On February 25, 2022 President Buhari signed the new Electoral Act 2022 into law. And on the 26 of February, 2022, a day after the president gave assent on the Electoral Bill 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released new dates for the 2023 General Elections based on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
The 2023 General Elections are scheduled: Saturday 25 February, 2023 for Presidential and National Assembly elections and Saturday 11 March, 2023 for Governorship and State House of Assembly elections.
Against this background, The Electoral Hub has produced this outlook brief for stakeholders involved in elections and democratic governance to engage with as issues to address in improving the electoral process and safeguarding the integrity of the process.
- A divided Nigeria is serious cause for concern. Nigeria’s social cohesion is more frayed than it has ever been as typified by the politicization of citizens attempts to hold President Buhari’s administration to account. Our elections tend to be divisive as campaign rhetoric around presidential candidates are increasingly inflammatory with references to appeal to ethnic and religious tropes. The deep contestation and high stakes of the 2023 elections means that we can expect political parties, elites, etc., to stoke divisions as they stake their claim to power.
Emerging and Increasing Insecurity. The state of insecurity across the country, asides from raising humanitarian and governance concerns, has election integrity implications for the 2023 elections. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), a special group disenfranchised by the voter registration and PVC collection process and the emerging insecurity across Niger, Kaduna, Zamfara, etc will have an impact on the ability of Nigerians to vote in peace. With bandits demanding ransoms in return for life, it is probable that large parts of rural Northern Nigeria will be displaced and unable to vote.
- The Electoral Act 2022 will bring incremental improvement to the credibility and integrity of the elections but this is dependent on several things: how well INEC is funded and prepared to ensure elections take place on time and as scheduled, the integrity of the vote collation process and the ability of Nigerians to vote in peace unhindered by violence and insecurity.
The Political Party System poses biggest challenge in terms of producing quality candidates for electoral contest. The quality of the primaries is already threatened by the inclusion of a supposed third mode of parties selecting their candidates: consensus. This will strengthen undemocratic forces within the parties and limit the range of options voters will have on Election day as well as driving up apathy. We can expect the courts to be busy and for the legitimacy of the judiciary to be further eroded as they contort judgements to suit unconscionable decisions like they did in the case of the 2019 Imo State governorship election.
- Promotion of Electoral Violence by Politicians, Nigerian Police and Nigerian Army. There is need to check the profound, evident and unethical nature of some politicians and their ability to engage officers of the police and army to compromise elections. The events in Rivers State in 2019, on both voting days for the presidential/NASS elections and the gubernatorial/state assemblies elections are a particularly embarrassing and sad chapter in the deteriorating credibility of Elections in Nigeria.
- The Composition, Funding, Preparedness and Independence of INEC. As a non-partisan umpire in a democratic system, adequate provision of resources and institutional liberty must be given to the Commission to enable it carry out its legitimate functions and duties in conducting free and fair elections without pressure and/or coercion of any kind.
- The Judiciary and Security Agencies as institutions of democracy must be non-partisan and seek to support the electoral process, acting in accordance to their oaths of office. In addition to asking young Nigerians to reject violence and encouraging candidates to sign peace accords, we should insist that the IGP and Chief of Army Staff sign pledges of non-partisanship and commit to publishing the names of officers deployed for elections with their locations. This way, they bear the responsibility for not preventing violence and for any disruptions involving the security forces.
- Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) must have unity of purpose, preparedness and cooperation, as we go into the elections. To this end, a proper introspection and evaluation must be made, leading to strategic planning. To guard against subjectivity in pronouncing elections well held or not, it would be helpful if CSOS adopted a well-publicized election integrity framework for assessing elections to guide not just reports but to ensure all stakeholders are aware of the roles they play in improving election integrity.
- A largely Apathetic Electorate, with increasing feelings of resignation and/or alienation when faced with possible violence at the polls, poor logistics arrangements and uninspiring candidates could decide to stay at home. Others, increasingly radicalized by impoverishment, social injustice could become willing participants in rigging and compromising elections.
The International Community, with a default position of navigator targeted at political stability. The role of the international community in engaging stakeholders around the importance of election integrity particularly the implications for good governance and accountability has been weakened by the global recession in democracy. The rhetoric is increasingly pointing out the hypocrisy of certain counties championing democracy when their practices at home and abroad are anything but democratic. It is time for the international community and CSOs and other stakeholders to reframe their roles and utility in supporting elections. Prior to the 2023 elections, Nigerian politicians who have been found wanting on the basis of the Magnitsky Act should be published. Same as those on no fly/no visa lists to send a strong message that those responsible for violence- from politicians to security forces will face consequences.
On January 14, 2020 in deeply controversial ruling, the Supreme Court declared Hope Uzodinma as the winner of Imo State governorship election even though according to INEC collation, Hope Uzodinma got the fourth highest votes.
Human Rights Accountability Act / Rule of Law Accountability Act that sanctions abuse of human rights and rule of law.