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.