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Let the campaigns begin

By Nick Dazang
21 September 2022   |   2:38 am
On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, two major milestones will be reached on the electoral front. On that fateful day, we would have arrived at the ninth out of the fourteenth milestones

PDP

On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, two major milestones will be reached on the electoral front.

On that fateful day, we would have arrived at the ninth out of the fourteenth milestones on the way to the conduct of the 2023 General Elections.

By the same token, and based on the Timetable And Schedule of Activities of the 2023 General Elections issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in February this year, campaigns for the General Elections will begin in earnest on the same day (28th September 2022), one hundred and fifty days to Election Day.

Ordinarily, campaigns are conducted to engender a free and open discussion on who is the best candidate and which party, based on its high-minded agenda, is best poised to squarely address our concerns and challenges. We expect our impending campaigns to be no less muscular and lively.

We expect them to define and climax into the conduct of the best elections in our history. We expect them to excite and titillate the political firmament. We expect them, particularly the rallies, town halls and debates to be full of color and circumstance. We expect them to be agog with pomp and sound bites. We expert the arguments that will undergird them to be reasoned and cogent. We expect our media to be suffused with messages which stand the candidates in good stead. We expect campaigns speeches to be studded with exalted and ennobling visions of a greater Nigeria. We expect campaigns which unite, rather than focus on our fault lines and things that divide us. We expect the campaigns to be civil and issue-based.

APC


But if we are to go by the pronouncements of some of the enablers of our presidential candidates who before now stridently canvassed positions or take issues on behalf of their principals, then we have every reason to fear or harbor reservations. For they carried as giddy and inebriated enforcers, slinging mud and calumnizing their principal opponents. They also issued highfalutin claims and inflammatory rhetorics thus setting the stage for outlandish and ridiculous promises in the unscrupulous politicians of yore who would promise to build bridges where no rivers existed or literally put the Atlantic Ocean on fire.

The grim reality which confronts us and the terrible place in which Nigerians find themselves today should persuade even the most reckless and delinquent politician that only well-thought-out and sombre arguments will do. Candidates must refrain from incendiary speeches or pronouncements which tend to cast unnecessary aspersions on their opponents.

They should abide scrupulously by the provisions of the electoral holy grail, namely the Electoral Act 2022. Permit to quote copiously from Section 95(1-6):” 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 insinuations or innuendos designed or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.

Places designated for religious worship, police station and public offices shall not be used-
a) for political campaigns, rallies and processions or b) to promote, propagate or attack political parties, candidates, their programmes or ideologies.

Masquerades shall not be employed or used by any political party, candidate or person during political campaigns or for any other political purpose.

A political party or member of a political party shall not retain, organize, train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest, or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organized-trained or equipped for that purpose.

A political party, person or candidate shall not keep or use a private security organization, vanguard or any other group or individual by whatever name called for the purpose of providing security, assisting or aiding the political party or candidate in whatever manner during campaigns, rallies, processions or elections.”

If the candidates and political parties are to carry themselves in a sublime and decorous manner, the Media and Civil Society have salient roles to play in tracking and publicizing their promises and holding them to account.

The Media should give unfettered opportunities for the candidates to ventilate themselves. This will enable the voters to study them and make informed choices. And in providing these unhindered platforms, the Media must be as fair as possible, thus giving equal or near equal space and time to the candidates.

The Media must vigorously interrogate the candidates and political parties. Assumptions must not be erroneously made on the bases of sentiments and emotions regarding the candidates. This way, we shall avoid the costly mistake of 2015, when Nigerians were wowed and beguiled by the putative and assumed integrity and high sense of patriotic fervour of one of the candidates only to be betrayed thereafter.

No doubt, peddlers and purveyors of fake news will have a field day. But the traditional media with its army of gatekeepers must comport themselves responsibly, playing their roles as veritable custodians of the truth. They must refrain from amplifying or weaponising pronouncements that fan the embers of hatred.

The Election Management Body (EMB), namely INEC, must thoroughly track the expenses of the candidates, audit the accounts of political parties timeously and subsequently publish them as stipulated by law. That way illicit will be blocked and a level playing field shall be guaranteed for all contestants and our politics shall not be sullied by filthy lucre.

Yes, let the campaigns begin. Let them proceed with charity, decency, grace and generosity of spirit. Above all, let them be guided by a higher purpose and the overarching desire to deliver good governance and retrieve our country from the mire in which it is bogged.