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Nigeria elections: Fierce battle anticipated as 2023 campaign season opens

The forthcoming general elections in Nigeria will be held in the first quarter of 2023.

Presidential and National Assembly elections will be conducted on Saturday, 25th February; Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections are scheduled for Saturday, 11th March.

On September 28, the campaign season will officially open as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

For the presidency, the major contenders are ex-Lagos governor Bola Tinubu, All Progressives Congress (APC); ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); ex-Anambra governor Peter Obi, Labour Party (LP); and former Kano governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

A tough race is in sight as each of the quartet not only boasts of a large fan base, they know one another well enough.

Kwankwaso served as Defence Minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo when Atiku was the VP. In 2015, Obi was Atiku’s running mate under the PDP.

In 2007, Atiku ran for presidency under the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by Tinubu after he dumped the PDP. ACN was one of the APC foundation platforms.

The allies, it was earlier reported were the favorites to clinch their party’s ticket, have been business partners and are keen to slug it out at the polls.

Furthermore, Atiku and Tinubu have been relevant in national politics for more than three decades, even before the June 12, 1993, election era.

They both claim credit for fighting the military after M. K. O. Abiola’s victory was truncated. Thus, for them, the outcome of the race for the presidency will determine the stronger force.

Again in 2014, they teamed to work for the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari who defeated the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, the first time an opposition defeated the ruling party.

As Buhari nears the completion of a two-term tenure, his admirers insist the ex-Head of State from Katsina has performed well.

They often refer to road construction, rail infrastructure, military equipment purchase, and the Second Niger Bridge, among others.

However, at least half of the population have rated the APC administration low, citing disappointment with its performance on the economy, youth unemployment, corruption, and security.

Hundreds have been victims of mass murders, banditry, terrorism, farmer-herders clashes, and kidnapping. Many are still angry over the government’s controversial spending of COVID-19 support funds.

According to the United Nations (UN), the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is around 3 million; more people are exiting the country, the dollar is at an all-time high on the black market, and debt stock increasing.

Nigerians, on and off the internet, have been deliberating and selling the candidate they believe has the capacity to fix the country.

As campaigns start this week, the hopefuls for federal and state positions and their parties will light up the polity with rallies, road shows, advertisements, etc.

It was gathered that more defections will be announced in the coming weeks as politicking and horse-trading heighten across states.

But concerns over the spate of insecurity remain high; the recent deadly attack on the convoy of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah is suspectedly an attempted assassination.

Also, several comments on social media are mostly confrontational, with fears that physical arguments may cause conflicts in certain areas.

As youths continue to show interest in getting their voter’s cards, many have vowed not to be intimated before and during the elections. This means security agencies must increase surveillance and patrol.

In the 2019 elections in Lagos, polling units, including Oshodi and Okota, were attacked by thugs who destroyed ballot boxes and papers.

Though a peace accord will soon be signed to ensure a violence-free election, a cross-section of the masses opines that some flagbearers and supporters failed to honour the previous agreement.

The matter is worsened by the failure of INEC and law enforcement agencies to prosecute a good number of hoodlums apprehended.

Twitter user, Fasakin Gabriel (@fashakin87), dismissed the pact, complaining that violence is still recorded during elections.
“What is the essence of signing a peace accord that holds no power? In every election, they always sign a peace accord but at the end of the day…

“..there is always violence from APC and PDP thugs. We don’t need peace accord but a competent INEC”, he wrote.

INEC Public Relations Officer in Lagos, Adenike Oriowo, said the commission expects citizens and politicians to be responsible.

“The timetable has been out, and campaign will begin on the 28th. We know our role and expect everyone to play by the rules.

“My advise is that people should study the candidates’ manifestoes and participate in the process”, Oriowo said on Sunday night.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has assured credible polls, adding that the days of manipulating results are over.

The professor said the Electoral Act 2022, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), and the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) improved the commission’s efficiency.

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