December 4, 2023

The 2023 election timetable an­nounced by Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, Chairman, Inde­pendent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, has begun to generate serious controver­sies across all sectors, particularly in political and economic segments.

The economic implications of the pronouncement have been of great concern, considering the current po­sition of the economy which is on the precipice.

President Muhammadu too is said to be under pressure over the announcement as it came to him suddenly.

Political analysts are wor­ried that the timetable could heighten the tempo of poli­ticking, backroom dealing and horse-trading while ac­tual governance may take the backstage.

They are also of the opin­ion that an order in which the presidential election comes first may confer an undue advantage on the incumbent party and upset the outcome of future elections.

Yakubu, on Thursday, said Nigeria was 855 days away from the 2023 general elec­tions.

Yakubu, at the inaugu­ration of the House of Rep­resentatives Committee on Constitution Review, urged the National Assembly to work fast on the exercise, ahead of the polls, saying the 2023 pres­idential election is scheduled to hold on February 18, 2023.

Timetable Curious, Says Teniola

A veteran journalist, Mr. Eric Teniola, said the an­nouncement was curious, pointing out that it was the first time Nigerians have been given 855 days’ notice for a presidential election.

He added that the declara­tion came 26 days before Yaku­bu’s tenure as Chairman of INEC terminates.

Teniola, a retired director from the presidency, explained further that “One would have expected that the INEC Chair­man announce the dates for the gubernatorial elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States slated for next year and 2022. I am a bit prying and nosy at the timing of the announce­ment of the date of the presi­dential election. I am sure crit­ics of Professor Yakubu will think that the announcement is a campaign alert of his read­iness to be given an opportuni­ty to be reappointed and that he is flying a kite having been intoxicated by INEC’s so called success in Edo and Ondo gu­bernatorial elections.”

According to him “It’s like the Bauchi born Professor is throwing bits of bait into the waters for the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari. No doubt he is qual­ified for reappointment, he is fifty-eight. He has served as the Executive Secretary at the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) (2007-2012) and also served as the Assis­tant Secretary of Finance and Administration of the 2014 Na­tional Conference of President Goodluck Jonathan.

“If you push your luck too far, you may risk losing the good favour and the good for­tune you have garnered thus far. That is the simple lesson about life.

“It is the constitutional re­sponsibility of President Mu­hammadu Buhari, to consult the National Council of State before submitting a name to the Senate for confirmation as Chairman of INEC. The President may choose to nomi­nate any other person entirely. It is up to President Buhari. I am sure the President will be under pressure on this issue now. Whoever the President chooses is expected to conduct the Anambra, Osun and Ekiti States gubernatorial elections and the 2023 presidential elec­tion of February 18, 2023.”

PDP Yet To Take Decision – Olog­bondiyan

Although Mr. Kola Olog­bondiyan, National Publicity Secretary of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), told Sunday Indepen­dent that the party was still studying the situation, Mr. Fatai Adams, chairman of the PDP in Ondo State, argued that he doesn’t believe the ear­ly release of the 2023 election schedule would undermine governance.

He said “I don’t believe the early announcement of the election schedule would cause distraction. It’s not everybody in public office that would be contesting election. Even in advanced countries, there are situations you know the date of the election four years be­fore the election.

“It only gives room for enough preparation. INEC would not have any excuse of not having enough time to pre­pare for the election. All partic­ipating political parties would have enough time to prepare themselves for the election.

“It is a welcome develop­ment and if managed very well, it would enhance our democracy.”

Speaking on the Justice Uwais Panel’s recommen­dation that all the elections should hold same day, the PDP state chairman declared that he would not subscribe to the recommendation.

He said: “As far as I am con­cerned, I don’t support such recommendation. It does not allow the electorate to assess the integrity, capability and competence of other candi­dates. You will just realise that it’s a matter of this is my presi­dential candidate and they will vote along that line which is not supposed to be.

“So, let everybody contest based on his integrity, com­petence, capability and man­ifesto.”

On whether APC has a hid­den agenda by allowing INEC release the election schedule so early and Mr. President nominating his aide as INEC commissioner, Adams said it ran afoul of the dictate of the constitution which says an INEC commissioner must be an apolitical personality.

He said: “The issue of Mr. President nominating one of his aides as INEC commission­er is unacceptable. If you look at the rules and regulations that guide the appointment of electoral commissioners, he must be an apolitical person. Someone who does not belong to any political party.

“As far as the issue of an­nouncing timetable, I don’t see anything wrong in it. What matters most is for the INEC to behave as unbiased umpire, re­main neutral and prepare level playing field for everybody so that they are not dictated to by anybody. Once they do that, it is good for our democracy.”

Let’s Wait And See – Experts

Wale Ogunade, a legal practitioner, also commend­ed INEC for rolling out its timetable, saying it is a good thing. “I don’t see anything bad in it. Rather than casti­gating it, I think we should applaud them. Informing us that the election will hold on February 18, 2023 means that all those who would be inter­ested should start their work.

“Even before the INEC roll out the time table several notable people have been pol­iticking, they are busy going round and some are saying the presidency should go to the South, some are saying it should remain in the North, some are saying it should go to the Middle Belt. Apart from that there is a lot going on and we can be sure that it is good for democracy because every­body will be busy in one way or the other in the electoral process.

“I don’t think the timetable coming out now falls in favour of any political party not APC, not PDP. It would rather let them know that they have a lot to do. Telling us that the timetable is early and is in the favour of the APC, rather than that, it is even against them because they know that their days are numbered.”

