Ahead of the start of campaigns for the 2023 general elections, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has warned that the youths are angry at the ruling class following years of poor political leadership in the country.
He also called for issues-based campaigns, insisting that Nigerians have become more politically aware.
Lawan gave the warning in Abuja on Monday when he declared open a “High-level forum on political communications and issue-based campaign in the 2023 general elections.”
He said, “We are way past the time for posturing and political subterfuge. The growing political awareness on the part of Nigerian youths who are disenchanted and angry at the ruling class means that we cannot continue with business as usual.”
He said that stakeholders need to be conscious of their messaging and focus on issue-based campaigns that shun violence and hate speech.
According to him, “As the most populous black nation and the largest democracy in Africa, the burden is on us to deliver credible and peaceful elections”; noting also that many had pointed out the extreme and prejudicial dimensions that political conversations had assumed in the last few weeks.
Senator Lawan explained that “Rather than emphasise discussion on policy positions to address many of the social and economic challenges we face, we are engaged in frivolous, illogical and sensational exchanges.
“For the first time since 1999, our campaigns have moved from substantive issues to inconsequential and sometimes vile vituperations.
“We have shifted our focus from the core issues of governance to irrelevant and frankly nonsensical attacks on the personalities of the various candidates.
“By so doing, we, the politicians, have once again distracted Nigerians from assessing those who seek political office based on the merit of their positions.
“Inadvertently, we are also exploiting primordial sentiments for political purposes, not minding the danger this poses to our democratic journey.
“I expect this forum to enable us to reflect on the seriousness of governance and the need to make our campaigns more issue-based.
“It is easy to dwell on trivialities and engage in a shouting contest. What should occupy our minds and discussions in the coming weeks and months include tackling insecurity and building on the gains made by the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in this regard.
“Other issues include economic consolidation and diversification, addressing rising unemployment, especially among our youths, lowering inflation and managing diversity.
“Our democracy is hard-earned, and we have a collective responsibility to protect and preserve it.
“We are way past the time for posturing and political subterfuge. The growing political awareness on the part of Nigerian youths who are disenchanted and angry at the ruling class means that we cannot continue with business as usual.
“We in the 9th National Assembly have taken deliberate measures to strengthen our democratic process, particularly through the passage of the 2022 Electoral Act which makes numerous innovations aimed at improving transparency and voter confidence.
“We have also ensured that the needed funds are provided to INEC to deliver a hitch-free election. I have personally championed people’s-based lawmaking that responds to the actual need of Nigerians rather than the narrow interests of a few.
“Even on controversial issues and legislative proposals, we have insisted on holding public hearings and ultimately respecting the voice of Nigerians.
“I will consider this Forum successful if, in the end, we can agree on guidelines for political campaigns and a commitment to issue-based campaigns rather than attacking personalities.”
The forum was organised by the National Institute For Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in partnership with The Kukah Centre.