Elections 2023

Nigerians entered the New Year with high hopes that 2023 will bring about changes that would cause ease of lives for them. The reason for this is not farfetched – the general elections would be coming up in the first quarter of the year. The first in the series would be the presidential election scheduled to hold on 16th February, 2023. Nigerians are in high hopes that the result, no matter where the pendulum swings, would ease the pain ravaging the country at the moment.

Of the 18 candidates gunning for the top seat, three are the major contenders: Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress; Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party; and Peter Obi, the candidate of the Labour Party. These three candidates have the most attention of the electorates and Nigerians in general.

The candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu, in his 80-page policy document, listed his priority areas as national security, economy, agriculture, power, oil and gas, transportation and education. He said his objective is to foster a new society based on shared prosperity, tolerance, compassion, and the unwavering commitment to treating each citizen with equal respect and due regard.

The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has all through his campaigns promised to end Boko Haram, run lean government, end religious violence in the country, make Nigeria work again, end pro-biafra agitation, have 40 percent cabinet for youths, introduce fresh initiatives to tackle unemployment, revamp the economy, restructure the country, and rule for only one term.

On his own part, the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, promises to build a new Nigeria devoid of mass poverty and criminalities. He said his administration would ensure that the youths are gainfully engaged by empowering them with skills. He also promised to invest heavily in education and ensure that unemployment become history in Nigeria. Furthermore, he promised to address the security challenge bedeviling the country, especially Benue state, to ensure quick return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their ancestral homes. He vowed to move Nigeria away from being products consuming nation to a producing country.

Nigeria, being a factor in the continent of Africa, attracts the attention of the outside world in the build-up to the 2023 elections. In recent years, wave of coups and counter coups have been sweeping through West Africa with four attempted coups in this year alone with two successful in Burkina Faso.

Between 1999 and 2022, there have been 30 coups in the region and 17 of them have been successful. Therefore, conducting free, fair and violence-free elections in 2023 would reassure the world that democracy is still entrenched in the sub-region.

Not only are the three main contenders for the presidency selling their manifestoes and ideas to Nigerians, they are also reaching out to the world. Atiku Abubakar in his effort to gain international support and recognition for his ambition hosted a delegation of the British High Commission in Nigeria. The delegation was led by the High Commissioner, Catriona Laing.

Abubakar urged the UK-government to increase collaboration with Nigeria on issues of mutual benefits including security, education, economy, agriculture, and how to foster national unity in Nigeria. He said that if given the opportunity, he would, among other things, abolish multiple exchange rate regimes and reduce taxes to encourage genuine manufacturers and promote real investments. He also promised to boost agriculture to create employment for the country’s teeming population. He promised to carry out reforms in the education sector, including the reinvigoration of financial loan schemes to Nigerian students.

For Tinubu, early last December, he embarked on a trip to the United States and some European countries. He was at the Chatham House in the United Kingdom where he unveiled some of his plans for major sectors if elected to lead the country. He said his administration would be committed to energy sufficiency through the reform of the sector.  “Energy supply is another priority. There is no version of the world where Nigeria’s ambition for self can be achieved without solving the problem of how to provide energy to homes and businesses across the country,” he said.

“It is time to recognise that the centralised approach to energy policy infrastructure is not an optimal engagement, and it is unlikely to improve by mere tinkering around the sides. The federal government as regulator and operator and price fixer is a broken model,” he said.

Tinubu, Obi, Atiku

He said he would provide student loans and reform the Almajiri system in the northern part of the country and also recruit and train more teachers as a way of boosting education. He added that he would introduce technology hubs where “youths can even develop technological languages on their own and make a better 21st-century approach to governance in Nigeria.”

The candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, in his own effort to reach out to the world has been moving from country to country across the world on invitation by Nigerians in diaspora. In Germany, he assured Nigerians there that his government would have zero tolerance for corruption and also cut cost of governance in order to channel resources to productive ventures to strengthen the economy. He said his administration would strengthen the naira by scaling up production in order to increase exports.

“We will move our country robustly from consumption to production, and especially with strong support from exportation of Nigerian manufactured goods and commodities. We will aggressively pursue human capital development in the education and health sectors with a view of meeting global funding targets and best practices,” he told them.

He also assured that Africa will remain the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy as it will improve the diplomatic sphere of influence via peacekeeping, trade, and investment initiatives. On diaspora engagement, Obi promised to provide the opportunity for diaspora Nigerians to vote in the 2027 elections if he is elected as president this year. “We will continue to engage the Nigerian Diaspora in ways that is mutually beneficial. By 2027 election, Nigerians in Diaspora must have a voice via absentee ballots.”

While the country geared towards the election season, there are fears in some quarters that the elections may not hold due to happenings all across the country. Attacks on offices of the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) have become consistent. In December, the Imo State headquarters of the commission in Owerri was attacked by gunmen. The gun duel that ensued resulted in the death of a policeman while another suffered severe injury during the attack.

In Imo state alone, within the first two weeks of December 2022, three attacks were carried out on INEC officers in Orlu LGA, Oru West LGA and the attack on its headquarters in Owerri.