On the conduct of all elections in a day, Ogunade stressed that “If it is done one day it will cause confusion and stress, so I prefer the way it is staggered. It is better we stagger it so that there won’t be confusion or disturbance on the day.”

Goddy Uwazurike, another Barrister said “Prof. Yakubu was just trying to show that INEC is hardworking. INEC is notoriously known for tardy preparation. So we can at best take this to be a tentative date. Our impression from the last presidential election is that INEC has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. During the election INEC regaled us with how election savvy it was but during the court trial all that was presented was PROVE IT. The recent presentation can only be met with a wait and see attitude.”

He added that the Uwais report was begging for atten­tion, saying “One of the most important recommendations is a one-day election for all po­sitions. INEC does not need a legislation to do the needful. The constitution gives INEC the power to determine the mode and day of election. I find it strange that President Muhammadu Buhari has not signed the Electoral Act into law but is anxious to railroad the Water Bill into law.”

Another lagos-based legal practitioner, Onyeisi Chieme­ke, pointed out that since Nige­ria started operating the presi­dential system of government, it has never operated a one-day election calendar, but clarified that the law empowers it with the supervision and organisa­tion of elections.

“If the system is progres­sive the order of elections may not matter much. For example the United States of America does have the mid-term election system for the legislative branch and it has not impacted on the outcome of such election.

“I don’t know about any­thing being too early with the question of power. Politicians constantly plan for the acqui­sition of power. Even as we speak some Republicans have started warming up for the presidential election of 2024.

On his part, Ezenwa Nwag­wu, chairman, Partners for Electoral Reforms in Nigeria said “Whether or not a date is fixed, there’s not a lot gover­nance going on, the politicians virtually collapsed everything and are face electioneering. So it’s important to have some cer­tainty because INEC needs to put all stakeholders on notice, appropriation, logistics prepa­ration require time.

“I do not worry about whether it is staggered or not, my premium is the integrity of the process, increasing the confidence of voters and citizens that votes will count. If our elections hold in a day and it’s not credible, free and fair there would be issues. Let’s continue to work to improve election by more infusion of technology.”

“The disclosure by the INEC boss pertaining to the date for the 2023 Presidential elections is most unfortunate and a big distraction, especial­ly when it is still two and half years away.

“Nigeria is presently at a cross road over the insecu­rity issues that have taken the front burner of national discuss and making such an announcement at this critical time will negatively impact on governance because, many of the presidential aides and even politicians will begin to roll out their programmes and as such, cause about a huge dis­traction.”

These were the words of Mukhtar Aliyu, a public af­fairs analyst while speaking with Sunday Independent in Kaduna on Friday.

“Although the INEC Chair­man, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu did not speak on the elections for the National Assembly, State Governorship and State Assemblies, this will cause aspirants to begin mobilizing their foot soldiers and it will im­pact negatively on governance at all spheres. It will jump start the electoral process and heighten the political tempo in the country.

“Nigerians have since de­veloped this skepticism on the insincerity of the ruling APC and its desperation to hold on to power even in the face of its co­lossal failure across all sectors”.

“The All Progressive Con­gress, under the Buhari presi­dency is not interested in true democracy or governance but simply contented with pow­er. Power to do what, nobody knows. However, it should tread carefully as Nigerians, especially the youths, have now shown interest in governance and how the country should be run.

“As for perceived partisan­ship of the APC, it is very glar­ing that the party is more than prepared to give all it takes to retain power beyond 2023. The nomination of the aide of the President, Ms. Lauretta On­ochie as INEC Commissioner nominee is a clear signal of things to come.

“The Justice Uwais Panel on electoral reforms are just designed to hoodwink gullible Nigerians as the Buhari ad­ministration has not genuinely showed signs of implementing whatever reforms that will be required to reposition this country”.

Aliyu rued the waste in­volved in the staggered elec­tions in Nigeria saying “A one-off election nationwide into all elective positions in Nigeria would save this nation the bil­lions of naira needed for huge infrastructural growth and de­velopment in this country. Sad­ly, INEC and all those benefiting from the wasteful exercise do not seem to want to key into such reforms.”

Another respondent, Kab­iru Umar, ‘Dan Auta’ agrees that, an order in which the presidential election comes first, would confer an undue advantage on the incumbent party and upset the outcome of the elections, because, once the candidate of the incum­bent party is successfully an­nounced as a winner, virtually all other elections would be swayed towards that direction.

Umar therefore opined that all elections be conducted si­multaneously in all the states with every aspirant/contender would be focusing on his/her own election.

Comrade Bitrus Ayuba, a political commentator howev­er disagrees with those rooting for a one-off elections saying it provides for a consolidated rig­ging process if caution is not applied.

According to Ayuba, “Ni­geria and Nigerians are not prepared to organize such an electoral exercise that will see elections hold in one day. We must not be in a hurry to do things that we would later on regret.

“In my opinion, we can instead consider electronic voting which will be less ex­pensive, less cumbersome but more transparent and cost ef­fective. We have the capacity to do this successfully if we adopt the Automated Teller Machine system where all cards are chipped and each voter iden­tified through his/her Bank Verification Number.”

He said INEC will do Nige­rians a great deal of service by organizing all elections on Feb­ruary 18, 2023, as he revealed that those benefiting from the huge sleaze that accompanies all elections would kick against this process.

Abdullaziz Abdalla said the process of organizing a one-day electoral exercise is achievable if Nigeria wants to do so.

“We have both capital and human resources to achieve it if we so desire,” he added.

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