By G9ija

A new report released on Tuesday by a frontline pro-democracy think tank, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has said insecurity in the Northwest may impact on the performance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Bola Tinubu in the 2023 elections.

The organisation, however, noted that the secessionist agitations in the southeast could reduce turnout, which may not favour either the Labour Party flag bearer Peter Obi or People’s Democratic Party candidate Abubakar Atiku.

The organisation which made the observation in a report titled ‘Nigeria’s presidential polls: A SWOT Analysis’ released in Abuja on Tuesday warned that rising insecurity, misinformation, money politics, religion and ethnic narratives may undermine the credibility of the 2023 election.

The report signed by the CDD director, Idayat Hassan, disclosed that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, requires about 1.5 million election and security officials to successfully prosecute the elections.

The report said: ” With political campaigns looming in the coming weeks, key governance issues, such as insecurity would be a factor in the political calculations for the leading candidates as they traverse the country.

“The report noted in the northwest, the hot-button issue of security of lives and property would have an impact on the performance of the APC candidate, Tinubu.

“At the same time, the secessionist agitations in the southeast could reduce turnout, which may not favour either the Labour Party flag bearer Peter Obi or People’s Democratic Party candidate Abubakar Atiku”.

Noting that the 2023 general election is a significant logistical operation, CDD stressed that there will be significant logistic challenges in reaching the 176,846 polling units with election material.

The organisation noted that for such a far-reaching level of deployment to be successful, it would require the recruitment and training of close to 1.5 million poll and security officials.

This, the pro-democracy think tank pointed out requires the deployment of personnel, which number about four times the size of the entire Nigerian military.

It pointed out that the negative influence of religion, ethnicity and money politics could also undermine the credibility and acceptability of the elections, if not properly addressed.

According to the organisation, these divisive factors have already played a role in shaping the emergence of the four major party candidates running in the presidential election of next year.

Hassan, who rated the legal framework in place for the elections as robust and laudable, however, noted that the conduct of political actors would be critical if the benefits of such a framework were to be enjoyed across the board.

The report pointed out that the Electoral Act 2022 has elicited prospects that could redefine elections in Nigeria.

The report read: “Religion is likely to feature prominently in debates following the APC’s decision to contest the presidency with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Renewed youth engagement in politics, a feature of the voter registration period, could also be transformative and favour Obi.

“Money will continue to play a huge role in determining who emerges the winner if the presidential primaries and recent gubernatorial elections offer any lesson. Finally, online campaigns will be more fiercely fought than ever, with attacks aimed at boosting candidates, attacking opponents and undermining INEC likely to be accentuated in social media in the run-up to, during and even after voting,” the report noted in part. CDD added that citizens’ access to electoral infrastructure would remain constant throughout the campaign and during the voting period, especially for those displaced internally by conflict.

“On the character and composition of INEC and the implications for the polls, the report recalls that INEC chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu, is the first Chair of the Election Management Body to be appointed for a second term in the country’s history.

The report observed the backlash generated by the replacement of 19 Resident Electoral Commissioners at the Commission, noting the perception that a number of the replacements are alleged to be partisan and lack integrity could impact the elections; however, CDD stressed that the 2022 Electoral Act may have introduced several changes that would continue to improve the credibility of elections.

It said that cases of the inconclusive election would be drastically reduced in 2023 as the new Electoral Act now defines overvoting in terms of accredited voters as against registered voters, adding that INEC would also be able to, according to the new act, review results signed under financial inducement or duress.

It notes: “Insecurity remains a critical issue, particularly in the northwest and southeast. Further challenging this operation are the prevailing structural, infrastructural, and cultural ecosystems in which the polls will take place.

“Prompt release of the entire INEC budget could help mitigate some of these. Finally, the role played by the security agencies, and subsequently by the judiciary, may be as crucial in determining the credibility of the election as that of the election management body.

“Nigeria is currently facing an epidemic of insecurity. The violence led by bandits, terrorists and secessionists has been recorded across its six geo-political zones, further dividing the country along ethnic, religious and political lines. Holding credible polls in this context that guarantees the security of voters and INEC personnel will be a major challenge. The ability of INEC to conduct continuous voter registration has already been questioned as insecurity has prevented the Commission from deploying to all wards across all electoral districts,” the report noted.