With the campaigns for the 2023 presidential and the National Assembly elections by political parties and their candidates now in full swing, there are concerns over draconian orders and obnoxious laws by some governors, which are capable of stifling the exercise, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.
On September 28, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gave the nod for gladiators contesting presidential election and those vying for seats at the National Assembly to begin their campaigns.
Prepare and present their ideas and positions on issues to the voters in the period preceding the Election Day.
Contestants use a variety of techniques to reach voters and deliver their messages and manifestos, including through traditional and new media, public events, political rallies, posters and billboards, among others. However, there are concerns over moves by some state governors/governments issuing draconian orders, clamping down on media houses and enacting laws stakeholders view as moves to stifle free campaigns by opposition political parties and their candidates ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Gladiators and stakeholders in the electoral process have particularly raised concerns over the actions of the governor of Zamfara State, Mohammed Bello Matawalle; Anambra State governor, Charles Soludo; Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
While some of these governors have banned or attempted to ban political rallies by the opposition citing security concerns, others have enacted laws charging what stakeholders described as exorbitant fees to be paid for placement of posters, erection of billboards and use of public facilities in their respective states.
Zamfara’s controversial rally ban and shutdown of stations
The Zamfara State governor, Mohammed Bello Matawalle, came under criticism following his recent order banning a political rally by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, citing security concerns, a move which many have described as being politically motivated.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the opposition PDP, however, defied the purported ban and went ahead with its rally, which was covered by media organisations in the state.
The Zamfara State Government, in the aftermath of the rally, shut down broadcast media organisations for covering the event, which it claimed was in violation of government’s order.
The state Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Dosara, who made the announcement on the state radio station, said the order affected Radio Nigeria’s Pride FM, NTA, Gamji Television, Vision FM and Al’Umma TV.
Dosara said the media houses were shut down because they violated their professional ethics by attending a rally organised by the opposition PDP in the state, which it said was earlier banned by the state government for security reasons.
But following the shutdown, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and other broadcast industry stakeholders, including journalists’ professional associations, condemned the action and called for the reversal of the order.
Following the backlash that trailed the action, the state government later came out to apologise over its action.
Notwithstanding the apology by the state government, stakeholders have expressed deep concerns over the action of the state government, describing it as “executive recklessness” taken too far.
In Anambra, Soludo charges presidential candidates N10m campaign fees
Another development that has raised concern is the law enacted by Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State, which requires candidates to pay a certain amount of money, ranging between N1million and N10million before they can place their posters and erect billboards in the state.
The managing director and chief executive officer of the Anambra Signage and Advertising Agency (ANSAA), Tony Ujubuonu, stated this in a public notice issued in the state on Saturday.
Presidential candidates are mandated to pay N10m, senatorial candidates, N7m; House of Representatives candidates, N5m and State House of Assembly candidates, N1m.
“Placing posters on bridges, road demarcations, streetlight poles, roundabouts and public buildings remain prohibited.
“Every campaign material and advert forms, such as posters, public address systems, banners, fliers, buntings, t-shirts, caps and sundries, must be duly approved after full payment of the requisite fee.
“Every billboard must be displayed through a registered advertising practitioner after the advertising content has been vetted by the APCON,” the public notice issued by the state government said.
In Kogi, candidates to pay between N10m and N500,000
Just like Anambra State, the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, equally signed Signage and Advertisement Bill 2022 and three other bills into law, mandating candidates to pay between N1m and N10m.
The law makes it compulsory for presidential candidates of political parties in the forthcoming general elections to pay N10m each before they are permitted to display their posters, billboard and banners in Kogi.
Governorship, senatorial, House of Representatives and the House of Assembly candidates are to pay N5m, N2m, N1m and N500,000 respectively.
Bello said the newly signed laws would facilitate a clean environment and boost revenue generation.
Rivers: Wike’s Executive Order 21 raises dust
In Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike’s recent signing of Executive Order 21, which requires anyone holding political rallies in Rivers to seek state approval through the commissioner for education, at least two weeks before such exercise in an application that must be accompanied with a nonrefundable N5m, has been raising dust in the state.
Political parties and candidates in the elections have kicked against the order, describing it as obnoxious and a calculated attempt to muzzle oppositions from campaigning in the state.
The Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation (TCCO), which is coordinating the 2023 Rivers State governorship campaigns of the All Progressives Congress’s (APC) flag-bearer, accused Governor Wike of waging war against democracy by his signing of Executive Order 21, which restricts the use of public schools for campaigns.
Sogbeye Eli, the spokesman of the TCCO, in a statement, described as unfortunate, “attempt by Wike to stifle the political space for opposition political parties in Rivers with signing into law an obnoxious Executive Order 21.”
“For a man with such a notorious aversion for civil engagements, we know it will be easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for opposition parties to secure approvals from Wike’s appointees and cheerleaders.
“We state unequivocally that Executive Order 21 is deliberate and part of the plot by the governor to stifle competition from other political parties. It is another manifestation of his penchant to brutally crush and suppress opposition in a multiparty democracy, instead of allowing citizens to exercise their freedom of choice as enshrined in the constitution.
“We will neither succumb to intimidation nor accept the presentation of a fait accompli by Executive Order 21 to political parties other than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on which platform they and the governor were elected in the first place.”
In the same vein, the candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) for the 2023 Rivers State governorship election, Victor Fingesi, said he would never yield to Governor Nyesom Wike’s Executive Order 21 compelling political parties to pay N5m to use public schools and sundry spaces for campaign rallies.
Fingesi said that Executive Order 21 was “draconian and a reminder of Decree 4 of a past military regime,” saying the ADP and other political parties, including civil society organisations, will challenge its legality.
“The order, aimed at restricting political parties’ activities, rallies and campaigns, is a deliberate slap on democracy and the worst of distractions in the contemporary political system. It is inconsistent with extant laws of the Federal Republic, at variance with international charters on human rights and peoples’ rights.
It’s bad omen omen, spells doom for democracy – IPAC
Reacting to the development, the chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Yabagi Sani, described it as a bad omen for democracy, adding, “A situation where elected actors who are supposed to advance the cause of democracy are putting stumbling blocks and trying to see how they can entrench their own state and capture tendencies spells doom for democracy.”
“There is no reason to introduce some unnecessary demands that are purely against deepening democracy. Nigerians must rise up against this because they are not in tandem with the essence of democracy itself. It (democracy) is the government of the people by the people and for the people.
“We are not in a plutocracy, where money paves way. Democracy is about freedom, it is about the ability for you to convince people, it is not about money.
“Nigerians must stand up and reject these retrogressive, draconian and autocratic tendencies of the governors, who were elected on the basis of free, fair and credible election.
“I am not sure anybody demanded N10m, N5m or anything from them when they were campaigning. How could it be that now that others want to taste democracy, they want to become stumbling blocks and cog in the wheel of democracy?
“It is against the people, and the people should fight it. What they are saying is that they don’t want anybody you may like to have access to you. We are going to have a meeting with the Governors’ Forum and tell them that this is not in tandem with democracy. They are supposed to be in the forefront of fighting for democracy. It is really an embarrassment to some of us. It is under a military administration or autocratic system that some of these things come up,” he said.
He advised governors to avoid draconian tendencies, saying, “People may be forced to go against the laws, and this could lead to chaos because people can hardly obey such laws. You will end up having crisis in your state that you cannot contain.”