nigeria that is not concerned about security; I’m not sure that there’s any state in Nigeria that is not bothered about the economy.

“Primarily, for me, we should demand of them in prints what their plans are so that we can benchmark; we can do it baseline, this is what you promised. And in four years, we can go back to those promises and see how many of them have been fulfilled.”

Ex-NDP chair’s expectations

On his part, a former national chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP) and a political analyst, Chudi Chukwuani, said the presidential candidate must ensure that their campaigns, among other issues, unveil their plans to secure Nigeria and genuinely fight corruption.

In a phone interview with this reporter, Chukwuani said security and the fight against corruption are key to addressing most of the country’s problems.

“So, whoever wants to become the president must come and tell us in clear terms what plans they have to secure Nigeria. The first thing that concerns most Nigerians is security. So, the candidates should ensure that their campaigns focus more on how they will address insecurity.

“They also need to tell us in clear terms how they will genuinely fight corruption. Corruption is affecting most government’s policies, projects and programmes. So, the campaigns should be about these issues; issues of insecurity, anti-corruption, economy, infrastructure, and actions that will strengthen the unity of Nigeria,’ he said.

Chukwuani also charged parties, their candidates as well as their supporters to ensure that the presidential campaigns and other campaigns are issue-based.

YIAGA Africa’s hope

Also, the executive director of YIAGA, Samson Itodo, charged the presidential candidates and political parties to ensure that issues on how to address insecurity, improve the economy and enhance national unity dominate their campaigns.

YIAGA Africa is an organisation that focuses on building sustainable democracies in Africa, anchored on the principles of inclusion, justice, accountability and constitutionalism.

Responding to a question from our reporter on what should dominate the presidential campaigns, Itodo said “it should be about how to tackle insecurity, improve the economy, and enhance national unity.”

The future

On his part, a political analyst, Aminu Mohammed, said only an issue-based campaign will determine the future of the country.

Mohammed speaking on the telephone with this medium said issue-based presidential campaigns were sacrosanct, stressing that the issues will to an extent influence and determine voter decision on candidates.

He said, “It is unfortunate that we are talking about religion and tribe about six months to an important election. As for me, the 2023 presidential campaign should be about issues that affect Nigerians. So, the presidential candidates and their parties should clearly enlighten Nigerians on how they will tackle insecurity, ensure a stable power supply, address the infrastructure decay, fight corruption, improve the economy, and ensure food sufficiency.

“Also, they must tell Nigerians their plans for the education, health and other sectors of the society. Candidates for the national interest must stay away from issues that will widen the cracks, issues that may divide us along the region and tribal lines, issues that may cause unrest in the country; this is because we don’t have any other country other than this.

“It is sacrosanct for the presidential campaigns to be issue-based because it will provide Nigerians with the required information that help them to make the right decision. Things are bad, but issue-based campaigns will determine where the future would be. If these issues are well discussed in the candidates’ blueprints, then Nigerians will make the best decision that will guarantee a bright future.”

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