Ahead of the 2023 General Elections, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has launched a report examining the challenges that may undermine Nigeria’s 2023 general election.
The report comes a few days after a major presidential townhall meeting on climate change and environmental concerns, which was organized by CAPPA together with other civil society groups for presidential candidates ahead of the country’s general election, and serves as one of the many ways the organization is engaging the electoral process and helping citizens stay apprised of relevant developments leading up to the general election.
According to Phillip Jakpor, Director of Programmes at CAPPA, the report titled 2023 General Elections – Challenges and Threats to Consolidating Democracy examines recent developments in the political arena and how they may affect the outcome of the 2023 general election.
At a press conference where the report was unveiled, the Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, noted that the report interrogates the challenges that pose a threat to a credible poll, and the opportunities that exist for a whole-society approach towards ensuring a successful general election in the country. Speaking further, Oluwafemi commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its efforts to ensure a credible election through the adoption of innovative technologies such as the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) but expressed concern about existing predicaments like logistical difficulties of fuel and cash scarcity that could impact the integrity of the elections.
In particular, he bemoaned the ill-timed and poorly executed currency redesign by the Central Bank of Nigeria, which has led to a total disruption of economic activities in the country. ‘‘It is scandalous that in our lifetime, there is now a black market for buying both old and new currency notes. This situation has caused widespread suffering and unhealthy ripple effects across various layers of the Nigerian economy. He maintained.
Oluwafemi also lamented the dependence of INEC on third-party logistics, such as Park Management Systems in some states and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) for the distribution of its electoral materials on election day.
Zikora Ibeh, Policy and Research Officer, CAPPA, highlighted the rising security concerns and frequent attacks on INEC facilities in the country as a challenge to the safety of voters and integrity of the forthcoming election which is poised to become a seminal moment in the country’s political history. She noted the growing and underreported situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across states in the country due to insecurity.
‘‘In Particular, separatist tensions and the activities of violent elements in the southeastern part of the country are spurring the forced migration of citizens from their ancestral homes and almost desertification of some villages.’’ This situation, she said, could affect the elections as many persons migrating under these circumstances are not even captured in the country’s national IDP registers and hence, stand no chance of exercising their right to vote elsewhere.
Hassan Soweto Taiwo, National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign, spoke on recent political developments and logistical hurdles that could impact the upcoming elections. He berated the ruling class for exploiting citizens as pawns in their political squabbles and argued that the subsisting cash crisis was merely a guise by unscrupulous elements utilizing state power to undermine the 2023 general elections.
According to him, ‘‘the greatest threat to the 2023 general elections is not the media, neither is it the Nigerian masses but the ruling elite who will stop at nothing to win hard battles between themselves. At this point, we are asking them not to throw the country into flames. Despite the alleged merits of the currency design, it becomes immaterial with the widespread suffering it has continued to generate due to poor implementation and the lack of the requisite financial infrastructure needed to bolster it.
Hassan Soweto also pointed out the potential perils of INEC’s reliance on third-party logistics providers for election day. He noted that this dependence is unsustainable and could lead to disputes, as well as perceptions of bias, which could compromise the electoral process. ‘‘Optics is important. Such dependence on third-party entities, who may have partisan affiliations, could compromise the credibility of the elections. He stated. ‘‘The prevailing situation underscores the importance of developing a robust and functional public transport infrastructure to catalyze the nation’s progress and promote sustainable electoral programming.’’ He concluded.
Tola Orensanwo, Director of Admin and Programmes, Centre for Anti-Corruption & Open Leadership (CACOL) offered an insightful commentary on the critical role of government in fostering a secure environment for citizens. He also urged media practitioners to be factual in news reporting and challenged the general public to cultivate the habit of holding political leaders accountable. By doing so, he believes the nation can shift the focus from trivialities in electioneering to more substantive matters of governance.
On recommendations for guaranteeing a free and credible 2023 election, the 39-page report by CAPPA calls on the government to utilize the days left to the elections to ramp up security measures to secure the lives of citizens, the CBN and federal government to resolve the hurtful cash swap process, and INEC to put in place effective mechanisms to ensure a free and credible election.
Furthermore, the report urged civil society and the media to work together to enlighten citizens on relevant electoral issues, and dispel election-related fake news. Overall, the report serves as a call to action for all stakeholders to come together to ensure a successful and credible 2023 General Election in Nigeria.