Ahead of the commencement of presidential campaigns tomorrow, a code of conduct guiding activities has been issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Commission has warned that a political message or slogan must not be tainted with abusive language, directly or indirectly, likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings. INEC also said abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.
The electoral empire further warned incumbent political office holders against using the power of incumbency to deny opposition parties access to public facilities for campaigns. The Commission said such action was illegal and would attract sanctions as spelt out in the Electoral Act 2022.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave the warning at a sensitisation forum for broadcasters and stakeholders on fair and responsible coverage of the 2023 general elections organised by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in Abuja.
The code of conduct was also unveiled to newsmen, yesterday, at a two-day capacity-building workshop for INEC Press Corp Members on critical issues in the Electoral Act 2022 and the Commission’s Processes, Innovations and Preparations for the 2023 General Elections in Abuja.
There had been reported cases of state governments denying opposition parties the use of public facilities for campaign during the electioneering period. Yakubu, however, maintained that Section 95 of the Electoral Act 2022 had defined the responsibilities of political parties and candidates, the media and public institutions and also provides sanctions for violations.
He noted that in the course of the Commission’s interactions with political parties, many have complained about the denial of access to public facilities for meetings and rallies, exorbitant charges for signages and billboards and equal access to state media.
The INEC chairman said: “This period is often characterised by excitement as well as anxiety. Campaigns should be devoid of hate speech; abusive, intemperate or slanderous language; insinuations or innuendoes likely to provoke a violent reaction; a physical attack on supporters of one party by another or destruction of campaign materials.”
Also, INEC National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, reminded the media of their constitutional and legal obligations, saying state apparatus, including the media, shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate.
“In other words, equal coverage and visibility shall be allotted to all political parties by all public print and electronic media organisations. The same applies in equal measure to privately owned media organisations subject to payment of appropriate fees,” he said.
The INEC chairman urged all the 18 registered political parties to critically study and pay attention to the provisions of the Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Police Act and the Public Order Act for the proper and peaceful conduct of political campaigns, rallies and processions.
Speaking at the forum, Director General of NBC, Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, urged broadcasters to familiarise themselves with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, which empowers the electoral umpire to prosecute presenters, principal officers, media house owners and any person that contravene the Electoral Act, and if found wanting, can be fined millions of naira or imprisoned or get both.
AS the nation awaits the intense fireworks to be unleashed by political parties and their candidates, the leader of Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, yesterday, fired the first salvo, when he stated that the group is supporting the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, to keep the country together.
Adebanjo, who spoke at a briefing in Lagos, said given that the Southwest region has produced a president and currently has a sitting Vice President, and the South-South has spent a total of six years in the presidency, the Igbo people of the Southeast deserve the slot.
He berated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for presenting a Northern presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
The elder statesman maintained that even though the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is from the Southwest and very close to him, the group is not alien to sacrificing personal interests in the quest for a national coalition to put Nigeria on the proper pedestal.
He mentioned that Tinubu should not rely on APC members who are from the North, saying that their intentions towards him are not pure.
Adebanjo stated that the Igbo have never tasted presidency in Nigeria, and now that the power is due back in the South, equity demands that it be ceded to the Southeast.
He added that the principle of federal character enshrined in the Constitution dictates that the government of the federation or any part thereof shall not be concentrated in any ethnic group or a combination of such groups.
Afenifere said it is preposterous to adopt this principle for employment in public service, admissions in educational institutions, political appointment, and composition of the executive committee of a political party, only to jettison it in the most important question of rulership of the federation.
“We cannot continue to demand that the Igbo remain in Nigeria, while we at the same continue to brutally marginalise and exclude them from the power dynamic.
“Obi is the person of the Igbo extraction that Afenifere has decided to support and back; he is the man we trust to restructure the country back to federalism on the assumption of office. We will not compromise this principle of justice, equity and inclusiveness because one of our own, Tinubu,” he said.
But another Yoruba group, Yoruba Youth Socio-Cultural Association (YYSA), yesterday, berated Afenifere and its leaders over the endorsement of Obi, ahead of Tinubu, who was a member of Afenifere before the formation of Afenifere Renewal Group.
In a statement by its National President, Olalekan Hammed, the group said apart from the fact that Tinubu is from Southwest, none of the contenders matches him in intellectual capacity and exposure.
