The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Monday, urged political parties in the country and their candidates to focus on issue-based campaigns ahead of the 2023 general elections.

They noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission has fixed September 28, 2022, for the official commencement of campaigns by political parties for the 2023 general elections in line with Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022.

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Lawan and Gbajabiamila spoke at a one-day ‘High-level forum on political communication and issue-based campaign in the 2023 general elections’ in Abuja.

The forum was organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, in partnership with The Kukah Centre.

Lawan said although Nigeria has made tremendous progress and most Nigerians support democracy; all citizens have a responsibility to protect the nation’s democracy.

He said, “Rather than unite us, politics has become a tool for promoting our differences and further endangering national unity.

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“Against this background and ahead of the commencement of campaigns, this forum assumes an even greater significance.

“I wish to passionately implore all stakeholders to be conscious of their messaging and focus on an issue-based campaign that shuns violence and hates speech.

“As the most populous black nation and the largest democracy in Africa, the burden is on us to deliver credible and peaceful elections.”

Earlier, Gbajabiamila lamented that legal provision pertaining to political campaigns are already being violated, adding that political campaign remains the responsibility of all stakeholders in Nigeria’s democracy.

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The speaker, therefore, called on the INEC to strictly apply relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 to curb negative political campaigns in the country.

He stated, “The task of a responsible political campaign is the responsibility of all stakeholders in our democracy.

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“INEC must uphold and strictly implement the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and the Regulations and Guidelines.”

Gbajamiabila added, “In this regard, INEC’s messaging should be simple, direct, and devoid of ambiguities.

“Only recently, the Commission has had to clarify some reports that seemed to suggest that election results in the 2023 general election will be manually collated.

“In an era of fake news and misinformation meant to mislead and cause political upheavals, INEC is tasked with staying ahead in its messaging to forestall possible misrepresentation and confusion.”

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While giving the opening speech, the Director General of NILDS, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, said the forum was organised in line with the mandate of the Institute to discuss the pertinent issues shaping political communication in Nigeria at the moment.

He said, “This is borne out of the conviction that better communication and negotiation can create harmony and more desirable outcomes in politics.

“Election campaigns should centre on robust debates about the competency and programmes of candidates.”