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As candidates for the February 16, 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections officially commence campaigns today, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned them against making inflammatory statements.

LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that today marks the start of full electioneering activities according to INEC’s election timetable and schedule of activities, in line with Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

The Electoral Act provides that “the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.”

However, the electoral umpire has told the candidates to carry out their campaigns in a responsible manner.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the deputy director, Information and Voter Education, Aliyu M Bello, cautioned candidates and their parties to run campaigns devoid of rancorous, hate and/or inflammatory speeches.

He said, “Political parties are expected to conduct their activities in an organised and peaceful manner.”

According to the electoral body, campaigns for governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections will commence on December 1, 2018.

Atiku flags Off Campaign Tomorrow With ‘People’s Policy’ Launch

Meanwhile, former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, will tomorrow flag off his 2019 presidential campaign with the launch his policy document tagged ‘People’s Policy.’

The PDP candidate, according to a statement from his campaign office, will at noon, via Facebook, present the policy document containing his vision for Nigeria and his strategies to achieve it.

“The document will promptly be uploaded on his website () for all Nigerians to access at no cost.

“The decision of Atiku Abubakar to kick-start his presidential campaign with the launch of his policy document is to reiterate his commitment to run an issues-based campaign.

“The intention is to take our policy directly to Nigerians and to register the belief of Atiku Abubakar that it will take the collective efforts of every Nigerian to rebuild the country. That is why we want Nigerians to access the policy directly and, ultimately, take ownership of it.

“Our campaign offers a simple message: united, the people of Nigeria can begin anew, creating a prosperous and secure future and a better life for every Nigerian.

“On the first working day of the campaign, the PDP and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar will put forward his plan to get Nigeria working again.

“We have chosen to do this by having the PDP presidential candidate speaking directly to the Nigerian people on Facebook. This medium came about as part of the telecommunications revolution that he helped start as vice president in 1999-2007.”

He further noted that the campaign office would get Atiku to speak online which would enable everyone to download a copy of his policy document at no cost so that every Nigerian would be part of it.

“Our policy document focuses on creating jobs, ensuring security, growing business, developing power and water infrastructure, agriculture and education and how we will empower women.

“Our policies outline the goals and methods for developing and revitalising Nigeria as the foundation of our campaign.

“This policy document is being launched to encourage a dialogue with the people of Nigeria, inviting everyone to join us in helping to get Nigeria working again.

“The PDP presidential candidate looks forward to conducting vital discussions as he travels across the length and breadth of Nigeria, meeting and talking with stakeholders: famers, small business people, workers, students, mothers, and children,” he said.

The Atiku campaign body expressed confidence at emerging victorious in a peaceful, free and fair election.

In same vein, the PDP will hold its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting next week to ratify the composition of its Presidential Campaign Council and streamline its campaign strategy for the presidential polls.

Restructuring, Economy, Security Top Agenda As Presidential Campaigns Begin

As campaigns for 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections commence today, the state of the economy, security, the anti-corruption war and the debate over the restructuring of the country will be at the top of the list of campaign issues.

Checks by our correspondents show that candidates and their parties will be expected proffer clear-cut ideas on these issues in the light of the current state of affairs in the country.

Experts and analysts who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday as well as available data with regards to the various sectors of the country gave insights into the quality of campaigns expected from the candidates.

Restructuring

The restructuring debate has dominated much of the political discourse since 2015. Virtually all the parties have expressed favourable disposition to the idea. Checks reveal that while the ruling APC had set up committees on restructuring, the PDP candidate has been at the forefront campaigner for the restructuring of the country. Other parties, like Social Democratic Party (SDP), African Democratic Alliance (ADC), and Young Peoples Party (YPP) have also talked about restructuring. Besides allegations and counter allegations on sincerity to restructure the country, the candidates will be expected to define the template and timelines on how they intend to restructure the country. Already, there have been various proposals, ranging from returning to 1963 constitution, return to regional system, adoption of the 2014 confab report, more devolution of powers, etc.

Security

Security will be one of the top issues for debate by the candidates. They will be expected to reveal and explain their plans on how to tackle insurgency in the North-east, the challenge in the farmers and herdsmen clashes, the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), militancy in the Niger Delta, cult activities and kidnappings across the country. They will also be expected to look at how to secure the borders of the country.

Security expert and former director of Department for State Services (DSS), Mike Ejiofor, however cautioned the candidates to desist from engaging on personality attacks considering the already tense atmosphere in the country ahead of the election.

While urging the candidates to focus on issues, he said Boko Haram is not just the issue; there is IPOB and other groups. We already have more than enough security challenges. So attacking personalities will only raise the level of insecurity. The incumbent government should be able to tell people what they have done in tackling insecurity while those intending to unseat them should tell us what they will do differently.”

Poverty Alleviation/unemployment

Parties and their candidates will also be expected to unveil their social welfare programmes on how to create jobs and tackle poverty in the country.

The national chairman of National Democratic Party (NDP), Prince Chudi Chukwuani, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that “the candidates should tell Nigerians the truth and hold themselves accountable to the truth. There’s immense hunger in the land. Parties have to come up with practical solutions on how to tackle poverty and hunger ravaging the country.”

Agriculture

With this sector identified as critical to create employment especially for the youths, candidates will be expected to provide their blueprint on how to make this sector reach its full potential in the country.

Oni Timothy Olukunle of the Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) listed the challenges in the agricultural sector, which have remain prevalent over the years, to include marketing problem, storage and processing, infrastructure inadequacies, unstable input and output prices, agricultural labour, technical constraints, inadequacies in past policies and programmes, among others. How the candidates intend to tackle these challenges will be of interest to Nigerians.

Anti-corruption

The war against corruption will also be a critical area for debate. The APC had, in the build-up to the 2015 general elections, campaigned on the fight against corruption. As the ruling party, APC has argued that it has made major milestones in the anti-graft war with the arrest and prosecution of prominent members of the former ruling party, PDP. The PDP has however accused the APC of engaging in political witchhunt of its members in the guise of anti-corruption war. It also accused the APC of shielding its members who are alleged to be corrupt.

Executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), a non-governmental organisation, Mr Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said, “Any candidate that is serious about the fight against corruption will ensure preventive measures against corruption, enforce sanctions, and strengthen of the anti-graft agencies.”

“If we don’t do that, I doubt very much that we can make any progress in the fight against corruption.”

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