Concerned by this development, the electoral umpire took a stock of attacks on its facilities across the country since 2019 and the report revealed that it has suffered 50 attacks across 15 states between 2019 and 2021. The Commission said Imo State tops the list with 11 attacks within the period.

The Commission noted that the attacks were as a result of election-related violence, protests unrelated to elections and activities of thugs and unknown gunmen. “The list does not include damage to facilities as a result of fire accidents, natural disasters such as flooding or rain/wind storms, the snatching/destruction of electoral materials during election, burglary and attack on election duty officials,” a document released by Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the INEC chairman, revealed.

In a breakdown, the document revealed that Osun took second with seven attacks, while Enugu and Akwa Ibom had five attacks apiece. Ebonyi, Cross River and Abia states had four incidents each; Anambra had two; while Ogun, Lagos, Ondo and Bayelsa states had one incident each.

Giving details, the document said “there was one Boko Haram attack, one bandit attack, eighteen attacks as a result of the #EndSARS protests, twenty attacks by unknown gunmen and hoodlums, four attacks as a result of post-election violence and six incidents as a result of thuggery during elections.”

While there were eight attacks in 2019, twenty-two in 2020, twelve in 2021, there were eight attacks in 2022, explaining that “these are attacks as a result of election-related violence, protests unrelated to elections and activities of thugs and unknown gunmen.”

A September report on the 2023 General Elections by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) stated that the election would be the most challenging to conduct in Nigeria, considering factors like the raging insecurity, preparedness of INEC, and conduct of presidential candidates.

The report titled, ‘Nigeria’s presidential polls: A SWOT analysis’ states, “But, the credibility of the 2023 general election will also depend on the degree to which citizens can vote freely and unencumbered.

“Insecurity remains a critical issue, particularly in the north-west and south-east. Further challenging this operation are the prevailing structural, infrastructural, and cultural ecosystems in which the polls will take place.”

CDD in the report said it is concerned about INEC’s logistical operation. The electoral body is set to deploy its staff in 176,846 polling units, a 56,872 increase from 2019. “This will require the recruitment and training of close to 1.5 million poll and security officials, about four times the size of the Nigerian military,” CDD said.

“Road vehicles are the predominant mode of transportation and account for 80 per cent of goods traffic in Nigeria, but only 20 per cent of the road network in the country is paved. Improvements have been made regarding internet access, but electricity is still largely absent for the majority of Nigerians. If roads are impassable, electricity epileptic, and communication infrastructure rudimentary, this will affect the quality of election administration.”

These are obstacles that INEC must overcome as it conducts elections across the country, the report added.

On the security situation in the country, CDD submitted that in the past few years, insecurity has intensified and spread, affecting virtually all parts of Nigeria. Incidents have been notably higher in the north-west and south-east where banditry, terrorist activities, herder-farmer conflicts, and secessionist agitations are exerting huge human and economic impacts.

In the north-east, the Islamic State in the West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram have continued their insurgency, while north-central Nigeria continues to witness conflicts over land and grazing rights as well as terrorism.

“There is a strong chance these groups will be instrumentalised to perpetrate political violence, a familiar feature of elections in Nigeria. Rather than showing signs of waning, the insecurity is taking a new, and even more perilous, direction as a result of growing to a splinter of bandit groups, their expansion into states outside of the north-west, increased access to resources and arms and numerous examples of bandit-terrorist cooperation,” CDD said.

The centre also noted that in the south-east, the activities of separatist groups have affected the registration of voters in many local governments and are likely to also affect the election proper. “These conflicts will have implications for the elections, especially if politicians utilise them to stoke tensions to garner votes; a tendency which has already been observed in Benue and Plateau states where politicians have peddled divisive rhetoric and demonised members of particular groups to boost electoral support.

“Holding credible polls in an environment that guarantees the security of voters and INEC personnel will be a major challenge,” it said.

On the political calculations it said, “Nigerian presidential elections are a numbers game with the successful candidate looking for a majority of the total vote, plus at least 25 per cent of the vote in two-thirds of the states,” CDD said. “Presidential tickets are developed with these national and regional calculations in mind and alliances, even between some of the four leading parties, remain possible as the campaign period unfolds.”

The civic group projected that key issues that dominated the 2015 and 2019 elections, that is, economy, security, and corruption, will remain on the front burner in the 2023 polls.

CDD concluded that “politicians will be using money that will play a huge role in determining who emerges the winner if the presidential primaries and recent gubernatorial elections are to offer any indication.”

“Following the party primaries, the country experienced one of its worst foreign exchange crises in recent memory as demand for US dollars overshot supply,” it added.

“The commodification of votes is a permanent feature of Nigerian elections. Instead of concentrating on issue-based politics, vote buying will be prioritised with cash, food, clothing, and other commodities given out in exchange for votes. During the off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Osun and Ekiti states, candidates boasted about matching dollar for dollar and Naira for Naira to prospective voters with a vote trading for as much as N20,000 (approximately $47).”

CDD concluded that the 2023 elections would not be any different.

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