At about 10.25 this morning, the clock on the website of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said we had 4 days, 21 hours, 25 minutes and 28 seconds to the Presidential and National Assembly Election on Saturday, 25th February 2023.
As the clock winds down to this Saturday 25th February 2023 when Nigerians will go to the polls to elect a new President and members of the National Assembly, it is doubtful if there has ever been any election that has attracted as much election as this in the country’s chequered democratic history.
No other election week has featured as much controversy and uncertainty than this week, with the country still grappling with scarcity of petroleum products and lack of access to cash occasioned by a poorly implemented currency swap policy that has impoverished even rich citizens who cannot have access to their cash in the banks.
But in spite of these problems, ask any Nigerian and he or she will tell you they are ready to vote come Saturday, come rain, come shine! Even those who were registered elsewhere and usually travel to those locations to cast their ballots are hopeful that somehow, they will have access to their funds in the banks and be able to travel to vote, especially for the presidential election.
Nigeria’s 2023 General Election is scheduled to hold in two phases beginning with national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) on Saturday 25th February 2023 and State elections (Governorship and State Houses of Assembly) on Saturday 11th March 2023.
Pursuant to the provision of Section 32(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 and as provided in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election released by the INEC on 26th February 2022, the Commission last September released the final list of candidates nominated by the 18 political parties for national elections covering one Presidential constituency, 109 Senatorial Districts and 360 Federal Constituencies. There have of course, been instances with the legislative candidacies, where court decisions have resulted in changes in some names.
The list released by INEC on 20th September 2022 confirmed the names of the candidates and their political parties as they will feature for Saturday’s election.
The final list of candidates for national elections – Presidential, Senatorial and House of Representatives – contains the names, party, age, gender, academic qualifications and shows if there are Persons With Disabilities, PWDs.
The publication of the full names and addresses of all nominated candidates follows the political parties’ conduct of primaries and completion of the nomination exercise and submission of same to INEC.
According to INEC, all the 18 political parties submitted candidates and their running mates for the Presidential election.
As expected, the 4 front-running candidates – Peter Obi of Labour Party, LP, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of All Progressives Congress, APC, Abubakar Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party – are conspicuously listed. There is only one female presidential candidate – 44-year-old Princess Chichi Ojei of the Allied Peoples Movement, APM. There are no female presidential running mates either.
For legislative elections, 1,101 candidates are vying for 109 Senatorial seats and 3,122 candidates for Federal Constituencies i.e. House of Representatives seats, making a total of 4,223 candidates contesting for 469 legislative positions.
In terms of gender distribution, 3,875 candidates are male, made up of 35 for Presidential and Vice Presidential, 1,008 for Senate and 2,832 for House of Representatives.
Political horse trading usually takes place in these final weeks of the election in terms of some candidates stepping down for others and asking their supporters to vote accordingly but not much has happened up till now.
But it is not difficult to know those presidential candidates that are not serious. Many such candidates have not been seen campaigning and some are said not to have spread even in establishing presence and offices nationwide. These unserious candidates have also not been seen engaged in major campaigns like rallies, road shows, town halls and media advertising that the major candidates have been engaged in.
These few days are therefore crucial as parties as candidates realign and trade places for future returns. Such ‘selling’ candidates must surely have to prove to ‘buyers’ what they are bringing to them table in terms of the number of voters they are likely to direct to vote for the new parties they are aligning with.
Campaigns for this weekend elections must end 24 hours to election day, according to Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 which says that “Campaign in public by every political party shall commence 150 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day”. We therefore expect intense campaigns, Radio, TV and Press advertising for the Presidential and National Assembly election in next few days until Friday when all will cease and we will have some quiet time before voting on Saturday 25th February.
The election for State Governorship and State Houses of Assembly is fixed for Saturday, 11th March, 2023 and campaigns for those will continue.