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Civil society stakeholders unveil SWOT analysis of 2023 Polls

By Armsfree Ajanaku
07 September 2022   |   4:10 am
The past few weeks have been buzzing with activities as civil society actors across Nigeria drill down to the minutest detail of how best to engage the fundamental issues in the electoral process.

Atiku

The past few weeks have been buzzing with activities as civil society actors across Nigeria drill down to the minutest detail of how best to engage the fundamental issues in the electoral process. As expected, the crux of the flurry of engagements is about how to ensure the robust participation and the supremacy of the votes of the electorate in the 2023 general elections.

Nonetheless, civic actors have long come to terms with the reality that the electoral process is not an isolated system, which can be effective and efficient in isolation from other critical structures in the democratic and governance system.

Analysts at the risk of sounding like broken records have taken the pains to make the point that for the electoral process to deliver the right outcomes, the issues inherent in the process must be juxtaposed with other realities in the governance system of the country.

With such refrain, analysts are helping stakeholders to understand election, not as a routine exercise wherein voters come out periodically. In this broad context, scholars have for instance pointed out that it is not enough for the Election Management Body to have the intention of delivering credible polls. Other support systems like security, infrastructure, a fully mobilised electorate and political parties with the right conduct are critical to the smooth running of the electoral process. This mindset of reflection and the adoption of a holistic approach to the issues in the build up to the 2023 elections have become prevalent in positions of the most influential civil society organisations. One of such organisations is the frontline pro-democracy think tank, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD). The think tank is one of the very first organisation to get off the blocks in terms of implementing its strategy for robust voter education and citizen observation of the 2023 electoral process.

Tinubu. Photo/facebook/officialasiwajubat

Within a space of one week recently, CDD organised two high level meetings of elections experts. One of the meetings was a methodology workshop to provide the space for elections experts to think through the exact methods for engaging the electoral process in the buildup to the general elections. Reflecting on the rationale for stakeholders to closely observe the electoral process in the recent past, Director, Idayat Hassan went down memory lane by referencing the work done by CDD through its Election Analysis Centre. She stressed that the think tank’s work around elections has always been grounded in reason and evidence. While noting that the dynamics shaping the coming elections of 2023 are rapidly changing, the CDD helmswoman spoke on the need to understand the gaps in previous interventions, while looking forward to better outcomes in the next general elections.

The methodology conversation featured heavyweight political scientists and electoral experts, such as the Chairman of the CDD International Governing Board, Dr. Kole Ahmed Shettima, Chair of the CDD Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Professor Adele Jinadu; as well as Professors Adebayo Olukoshi, Okey Ibeanu, Atonia Okoosi-Simbine and Jideofor Adibe. The reflection from these scholars and experts generated a treasure trove of background knowledge, which would definitely make the CDD work on the elections to be based on evidence. This came as political actors eagerly await the start of the campaign period for the elections come the last week of September.

The second convening, which the CDD organised to share perspectives with critical election stakeholders was the expert meeting on Conducting Nigeria’s 2023 General Elections in Volatile Security Environment. This particular conversation, which was organised in conjunction with INEC brought together actors from the security services, scholars, community leaders and the international community. The essence of the expert meeting, which was held under Chatham House rules, was to share information on some of the areas most prone to violence before, during and after the elections. Thereafter, the CDD plan for the expert meeting was to ensure synergy such that the security agencies would be able to keep a close watch on those potential trouble spots. CDD’s collaboration with the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) also signposted the importance of partnership with the international community to deliver credible elections, which would reflect the democratic wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian people.

Apart from the expert conversations on how to ensure the 2023 polls are free, fair and credible, the pro-democracy think tank recently released a Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of the 2023 general elections. The report titled ‘Nigeria’s presidential polls: A SWOT Analysis’ raised concerns over the safety of election personnel, voters and election materials, as well as the hurdles posed by threats such as kidnapping, violence, banditry, insurgency and communal clashes.

