By Angela Atabo
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) on Friday cautioned politicians, especially incumbents, not to use desperation to retain power as the country prepared for 2019 elections.
Senior Fellow of the centre, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, gave the advice at a Roundtable organised by the centre in Abuja.
Ibrahim said that rather than use violence to retain power, they should cautiously embark on productive manifestos if they hoped to win in the elections.
He said that a research carried out by Prof. Carl Levan of an American university on Nigerian elections showed that Nigerians were more swayed by issues around why they should vote for politicians than in any other thing.
Ibrahim said that a good example was in 2011 when former President Goodluck Jonathan had a very convincing election and won on the basis of a breath of fresh air and of a promise of a new style of politics.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent, also changed his campaign on economic recovery and corruption and was able to sway the people to vote for him.
Ibrahim explained that the issue of party competition was about level-playing ground for all.
“We need to have an election where all political parties have a fair share of winning, meaning that those in power, the incumbents, do not use their desperation to retain power to ensure there is no level-playing ground.
“The message is that there was a significant improvement in the 2011 elections and in 2015, the improvement on the quality of the elections went up.
“What this is telling us is that you cannot win power simply on the basis of corrupting the rules of the game.
“You have to convince voters so they can vote for you to hold power and that’s good for us ahead of 2019 so we can improve on the elections too,’’ he said.
Ibrahim said that the analysis of the 2015 election showed a significant rise in hate speech and that this affected the election.
“You remember the famous video circulated on Buhari and Tinubu that could have pushed the nation to the verge of civil war?
“Unfortunately, with the spread of the social media, hate speech has even increased since 2015 and today, all sorts of fake messages, images and distorted information are circulating and that could significantly affect election outcome.’’
Ibrahim said that it was important for Nigerians to be more critical about what they believed in, advising that they had to be very cautious in believing things.
He said that Nigerians needed a rise in their critical assessment of information thrown at them.
According to him, this ability of analysing information before accepting it is what will determine to a large extent, whether they can reduce the level of violence in the forthcoming election.
In a lecture, Prof. Carl Levan from American University in Washington said his research on Nigeria’s election revealed that it was no longer the nature of democracy people always thought it was.
In the lecture entitled “Nigerian Party Competition During a Time of Transition and Terror,” Levan said “certainly, the defeat of the ruling party after 16 years was truly a milestone.
“One of the key findings from my research is that the source of that historic change in party power was driven by voters and the issues they cared about.
“So, one message for the country is that issues are starting to matter in Nigerian politics and when the issues were negatively framed in terms of the opposite party, those kinds of issues tended to backfire on the party.’’
He said that though economy and corruption were the most important issues around the 2015 elections, for 2019 however, there may be other issues.
He said that there were important lessons to learn from the 2015 elections, one of which was that parties needed to learn to talk about issues and needed to think very strategically about what the right issues were.
Levan advised political parties to figure out what voters cared about so that they could craft a clear message that addressed them.