2023 Elections: The Politics, Drama Over Candidates’ Manifestoes

2023 Elections: The Politics, Drama Over Candidates’ Manifestoes

What is in a manifesto? A document to hold the candidate accountable for promises made. A book of prose, full of sound and fury signifying nothing? However, it is defined, the manifesto has generated more interest in the countdown to the February 25, 2023, presidential election than ever before in the history of Nigeria. Less

What is in a manifesto? A document to hold the candidate accountable for promises made. A book of prose, full of sound and fury signifying nothing? However, it is defined, the manifesto has generated more interest in the countdown to the February 25, 2023, presidential election than ever before in the history of Nigeria. Less than one month after the ban on public campaign was lifted by INEC, there has been drama and intense politicking surrounding the issue of the manifesto.

As the window of the general elections is closing in, candidates of 18 registered political parties are jostling and hustling, trying to market and project themselves as the best man/woman for the job. (There is a female presidential candidate in the lot). Of course, there are contenders and pretenders. For the contenders of the most coveted diadem, president of Nigeria 2023-2027, the workload is enormous. Nigerians want to know how the ship will be piloted. They don’t appear ready for any sweet cheap talk; they are once bitten twice shy.

Yet, manifestoes are necessary evils. It is better to have them than have nothing. Because talk is cheap; a lot of people are wary of Manifestoes because of their previous experiences when lofty promises were made but never kept. Hopes raised and dashed. Expectations were not properly managed, and the masses were deceived into believing the unthinkable, like the naira coming at par with the dollar.

What Premium Should Voters Place on Candidates’ Manifestoes?
There is a huge expectation on the presidential candidates to campaign across all regions in the country, if not all states and make promises. Apart from, they are also obligated to present their manifestoes to the nation – as their unique selling points. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), being the umpire of the election process, has advised voters to pay attention to the manifestoes of all candidates.

According to its chairman Mahmood Yakubu, Nigerians should “pay attention to the manifesto of the political parties and what each candidate has to offer, so that they can make informed choices”

Manifestoes are written policy documents clearly stating the plans, policies and principles of candidates or political parties’ campaigns and how the plans will be executed if elected to power. Although the legality of the manifesto is not clearly stated either in the Electoral acts or the Nigeria constitution, there is conventional expectations as in other climes for all candidates to present their plans to the people who will elect them to their desired offices.

However, conversations have emerged on the necessity and vitality of the politicians manifestoes to decision-making by the voters and whether they in real terms contribute to Nigeria’s electioneering process; do they really help the voters to make up their mind? Can they through the manifesto determine if the candidates’ plans or policies are good enough? Political analysts and stakeholders are of divergent viewpoints on this.

But the big question is: what premium should voters place on candidates manifestoes towards the general elections, in 2023? How many of such manifestoes are available for perusal? What kind of scrutiny has gone into analysing the manifestoes? What safety valves are there to ensure that the winner of the election honours his manifesto and fulfills promises made and not give excuses for non-performance.

Matters Arising Among the Political Class on the Manifesto

As at the time of this report, only two out of the four major presidential candidates have released their policy document otherwise known as manifesto. Such actions speak evidently to how consequential a manifesto is in the election process. There are 18 candidates in the race. This could be because of their different perspectives. The candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, was the first to unveil his manifesto. He has since been followed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Atiku Abubakar, PDP
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, APC

But Mr. Peter Obi has a different perspective about the manifesto. He says it is just a bunch of words with no real meaning and no guarantee of being fulfilled. Further, he argued that the speeches themselves were more important than the manifestos. He then went on to say that trust is the defining issue in the 2023 election since all the candidates are essentially proposing the same thing.

Mr. Peter Obi, Labour Party

In his own words, “People have made pledges in the past. The dollar’s value in relation to other currencies is expected to remain stable, as has been previously assured. We’re really close to N800 per dollar now. No one is speaking out, either. It has been promised to us that in the not-too-distant future, our farming methods would be brought up to date. This is why I keep insisting that we don’t need all these hastily drafted manifestos that sound great on paper; instead, we should just let the people get together and discuss.

Mr Omoyele Sowore, AAC

Mr. Peter Obi may not be alone in that category as some other presidential candidates have been traversing television and radio stations stating their programmes and how they intend to fix Nigeria if elected. Some in that category include Mr. Adewole Adebayo of the SDP, Mr, Omoyele Sowore of the AAC, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso of the NNDP and a host of others

The issues are already on the burners. In his plans, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP has presented a five-point agenda in his manifesto titled “My Covenant with Nigerians” in which he focuses on fostering a more united Nigeria, tackling insecurity, education reform, and rebuilding the nation’s economy among other issues stated in the manifesto.

