Critical stakeholders in the polity have asked political actors in the country to imbibe issue-based campaigns and de-emphasise division and hate speech.
The stakeholders spoke at an event organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) on Monday in Abuja, with the theme ‘Political communication and issue-based campaigns in the 2023 general elections’.
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INEC had announced that political campaigns would officially commence on September 28, 2022, for next year’s general elections.
The Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, said since independence, elections in Nigeria have been characterised by polarising rhetoric and deep-seated divisions relating to ethnicity, religion and other primordial sentiments, and cautioned political actors against the trend.
“Recent developments in the country have once again exposed the sharp divide and the enduring legacy of our political history since amalgamation and independence in 1960.
“Rather than emphasise discussion on policy positions to address many of the social and economic challenges we face, we are engaged in frivolous, illogical and sensational exchanges,” he said.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila said, “As we prepare to commence campaign activities precisely nine days from today (statutorily for a period of 150 days before polling day), it is critical that we familiarise ourselves with the rules of the game and set ourselves a basic standard of conduct mainly because of our place as leaders and the weight that our utterances carry among our supporters and followers.”
In his remarks, a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, said Nigerians have experienced bad governance since 1999, adding that there was need for the people to be wise in the next election.
He cautioned politicians against hate speech, and urged them to change their mindset.
Similarly, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Kukah, said the major problem of Nigeria was how to manage the country’s diversity, and cautioned political actors against division, hate speech and primordial sentiments.
In his welcome remarks, the Director-General of NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, said the event was necessary “due to the rise in misinformation and fake news, propagation and exploitation of ethno-religious sentiments, upsurge in hate messages and the use of negative tactics that continue to escalate tension and potentially fuel political crises.”