2023 elections: PRNigeria’s report on presidential candidates and security threats

Nigeria’s security agencies, the media, and other professionals converged in Abuja on February 15 for the unveiling of PRNigeria’s report on security risks across the six geopolitical zones ahead of the 2023 general elections. In attendance were representatives of military, security, intelligence agencies and the Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC).

Titled “2023 Election: SWOT Analysis of Major Presidential Candidates and Security Matters”, the assessment was produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA), and funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

The CEO of Image Merchants Promotion (IMPR), Yushau Shuaib said the report, which has media and security officials/experts as the major respondents, is part of the company’s contribution to the deepening of democracy. Already submitted to relevant security services and agencies, it contains components of likely security threats in the event some notable candidates lose.

“As part of PRNigeria’s commitment to entrench democracy through in-depth analysis of socio-economic issues and political events shaping the 2023 polls, we recently undertook a field trip to some states. Rivers, Delta (South-South); Enugu, Imo (South-East); Lagos, Oyo (South-West); Kano, Kebbi (North-West); Borno, Gombe (North-East), and Kwara, Niger (North-Central).

“We also undertook virtual surveys/interviews in other states regarding security concerns as well as aspirations of the electorates. This was with a view to draw the attention of the security agencies, in particular, to the places we have identified as flashpoints prior, during and even after the general elections,” Shuaib added.

The research identified states where violence may erupt if proactive measures are not taken by government agencies and other stakeholders. In characterization of challenges in regions, banditry, kidnapping and political thuggery are the main threats in North-West; insurgency and terrorism in North-East; farmers-herders’ conflicts, communal clashes and kidnapping in North-Central.

It also picked out secessionists’ agitation, political thuggery and communal clashes as the main threats in South-West; resource control agitation, militancy and kidnapping in South-South, while violent separatist agitation, kidnapping and political thuggery are the major problems in South-East.

In characterization of challenges in states, banditry and kidnapping were found to be rampant in Niger, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Edo, Kebbi and Sokoto; separatist agitation in Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi; insurgency and terrorism/violent extremism are more attributed to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Gombe, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun, Kwara are noted for incessant farmers-herders/communal clashes; Kano, Lagos, Bauchi, Gombe, Kogi, Rivers, Osun, Jigawa and Cross River are the flashpoints for political thuggery, while resource control agitation are common in Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom.

The Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis of the top presidential candidates was carried out with a view to keep security agencies updated about their profiles and strength. It examined how the flagbearers’ participation may affect the fragile peace, unity and security of the nation.

The candidates are Bola Tinubu, All Progressives Congress (APC); Atiku Abubakar, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Peter Obi, Labour Party (LP); Rabiu Kwankwaso, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and Omoyele Sowore, African Action Congress (AAC).

In reference to politically-motivated unrest and killings in recent years, the report said: “In November 2022, for instance, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, reported that there were 52 cases of political violence across 22 states in one month.

“Between 2019 and 2022, hoodlums attacked more than 50 offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 15 States. There have been cases of destruction of billboards, campaign vehicles, offices, and other property. Several campaign rallies have been violently disrupted and convoys attacked.”

The report says due to the naira crunch, the elections may witness cashless vote-buying/trading where electorates could get free tickets after voting to obtain goods and services from retailing outlets. It observed that polls and partisan projections have heightened public anxiety and influenced extreme optimism among candidates and their supporters, which could undermine national security.

Fearing the ruling parties in a number of states have perfected plans to ensure victories for their candidates at all costs, the research complained about disturbing ethnocentric and religious sentiments in political campaigns that have further created fright of potential violence during and after the elections.

It highlights some electorates’ belief that votes do not count and that the outcome of most elections are predetermined. Voter apathy may still be an issue in certain places as revealed by the report which urged parties and supporters to adhere to electoral rules and be quick to embrace sportsmanship when the results are announced.

“There is the need for candidates to demonstrate exemplary leadership by eschewing inciting utterances and actions capable of provoking social unrest. Community leaders should preach peace and unity, while encouraging youths to shun political thuggery and violence. There is the need for communities to support the government through sensitisation campaigns on tolerance and peaceful co-existence”, it reads.

The general public were urged to avoid any form of unrest that might scuttle the successful conduct of the election and undermine national security, while security agencies were advised to remain neutral and be steadfast in discharging their constitutional mandate of protecting lives and properties.

Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi commended PRNigeria for its efforts on security matters and crisis management in the country. He said environmental and threat evaluation would help to keep security forces alert to consolidate strategies for hitch-free elections and maintain national security.

As the lead agency in charge of internal security, the spokesperson assured the police would sustain collaboration with stakeholders, adding that the security branch and others are taking the charge of President Muhammadu Buhari seriously in order to deliver as anticipated.

“The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor is providing strong leadership and I am happy security agencies are working together. I want to commend the efforts of the CDS, he encourages us a lot. He is everywhere, working round the clock to ensure we give Nigerians the peaceful atmosphere to exercise their voting rights,” CSP Adejobi said.

Stressing that only personnel of the police, military, and other security agencies will be deployed to maintain law and order, the Force imagemaker said no local, regional or unofficial outfit would be allowed to go about as there will be strict restriction of movement on election days – February 25 and March 11.

Madobi is the author of “National Security Strategies – A Young Writer’s Perspectives.”

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