Recently, INEC warned that it is closely monitoring and will apply the full weight of the law on any erring party that flouts rules on hate campaigns.
Romanus Ugwu and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Miffed by past ugly election incidents and the attempt to curtail the escalation of tensions across the country through dangerous hate political campaigns, the National Peace Panel led by former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, recently appealed to politicians to adopt issue-based electioneering ahead of the 2019 general elections against attacks on personality.
READ ALSO: Peace committee raises fears over 2019 polls
The multiethnic, multi-religious and multicultural nature of the country and its political landscape have always put Nigeria into sharp divides along political and social affiliations. Little wonder most hate and dangerous speeches are centred on ethno-religious identities.
Speaking after a closed-door meeting with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) delegation led by the chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Abdulsalami had while commenting on hate speech, noted: “All we can do is to sanitise the polity and ensure that there are no hate speeches. We must make sure that it is decent campaign during elections where there will be no name-calling and undesired utterances.
“We will draw a memorandum of understanding for peace and tranquility to be signed by all the presidential candidates and the chairmen of all the registered political parties.”
Another ranking member of the Peace Panel, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, equally told newsmen after several hours of meeting with the leaderships of the registered political parties that they will sign a MoU on December 11.
“We discussed the theme of trust as a key ingredient in the conduct of our affairs. We have resolved to adopt the same principles that guided the very successful 2015 elections and, therefore, commit ourselves to run issue-based campaigns at national, state and local government levels.
“We pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and by all agents acting in our names,” Kukah said.
Recently, INEC had while commending the political parties for sticking to the rules of engagements in campaigns, warned that it is closely monitoring and will not hesitate to apply the full weight of the law on any erring party that flouts the rules on hate campaigns.
“The campaign for the 2019 presidential election officially commenced on November 18, 2018 as provided for by the Electoral Act and in line with our timetable and schedule of activities. The Commission is committed to closely monitoring the campaigns pursuant to our statutory mandate and to ensure compliance with the extant laws and regulations.
“We are pleased that the focus in the last few weeks since the commencement of the campaigns has been on policies rather than personalities. We sincerely hope it remains this way,” he appealed.
The irony of reality
However, despite the cautions and appeals from the electoral umpire and elder statesmen through the National Peace Panel, the realities on ground do not indicate that the campaigns will be issue-based.
From all indications, it is gradually creeping into the replica of the ugly incidents of the 2011 presidential election when innocent Nigerians, including defenceless corps members were brutally murdered in circumstances not unconnected with incisive utterances from certain presidential aspirant.
Only recently, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Yekini Nabena, took a swipe at the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, claiming that he and his opposition party have been struggling to raise funds for campaigns.
In a statement he signed, Nabena had launched a direct sporadic attack on Atiku and the PDP, claiming: “The presidential candidate expected the party to provide funds for his campaign. But, this is the Buhari era, an era of strict accountability and transparency in the use and application of public funds and not the Jonathan era in 2015 when the national treasury was opened to the PDP leaders to prosecute the presidential campaign.
“The party leaders are, therefore, in serious difficulties and dilemma on how to source funds to run the Atiku presidential campaign. Some financiers of the party expect that the candidate, having bought the ticket with millions of dollars should have the financial capacity to run his campaign.
“With the candidate’s expectation that it is the party that will fund his campaign, it is now clear that they are at a crossroads and the chickens have come home to roost. The anti-corruption agencies should gird their loins and ensure that all sources of campaign fund by the political parties are closely monitored and recover the funds looted during the Jonathan era.
“It is now clear to the members of the PDP who were deceived into believing that their presidential candidate is a man of stupendous wealth that it is all a mirage, a 419 packaging and that they entered a ‘one chance’ bus.
“Atiku is nationally known as a man of immense wealth. Apart from his being a retired officer of the Customs & Excise not above the rank of Deputy Director, and not known to have been an exceptionally successful businessman, his claims to stupendous wealth and source are questionable and lack credibility.”
Responding to what many considered as personal attack, both the PDP and Atiku’s spokesperson, Paul Ibe, told the ruling APC that the 2019 election is not about volume of war chest.
PDP spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, firing back said: “APC is jittery, but what is even their business about the state of our finances. 2019 is not about who has more money, but about the need to rescue Nigeria.
“Having seen through their lies, Nigerians have resolved to vote out the incompetent and clueless Buhari. They can say whatever they like, but our advice to them is that they should start packing their bags because their time is up. They have nothing to offer hence Nigerians want Atiku to come and heal our land and Insha Allah, Atiku will send Buhari home in 2019.”
Ologbondiyan, who is also the director media and publicity, PDP Presidential Council, told Sunday Sun that next year’s presidential poll is more about the determination and will of Nigerians to change the current APC-led Federal Government, more than anything else.
“They have said that before. They further alleged that we are getting money from foreigners. The second one is that Atiku is broke. We are not prepared for that. Just tell them that we invite them to issues, they should come, let’s discuss about Nigeria and how we are going to make the lives of Nigerians better. It is not about whether somebody is broke, it’s not.
“If they are confident that Atiku is broke, they should go and wait for him at the polls . And I have told them before that the 2019 election is not about how much money you have to spend. But about the determination and the will of Nigerians to effect a change of an incompetent government. That is the issue. Let them continue with their vote buying.”
The opposition spokesman also dismissed allegations that the PDP is fixated on President Buhari ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
“We are not fixated on Buhari. We have no fixation. They are the ones that are fixated on our candidate. They are the one engaging in vote buying. They are the ones using government to buy votes and create momentos. At any right, if APC is desirous of campaign, let us go to discuss issues. That is all,” he said.
According to Ibe, “nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. Nothing can stop the zeal of Nigerians to elect the president of their choice. This election will not be won by money, lies, propaganda or intimidation, but by the supreme will of the Nigerian people as expressed in their vote. Atiku will be elected as president by Nigerians notwithstanding the machinations of the APC-led administration.”
Similarly, former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said that the PDP is out for an issue-based campaign, noting that the party would not abandon its resolve not be involved in name-calling.
“If it is the view of the APC that Atiku has no money, good luck to them. We have chosen Atiku to be our presidential candidate and we are going to stand by him, whether he is rich or broke. And we are going to win the election. “The PDP is very much interested in issue-based campaigns. Buhari and the APC have introduced the worst poverty this country has ever known. We are dying in this country.
“We have nothing against the person of Buhari. But they are dangerous human beings. You can only be a good Nigerian citizen, if you are corrupt and you join the APC. Immediately you join the APC, you become a saint.
“But as far we are concerned, we will not leave our issue-oriented campaign and start attacking individuals. We know that we are going to win in the end by the grace of God. Can you imagine, they have mounted the most vicious campaign against the person of Atiku. But Atiku is more experienced than them, he is just laughing at them. All we know is that the Nigerian people are going to be the decider. We have invested so much in this democracy and nothing is going to make us shift our position about defending democracy,” he said.