Ahead of the commencement of campaigns for the 2023 general elections, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, have called on political parties to ensure that the campaigns are issue-based.
Gatekeepers News reports that the duo made the call at an event organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in collaboration with the Kukah Centre.
The event has as a theme, “High-level Forum on Political Communication and Issue-based Campaign in the 2023 General Elections”.
Lawan while declaring the forum open, said the dialogue was not just fitting and proper but also apt considering the kick-off of campaigns soon ahead of the 2023 elections.
He urged politicians to guard against inciting utterances that could jeopardise Nigeria’s democracy.
“I wish to passionately implore all stakeholders to be conscious of their messaging and focus on issue-based campaigns that shun violence and hate speech.
“Many have pointed out the extreme and prejudicial dimensions that political conversations have assumed in the last few weeks.
“Rather than emphasise discussion on policy positions to address many of the social and economic challenges we face, we are engaged in frivolous, illogical and sensational exchanges,” he said.
He called on the participants to reflect on the seriousness of governance and the need to make campaigns more issue-based.
“What should occupy our minds and discussions in the coming weeks and months include tackling insecurity and building on the gains made by the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in this regard,” he said
In his remarks, Mr Gbajabiamila said that political campaigning formed an essential element in democratic practices and was crucial for executing political strategies.
“As such, political campaigns provide a dynamic platform for political actors to connect with the electorate.
“As such, campaigns strengthen democracy by holding the elected accountable to the electors,” he said.
The speaker, however, said that several studies had shown that campaigns could undermine democracy by inducing cynicism and undermining trust in government.
He said as the country prepared to begin campaign activities, “the Electoral Act 2022 contains critical provisions on the conduct of political campaigns.
“Section 92 states that a political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.
“Sub-section 2 is even more direct in its prohibition of intemperate, slanderous or base language, insinuations, or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions”.
He added that the act further stipulated sanctions for a political party, aspirant or candidate that contravened these provisions ranging from fines of up to N2 million or imprisonment for a term of 12 months.
Mr Gbajabiamila, however, urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to uphold and strictly implement the provisions of the Act and the Regulations and Guidelines.
“We in the National Assembly will continue to support INEC by providing the necessary funds required for the smooth conduct of the 2023 elections,” he stated.
In his welcome address, Director-General NILDS, Abubakar Sulaiman, said the forum was borne out of the conviction that better communication and negotiation could create harmony and more desirable outcomes in politics.
“Political campaigning is an indispensable tool in the context of the electoral process in any democratic environment.”
“This is primarily because they create a platform and an opportunity for political actors to reach out to the electorate and share their ideological and policy positions,” he observed.
He further said despite these advantages, it is well known that campaigns could undermine democracy, particularly when they induce cynicism among the populace and undermine trust in government.
Mr Sulaiman noted that it was self-evident that the build-up to the 2023 general elections raises genuine concerns about the pattern of public communication among political actors.
He, therefore, said that the high-level forum addressed some of these critical issues to promote issue-oriented political communication.
According to the timetable and schedule of activities unveiled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political campaigns will commence on 28 September.