Noting that the 2023 general election is a significant logistical operation, CDD stressed that there will be significant logistic challenges reaching the 176,846 polling units with election material. CDD noted that for such a far-reaching level of deployment to be successful, it would require the recruitment and training of close to 1.5 million poll and security officials. This, the pro-democracy think tank pointed out requires the deployment of personnel, which number about four times the size of the entire Nigerian military.

Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso

On the other hand, CDD pointed out that the negative influence of religion, ethnicity and money politics could also undermine the credibility and acceptability of the elections, if not properly addressed. The think tank observed that these divisive factors have already played a role in shaping the emergence of the four major party candidates running in the presidential election of next year. The candidates are Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bola Tinubu of All Progressives Congress (APC), Peter Obi of Labour Party and Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Although, the report, which was signed by the Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, rated the legal framework in place for the elections as robust and laudable, the report however noted that the conduct of political actors would be critical if the benefits of such framework were to be enjoyed across the board. The report pointed that the Electoral Act 2022 has elicited prospects that could redefine elections in Nigeria.

The report further noted that with political campaigns looming in the coming weeks, key governance issues, such as insecurity would be a factor in the political calculations for the leading candidates as they traverse the country.

The report noted in the northwest, the hot button issue of security of life and property would have an impact on the performance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Tinubu. At the same time, the secessionist agitations in the southeast could reduce turnout, which may not favour either the Labour Party flag bearer Peter Obi or Peoples Democratic Party candidate Abubakar Atiku. The report read: “Religion is likely to feature prominently in debates following the APC’s decision to contest the presidency with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Renewed youth engagement in politics, a feature of the voter registration period, could also be transformative and favour Obi.

“Money will continue to play a huge role in determining who emerges the winner if the presidential primaries and recent gubernatorial elections offer any lesson. Finally, online campaigns will be more fiercely fought than ever, with attacks aimed at boosting candidates, attacking opponents and undermining INEC likely to be accentuated in social media in the run-up to, during and even after voting,” the report noted in part. CDD added that citizens’ access to electoral infrastructure would remain constant throughout the campaign and during the voting period, especially for those displaced internally by conflict.

Peter Obi. Photo/facebook/PeterObiGregory

On the character and composition of INEC and the implications for the polls, the report recalls that INEC chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu, is the first Chair of the Election Management Body to be appointed for a second term in the country’s history. The new report observes the backlash generated by the replacement of 19 Resident Electoral Commissioners at the Commission, noting the perception that a number of the replacements are alleged to be partisan and lack integrity could impact the elections; however, CDD stressed that the 2022 Electoral Act may have introduced several changes that would continue to improve the credibility of elections.

Consequently, the SWOT Analysis noted that cases of inconclusive election would be drastically reduced in 2023 as the new Electoral Act now defines overvoting in terms of accredited voters as against registered voters, adding that INEC would also be able to, according to the new act, review results signed under financial inducement or duress. The report enthuses that if INEC judiciously applies technology, which it had pushed for and was granted through the new Electoral Act, the transparency of the election could be improved. The report similarly added that the poll’s credibility would also depend on the degree to which citizens could vote freely and unencumbered.

It noted: “Insecurity remains a critical issue, particularly in the northwest and southeast. Further challenging this operation are the prevailing structural, infrastructural, and cultural ecosystems in which the polls will take place.
“Prompt release of the entire INEC budget could help mitigate some of these. Finally, the role played by the security agencies, and subsequently by the judiciary, may be as crucial in determining the credibility of the election as that of the election management body.

“Nigeria is currently facing an epidemic of insecurity. The violence led by bandits, terrorists and secessionists has been recorded across its six geo-political zones, further dividing the country along ethnic, religious and political lines. Holding credible polls in this context that guarantees the security of voters and INEC personnel will be a major challenge. The ability of INEC to conduct continuous voter registration has already been questioned as insecurity has prevented the Commission from deploying to all wards across all electoral districts,” the report stated.