The group said: “Afenifere is not a Yoruba voice of reckoning. We, Yoruba youths, are the dominant population and Afenifere is not speaking on our behalf. The entire Yoruba youths are solidly in support of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.”
THE APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) will begin its campaign tomorrow in Abuja with a special prayer session and peace walk. Director, Media and Publicity of the council, Bayo Onanuga, disclosed this in a statement yesterday.
He said nominated members of the council “are expected to participate in the special prayer session marking the commencement of the 2023 presidential election campaigns. There will be a Peace Walk immediately after the prayers. All nominees will be issued their letters of appointment same day.”
Tinubu, who travelled to the United Kingdom at the weekend with his running mate, Kashim Shettima, is expected back to the country before the official flag-off of the presidential campaign, which was gathered will hold in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, this week.
According to Tinubu’s aides, the meeting he went for in the UK was scheduled for last week, but controversies that trailed the composition of the Presidential Campaign Council led to its postponement.
The sudden trip has also fuelled speculations of another meeting with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and members of his group, some of who are already in the UK. Last month, Tinubu had a covert meeting with the aggrieved PDP members, led by Wike.
The campaign list had generated controversy among the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) with some APC governors fuming that their nominees were not captured in the list.
There were also speculations that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo declined membership of the committee due to his opposition to APC’s Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket. However, the spokesperson of the PCC, Festus Keyamo, in a statement, said President Buhari ordered the exclusion of Osinbajo and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, to enable them to concentrate on governance.
MEANWHILE, the Presidency, on Monday, described as fake news reports that President Buhari has called for the removal of Keyamo as a spokesperson for the party’s PCC.
Reports had credited Presidency sources as accusing Keyamo of allegedly de-marketing the current administration despite being a serving Minister. But reacting to the reports, the Presidency declared a vote of confidence on Keyamo, adding that President Buhari, as well as the party’s candidate, Tinubu are also satisfied with his performance so far.
A statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said: “We are aware that conspiracy theories are being hatched with a ripple effect to defame our party leaders and hold back the campaign.
“Both President Buhari and Tinubu are happy with the job Keyamo is doing, and with the general set up of the impending campaign, which has already become an example for other parties.”
Also, in his reaction, Keyamo accused members of opposition parties of masterminding the stories out of fear of the devastating effect of his role as the mouthpiece of the APC so far.
He said: “Very funny fake news. When people feel uncomfortable with the uncompromising defence of your mandate, they promote such fake news to achieve a purpose.
The opposition thinks they can plant stories to destabilise our ranks. This is the height of panic mode they find themselves.”
But a source last night said the PCC members’ inauguration may be postponed indefinitely as against the earlier date of Wednesday released by the party after aggrieved members continue pointing out irregularities from the list released at the weekend.
Grievances and expressions of displeasure by some sections of the party, particularly governors may have allowed reconsideration of several demands from those who were considered major stakeholders in APC.
“The suspension of the PCC members’ inauguration became necessary in order to address key issues from the governors who raised concerns on behalf of their former colleagues and serving ministers,” the source said.
He confirmed that the inauguration is currently on hold and no specific date has been fixed yet by the committee in charge of the ceremony while waiting for President Buhari, Tinubu and APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, and other key stakeholders.
AHEAD of the commencement of campaigns, Atiku has appointed the immediate past national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, and former Senate Presidents Bukola Saraki and Anyim Pius Anyim into key campaign positions to boost his election chances.
Saraki was appointed as Special Envoy to the candidate, while Anyim got the position of Special Adviser. Also appointed as Special Advisers to the candidate is a former governor of Kano State, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Senator Ehigie Uzamere.
Secondus was appointed as technical adviser to the presidential candidate. The appointments are to take immediate effect.
In a statement signed by Atiku’s Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, the appointees were charged to use their vast political experiences in ensuring that the PDP presidential campaign records resounding success in the 2023 election.
Also yesterday, immediate past PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, disclosed that the commitment of the party towards reforming and restructuring the country for the betterment of Nigerians is irreversible.
According to him, Atiku got the ticket of PDP the second time because of his demonstrated capacity to achieve this objective. He said Atiku embodies the hope and aspiration of Nigerians for a new order in the country.
Ologbondiyan, in an interactive session with journalists in Abuja, stressed that Atiku stands out as the “presidential candidate who best understands the nuances of our country and who is endowed with the required experience, capacity, presence of mind as well as the national acceptance needed to move the nation forward.”