Bashorun Dele Momodu, PDP Spokesperson Mr. Festus Keyamu SAN, APC Spokesperson

Shortly after the release of that manifesto, the Minister of Information Alhaji Lai Mohammed launched an attack against Alhaji Atiku Abubakar accusing him of plagiarizing some of Buhari government’s projects and programmes. And soon after Asiwaju Bola Tinubu released his 80-page document titled ““Renewed Hope 2023-Action plan for a better Nigeria”, he was accused by some spokesperson of opposition PDP of plagiarizing the “Hope 93: Farewell to Poverty” manifesto document of Chief M.K.O. Abiola, GCFR, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, election.

But that does not in any way diminish the quality of the document which speaks to a myriad of problems in Nigeria and proffered some solutions. His manifesto also puts tackling insecurity and economic instability as the major highlight of his ten-point agenda. The release of the manifesto of both the PDP and the APC has triggered some fireworks with allegations of plagiarism flying across the two divides.

There has been a lot of drama. This has pitched two spokespersons of the two leading parties at loggerheads exchanging strong words and calling themselves names. Bashorun Dele Momodu, a strategic communicator for the PDP and Atiku Abubakar who alleged that the Bola Tinubu’s document plagiarized that of Hope 93 document of Chief Abiola has been challenged by the Minister for State Labour and the chief spokesperson of the Tinubu’s campaign to highlight aspects of the Renewed Hope document that plagiarises Hope 93 document.

What Are Nigerians Saying About Manifestoes?
But the general mood of the ordinary Nigerian is different from the intellectual discussions going on among the political actors. The impact of the manifesto on Nigerian voters is sparingly relevant. Most of the electorate vote on other primordial sentiments such as ethnicity, tribalism and largely, religious. Illiteracy is another major factor that reduces the effectiveness of political manifestoes in electioneering in Nigeria.

Adejumo Kabir, a journalist, and public affairs analyst, while responding to a question posed on the issue of manifesto said many Nigerians are illiterate. And that makes them not place political manifestoes on any vantage position for decision making. “If you look at how Nigeria is, the people that make major decisions during elections are the market women, who do not read those long documents politicians release on the internet.

Ijeoma Okereke, a programme officer at the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development argued that most voters are not usually bothered about what the candidates have to offer. “Many people don’t go the extra mile of looking at party manifestoes to inform their choice at the polls. I don’t think many people get to read the manifesto before the elections. She added that people only depend on the media’s opinion of the candidates to and analysis to make up their mind.

“I think manifestoes do not determine how Nigerians vote.” Ayobami Adewale, a historian, and public affairs analyst responded. “What influences Nigeria elections largely include tribal sentiments and propaganda, poverty amongst other things,” he added. He also argued that illiteracy is a major setback for Nigeria’s voting system, saying that most of the Nigerians in the rural settlements are oblivious to what candidates have to offer.
Bright Ogunjobi, a banker, said that the manifesto is just a document that candidates release for themselves alone. She added that many Nigerians will eventually make their choices based on their religions and where the candidates come from.

“I think the manifesto is just a waste of energy, nobody reads it. Look at me, I am always busy, how will I get time to read those long documents they call manifestoes? I believe most of us will just vote based on who is more popular in our locality. That is how it works”, she said.

Funso Okunola, a student at the University of Ibadan, says the influence of grassroots politicians on the electorates supersedes any documented policy. He pointed at vote-buying as another factor militating against democracy.

His words: “You see those grassroots politicians; they have greater stakes in voters than any written or unwritten manifesto. They have a way to make people vote for them either directly or by giving them money. So, you cannot capitalise on a manifesto to win elections in this country”

On the flip side, Dibia Anthony, a hotel manager believed the tides are changing in Nigeria. In his thought, Nigerians are tilting towards knowing what candidates have to offer outside the regular tribal influence and other sentiments.

“I think things are changing, voters do not want to go to the booths without knowing what the candidates have to offer. And therefore, you see us calling the contenders to come out with their concrete plans and how to execute them”, he said.

Interesting times are ahead as more actions are witnessed on the political turf. Beyond the manifestoes, there will be need for different groups to organize debates for the candidates not just television interviews. They need to confront themselves and take themselves to task on the workability of what they have written in their different manifestoes.

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  • Sanmi Falobi
    October 27, 2022, 3:00 pm

    good one.


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