Preventing violent elections through nonviolent campaigns
ON WEDNESDAY, September 28, campaigns for the 2023 general elections began in Nigeria. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has scheduled the elections for February and March 2023.
PRIOR to start of the campaigns, the electoral umpire, INEC, declared 18 political parties eligible to contest the February 25 presidential election. A total of 4,223 candidates were cleared for the 469 federal legislative seats, which consist of 109 senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies. The 2023 general elections will be conducted in 1,491 constituencies, 28 governorship positions and 993 state Assembly constituencies.
INEC had earlier intimated political parties of Section 92 of the Electoral Act 2022, which forbids any political campaign or slogan tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly or one likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional sensibilities. Therefore, abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language, insinuations or innuendos intended or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions should be avoided.
APART from INEC cautioning the parties to follow laid down guidelines for campaigns and decorum, groups have also charged politicians to be responsible during electioneering campaigns. The high point of it being the peace pact signed by political parties at the instance of Nigeria Inter- Religious Council (NIREC).
ELECTORAL campaign seasons are always keenly anticipated by both the political parties and the electorate. Apart from politicians’ primary aim being to win election, campaigns are the means by which candidates and political parties prepare and present their ideas and distinct positions on issues that matter to the voters ahead elections..
CONTESTANTS use a variety of techniques to reach voters and deliver their messages during campaigns. These could be through publications in print media, broadcast media, billboards, public events and social media platforms.
CAMPAIGNS are vital to achieving political goals. Elections are competitive and offer opportunities for contestants to convey their positions to citizens and compete for votes. Election campaigns provide candidates and political parties with opportunities to present their messages to citizens, helping voters make informed decisions on election day.
THE main political tool for winning election is communication. Communicating the values, benefits and solutions to the voters’ challenges and telling them how the politician intends to solve their social and economic problems, what the politician stands for and why they should vote for him or her, rather than his opponent(s) are vital strategies for securing electoral victory which campaign communication platforms solve.
CAMPAIGNS are conducted to engender a free and open discussion on who is the best candidate and which party, based on its agenda, is best poised to address concerns and challenges of citizens.
AS POLITICAl parties embark on their campaigns for the 2023 elections, National Light expects a civil environment devoid of violence. We expect campaigns that will unite rather than highlight issues that will divide Nigerians. What is expected is issue based campaigns and purpose-driven politics devoid of calumny. Voters should be able to interrogate their candidates on issues that affect their living conditions for the betterment of society.
POLITICAL parties should caution their supporters to exhibit good behaviour and follow electoral guidelines. They should respect the constitutional right to peaceful and lawful assembly and political views of all Nigerians’ irrespective of their political persuasions and ideologies Instead of employing all manner of below-the- belt tactics and launching various levels of smear campaigns against their opponents politicians are expected to be more tolerant and urbane.
THE advent and heavy use of social media has made hate speech style of campaigns very possible, coupled with new activities of ‘the mob’ who descend with hate and vitriol upon candidates and their supporters .
WE URGE media houses to endeavor to give equal playing field to all contestants. There should be credibility and professionalism on the part of media practitioners. Attempts should be made to balance news reportage and unverified or fake news should be avoided.
ENGAGING in violence during campaigns does no one any good and this could lead to violence during elections. Violence affects the legitimacy of elections and electoral results. The presence of violence prior to election or any campaign irregularities can negatively impact electoral outcomes.
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