With barely a week to the commencement of political campaigns for the 2023 General elections, the National Assembly has called on political actors and the media to shun campaigns of calumny and focus on issues of socio-economic growth and development.
This was as the National Assembly vowed to resist political actors with penchant for political campaigns aimed at exploring the fault lines of ethnicity, religion and other mundane factors to further divide the country and advance their own political agenda.
President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmad Lawan stated this when he officially declared opened a high-level forum tagged “Political Communication and Issue-based campaign in the 2023 General elections” held in Abuja on Monday.
The event was organized by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies(NILDS) in collaboration with the Kukah Centre for Peace and the National Peace Committee(NPC).
Addressing the gathering, Lawan decried the dangerous, delicate and divisive manner political campaigns have taken in Nigeria in the past; a trend he said was beginning to rear its ugly head in the current dispensation especially with the advent of social media.
He enjoined political actors and the media to make their political campaigns more issue oriented and ensure they focuse on insecurity, the economics of lower rising inflation and managing Nigeria’s diversities and not the mundane issues of attacking the personalities, health status, religion and tribal affinities of opposing candidates.
Lawan said there was no way the National Assembly will allow these divisive tendencies to go unchecked.
“We cannot continue with it and allow it to go on as business as usual. Our political campaigns must begin to focus on issues and shun violence, hate speeches and other divisive tendencies”.
The President of the Senate however noted that the only way the conversation meaningful will be for stakeholders to at the end of the event reach a consensus that will produce a guideline on the appropriate slants political campaigns should take in Nigeria.
Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila shared strongly in Lawan’s sentiments when he advised those seeking elective positions in the country to do so based on their score cards and pedigree rather than engaging in sneer political campaigns that will never give room for consensus building.
The Lagos State born lawmaker noted that even though the Electoral Act, 2022 prohibited the use of places of worship and divisive campaigns; it was regrettable that some political actors have continued to breach the provisions of the law; resorting to the lowest dehumanizing tactics and abusive languages in order to sway votes for themselves at the polls.
This he said must stop even as he called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to wield the big stick on offenders.
Both Lawan and Gbajabiamila belong to the stock of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) whose choice of two Muslims as Presidential candidate and the running mate has been subject of intense political debate in a highly religious sensitive country.
The health status of the Presidential candidate of APC, Bola Ahmad Tinubu has also been a raging topic in the run up to elections.
Lawan and Gbajabiamila do not think the issue of religion or the health status of the party’s candidate should not be elevated above concrete issues of welfare, economy and security.
Earlier in his welcome address, Director General, (NILDS), Professor Abubakar Sulaiman said the conversation around issue based political campaigns ahead of elections next year has become necessary in an era of deliberate falsehood; stressing that a lack of such honest discourse have often helped to derail attention from the germaine issues of development confronting the people.
The event drew other guest speakers including Co-sponsors from the Kukah Centre, and the National Centre for Peace, Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah,
the Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council who doubles as the Presidential Candidate of Action Democratic Party(ADP ), Yabagi Sani and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Muhammed who was ably represented.