So, the 2023 elections matter much. Indeed, they will test the new Electoral Act, whose key provision of electronic transmission of results will prove whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is ready to hold free and fair elections. The Commission is interfacing with a smaller number of 18 political parties for the elections compared to the 2019 poll in which a whopping 91 took part. September 28 was rather quiet but for the PDP that noisily inaugurated a 600-member presidential campaign council in Abuja on the same day, apparently to signify its readiness for the polls. As the PDP faithful gathered, we were treated to an open display of discord within the APC over the composition of its own campaign council, with media reports suggesting a rift between the presidential candidate and the National Working Committee of the party. It didn’t help matters that the candidate, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu himself was away in London at the same time, sparking rumours of ill-health and incapacitation, which his aides swiftly dismissed, insisting their man was doing the rounds in the British capital.
We have a foretaste of the kind of campaign from two key developments. On September 29, the National Peace Committee, headed by former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar gathered the presidential candidates of the 18 parties (Asiwaju Tinubu was represented by his running mate, Alhaji Kassim Shettima) in Abuja, to sign a peace pact, and undertaking that they will behave well in the campaign. The national chairmen of the parties also signed the pact. The other development is the disclosure by INEC that majority of the parties that took part in the last elections, including the APC and PDP, flouted campaign financing and exceeding the N1bn ceiling set by the Electoral Act. INEC said it would monitor and enforce the cap this time and reminded candidates that it was illegal to receive foreign funding for their hustings.
So, what kind of campaign do we expect to see if experience is any guide? Money will exchange hands. The pressure on the Naira during the presidential primaries will only exacerbate as candidates ply their trade in hard currency that will be scarce and exchange at premium rates. I like the noise INEC makes about campaign financing but frankly speaking, it will remain just noise. And the peace pact? It makes good optics that the candidates signed the pact, but what matters is what they tell their foot soldiers away from the cameras. There will be a lot of mudslinging and finger-pointing in the campaign. The stakes are high. The PDP has been out of power for eight years while the APC will like to consolidate their tenancy at Aso Villa. A third force in the mould of Peter Obi only complicates the race for the major parties. Without any doubt or surprise, there will be manipulations and vituperations on social media, as parties and candidates engage in a fierce campaign to trap the unwary consumer.
Now, to be fair to Nigerian political parties, we shouldn’t expect anything less or else. Our parties are not ideas-based. They are personality-based. Show me the ideological difference between the PDP and the APC or any other party for that matter. Therefore, it is very easy for our politicians to jump from one party to the other. Majority of them are serial defectors; some can defect in the morning and defect again before it is evening. They do it so well that you would sometimes have a hard time keeping track of their membership!
Just to give you an idea, the senator representing the Enugu East Senatorial District and former Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani is boldly and proudly listed as a member of the campaign councils of the APC and PDP. Yet, the man is a member of the PDP, and contested the governorship and senatorial elections on the platform of his party. While the distinguished senator is number 350 in the APC list, he is in the 69th slot in his own party. No one – not the beautiful bride himself, presidential candidates, or parties – has said anything or seen anything strange in this double-listing. This is our politics and our campaign!
Follow us on twitter