A THRESHOLD FOR SUCCESSFUL 2023 GENERAL ELECTIONS”, TODAY, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2022.
Your Excellencies here present,
The National, Regional and States Leadership of
Society of Digital Newspaper Owners of Nigeria,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
I extend warm greetings from my Principal, the Presidential Flagbearer of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, and Distinguished Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso.
Firstly, I’d like to express my immense gratitude to the organizers and leaders of the Society of Digital Newspaper Owners of Nigeria, for their show of discretion and thoughtfulness in inviting me as a keynote speaker at this conference with the theme,
“Nigeria’s Security Architecture and Digital News Reportage, a threshold for a Successful 2023 General Elections.”
I applaud the society, for living up to her responsibility as a worthy Fourth Estate of the Realm in Nigeria. It is the stuff of true journalism, to set agenda for national discussion. It’s the least you can do for your society, and I commend you for taking the initiative.
To dissect and make sense of this theme, I will underscore the three cores, which are first and most importantly the 2023 General Elections, upon which the other two thresholds stand, which are the country’s Security Architecture and Digital News Reportage.
2023 General Elections
By the schedule of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Presidential and National Assembly Elections will hold February 25, while the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly will take place March 11, 2023.
It is noteworthy, that the 2023 elections are crucial to the nation, seeing that the next election will usher in a transition of power in the presidency, which last happened in 2015.
However, unlike past elections in the country, there is seeming sigh of relief that the coming election has shown potential to be one of the country’s freest and fairest elections, since our return to democracy in 1999.
The changes to the electoral law, especially the signed Electoral Act of 2022, replacing that of 2010, is poised to make the 2023 elections very credible, for two major reasons.
First, the Permanent Voters Card, PVC. Before now, the constant electoral cycle registration was marred by corruption and rigging, underscored by multiple voting.
For 2023 general elections, INEC has developed a new technology for the process. This is a huge stride for our democracy, and proudly so.
The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is touted to reduce multiple voting through improved verification of PVCs and the uploading of results real time on election day.
However, reports from its use in Isoko South 1 constituency election in September 2021, the Anambra State governorship election in November 2021 and the recent FCT Area council elections in February 2022, point to a slow and poorly functioning system.
There were marked improvements in the Ekiti and Osun elections in June and July 2022, respectively.
For a fact, before now, the laxity in our electoral process gave room for the riggings, ballot box snatching and other vices that had marred our democratic transition process before now.
Howbeit, 2023 general elections show prospect to be an improvement compared to previous elections.
My only position at INEC is to subject these devices to multiple test runs, and servicing and to train and retrain her staff and ad-hoc staff on the workability of the process. This is necessary even if it will require outsourcing this training to meet international best practices.
For a successful 2023 election, we must ensure the safety, and security of voters, election personnel, materials, candidates, party agents, observers and the media. This is the responsibility of the president as the Commander in Chief of the Federation, whose primary responsibility is to protect the lives and property of her citizens.
However, this has become more daunting, considering the current security situation in the country.
To ensure a free, fair and credible election, the President needs to summon the critical stakeholders in the election security value chain. This chain includes the National Security Adviser, The Nigerian Police Force, Military, DSS, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Correctional Service, Federal Road Safety Corps, EFCC, ICPC, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, and other allied security agencies.
All these agencies collaborate, with the Nigerian Police Force leading the pack, being the lead internal security agency in election management across the globe.
There are projections of about 95 million voter population for the 2023 General Election in the country, as such, all hands need to be on deck.
Sadly, we do not have sufficient security personnel in the country, with a shoddy population of 371,800 officers, and a possible additional meagre 280,000 men through recruitment.
As such, our men must be trained to thrive in intelligence gathering and election emergency crisis management.
There is a need to organize comprehensive training workshops for these men. A model that allows officers to partake in the training, where their horizon is broadened on operational and crisis management during elections.
This training should be done in collaboration with Civil Society Organizations, and Development Partners. I am very certain the United States of America will be willing to support such a knowledge transfer phase of this workshop at the State Command level.
Finally, on our security architecture, all men and machines must be adequately deployed to the 176, 846 polling units spread across 8,809 electoral wards, of the 774 local areas and 37 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Digital News reporting
On Digital News reporting, the advent of social media, also known as new media has opened new vistas in journalism practice with some perceiving it as a blessing to the profession while others see it as the bane of modern journalism.
The Emergence of social media took the traditional media in Nigeria by storm even as most have continued to battle with adjusting to the new trend.
One of the banes of social media is the spread of malicious and deliberate misinformation, particularly during elections.
It is a regular occurrence to see headlines cast with words like “Breaking News! News Flash! Just in!” Followed by alarming headlines with, for instance, Unsubstantiated Election Results, Unconfirmed News of Election Violence and so on.
Howbeit, with organizations like the Society of Digital Newspaper Owners of Nigeria, you can push for regulation of online news reporting and its practitioners.
We hope that when our administration is elected in February, we shall sit together to develop a legal framework that will regulate practice within your profession for optimization.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
PAPER DELIVERED BY BISHOP ISAAC IDAHOSA, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, AT SDNON ANNUAL SUMMIT.