By Tunde Rahman
Early campaign or what some political analysts would rightly call ‘jumping the gun’ is part of what blights our electoral process.
It is distasteful and disruptive, as it cuts into the time for governance. Worried about the development, top political actors and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission have had cause to speak against it at one time or another.
So disturbed by its potential to upset the process was INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, who in October last year warned political parties against campaigning ahead of schedule.
Speaking at a workshop for election professionals from the Commonwealth Africa Region organised by the Commonwealth, in partnership with INEC, Prof. Yakubu reminded political parties of the provisions of Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. The section prohibits campaigns by political parties earlier than 90 days before polling day.
That was October 2018 for the presidential election that eventually held on February 23, 2019, just one month before the stipulated time for the commencement of campaigns for that poll. Yet campaigning at that time was considered improper in the eyes of the law and of right-thinking people, as it amounts to jumping the gun. How much more then of campaigning for 2023 elections in 2019? Four years away, and at a time re-elected President Muhammadu Buhari has yet to form his cabinet to pilot the affairs of the country for the next four years. The campaign about 2003 at this time is, therefore, inelegant and unhelpful in my view. Even as unstructured, uncertain and unpredictable our politics can be, we should at least give some space for governance after a general election before we launch into another cycle of politics and campaigns.
But the extant campaigners can hardly be bordered. It would n’t have rankled much if they had n’t dragged Asiwaju Bola Tinubu into the mix. Some of them are going about it as if on malicious errand. First, the strange campaigners printed some souvenirs including shirts, T shirts, fez caps and leaflets with the words ‘Asiwaju Tinubu 2003’ embossed on them. The souvenirs were traced to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and allegedly sponsored by a top politician in Kaduna following reports in a national newspaper, quoting intelligence sources. Later, some hoisted a banner bearing Tinubu 2003 in a popular area of Lagos. Just last week, another group of campaigners, sounding seemingly defiant, posted a video on social media campaigning for the alleged Tinubu 2003 agenda.
Without his knowledge or support, some of these campaigners have continued to drop Asiwaju’s name in their crusade. Are they altruistic or fifth columnists at work? Big question! In my view, if they mean well, they would gladly seek Asiwaju’s permission before launching on a project they seemingly want to spearhead. That way, even if the All Progressives Congress National Leader views their activity as unwelcome at this time, he would at least thank them. The point, however, is any such activity, no matter how well intended, is undesirable at present. Neither Asiwaju nor anyone known to him would approve, authorise or fund any such activity.
Those associated with these actions should cease and desist as they are against Asiwaju’s expressed wishes as I see it. The distribution of those alleged campaign items, the hoisting of that banner or indeed the 2023 campaigns as it were at this time serve only to cause confusion. President Buhari and our other elected officers should be allowed to face the business of governance. As a man committed to good governance and the well-being of all Nigerians, Asiwaju I know believes all of us should concentrate our focus on resolving the stiff challenges our nation faces at present. Talking about 2023 when we are still to fully navigate 2019 is not among those challenges.
Those who know Asiwaju know that such premature and over anxious politicking is abhorrent to his progressive stance. His focus, I must point out, is on supporting President Buhari in any way he can as well as strengthening APC so that it can deliver the best governance possible to the people at the federal, state and local levels. This is affirmed by his visit to Ondo last month where he helped to bring internal reconciliation within the party and other interventions he has made in recent times.
Those who truly support and believe in Asiwaju should stop all talk of 2023 at the moment and join him in supporting PMB and all other elected party members so that the APC may honour the progressive promises it tendered to the Nigerian people during the just-concluded election. Asiwaju is more than content to work on these important matters at hand. Talk of future elections is putrid and woefully presumptuous. 2023 will take care of 2023 in due course. That cannot be rushed in my view.
*Rahman, a former Editor of THISDAY, Saturday & Sunday Newspapers, is Media Adviser to APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.