Collins Nnabuife, Abuja
As Nigerians prepare to cast their votes on 25th February this year to elect President and National Assembly members, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has released five key issues, which would determine the voting patterns and the outcome of the election.
CDD presented the voting pattern determinants at the opening of its Election Analysis Centre (EAC) and pre-election press briefing held at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja today.
CDD, which is deploying a total of 4,993 trained and accredited observers, data clerks, fact-checkers and social media monitors for both the presidential, legislative and governorship elections, assessed the election as one that will be closely contested with four candidates – Ahmed Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) – likely to have a significant say in the outcome which, at this stage, remains difficult to predict.
The pre-election brief signed by the EAC Chair, Professor Adele Jinadu and CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, said the five issues, which could determine these elections are encapsulated in the 5 Is, which are identity, insecurity, institutions, information disorder and inter and intra party squabbles.
The CDD further noted that while Nigerians embrace multiple identities, the election campaign and the political conversation has tended to sharpen divisions along these lines.
Subsequently, CDD pointed at insecurity as another critical issue, which could impact the conduct and outcome.
According to the renowned think tank, all six geopolitical zones of the country are confronted by insecurity, which has led to the deployment of the Nigerian military across the federation.
“Northern states are engulfed in long-standing violence with extremist jihadist groups, criminal bandit gangs, and other non-stated armed groups who are engaged in deadly attacks against local communities. In the south, civil unrest continues against the backdrop of ongoing violence between farmers and herders and secessionist agitators.
“The situation is further complicated by fuel and currency scarcity which is increasing economic hardships on the more than 130 million Nigerians classified as multi-dimensionally poor”, CDD said.
CDD also identified the role of institutions as being crucial to conduct of credible and transparent elections. These institutions include INEC, and the security agencies who are faced with a herculean challenge to manage logistics and secure the electoral terrain.
The fourth factor identified is information disorder; the statement said CDD notes that whilst social media has opened avenues for citizens to engage more robustly with their prospective representatives, the volume of misinformation and disinformation circulating online can also lead to citizen actions based on incorrect information.
“Trust is a scarce commodity in Nigeria and this fact is only being exacerbated by the volume of misleading content online”, it added.
The fifth and final factor identified by the CDD is inter and intra-party squabbles. In the months leading up to general elections in Nigeria, violent events involving political parties increase as contestation intensifies within and between groups vying for power, despite all parties signing the National Peace Accord.
To enhance the credibility of the 2023 Nigerian elections, CDD-EAC encouraged key stakeholders to take some steps.
According to the statement, the steps include “the government should ensure INEC and the security agencies – have the necessary resources at their disposal to roll out their comprehensive plans for election day operations that ensure polls take place in a safe, free and fair environment.
“Political parties should ensure that their members and supporters adhere to the conditions laid out in the National Peace Accord through the voting process and after the announcement of results.
“INEC should continue to communicate regularly with Nigerians about the ongoing election process and is as transparent as possible during the collation and announcement of results.
“The Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security must ensure that all security personnel on electoral duty adhere to the agreed code of conduct and rules of engagement.
“Social media companies should support the work of fact-checking organisations by promptly taking down digital content that promotes political disinformation or hate speech that relates to the election.
“Nigerian voters, and citizens in the diaspora, should critically assess information that they receive about the elections before sharing to help prevent the spread of malicious information about the elections.