In the third part of our series on the upcoming elections in Nigeria, we will look at the campaign period from September to December 2022. The All Progressives Congress’ Bola Tinubu, Labour Party’s Peter Obi, and Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar spent the months holding campaign rallies, attacking each other, and corralling reluctant allies in a precursor to one of the most critical elections of the year worldwide.
In accordance with the official Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable, the formal campaign period began on 28 September 2022. Abubakar’s PDP immediately set to work; with a manifesto already released in May, the party inaugurated its presidential campaign council on the 28th. However, the move did not resolve its internal crisis as the group of five anti-Abubakar PDP governors—now styling itself the “G5” or the “Integrity Group”—rejected their positions on the council and continued to boycott Abubakar events. Meanwhile, Tinubu was in London when the campaign period commenced, fueling further rumors about the state of his health before his return in early October. Later that month, the APC also faced internal strife due to disputes over the Tinubu campaign council composition and renewed criticism of the same religion ticket. However, the party successfully resolved the council formation difficulties and inaugurated it on 21 October; just prior to the event, Tinubu released his manifesto. Similarly to his major opponents, Obi faced issues forming his campaign council as the initial list was met with backlash by his supporters due to the inclusion of various controversial figures. Again mirroring his opponents, the Obi campaign was able to revise the list and inaugurate the council by the end of October; however, he did not release his manifesto at the time.
Although organizational logistics predominated at the very beginning of the campaign period, public-facing campaigning also commenced along with its associated scandals. Tinubu was hit by the November release of certified American judicial documents that confirmed that nearly a half million of his US dollars were seized by American authorities in 1993 due to his connections to drug traffickers. On the other hand, Abubakar self-inflicted his scandal by calling on Northerners to reject ethnic Igbo (Obi) and Yoruba (Tinubu) candidates in favour of their own brethren (himself) in a speech; the blatant appeal to ethnic sectarianism did not go down well with large segments of the Nigerian public who condemned the statement. Fortunately for Obi, he avoided major controversy and received a boost from a Nextier poll showing him leading in rural communities.
In November and December, the controversies kept coming for Tinubu as his campaign initiated a prolonged public spat with Arise News—the organisers of a series of town hall-style debates. Similarly, Abubakar did not attend the first debate but participated in the second one; however, he and his PDP could not prevent the G5 from definitively rejecting his candidacy in November. While Obi was the only of the three leading candidates to attend both major debates and he finally released his manifesto on 3 December, he was unable to avoid significant controversy in these months as his campaign director-general—Doyin Okupe—was forced to resign after being convicted on corruption-based charges in December.
Overall, policy took a significant backseat during this part of the campaign as personality, scandal, and identity politics rose to the forefront.
Conduct and coverage
It was not just campaigns that faced immense pressure during the campaign period as INEC, the electoral authority, ran a gauntlet of threats to the election from underage and invalid registered voters to hate speech and a series of violent attacks on southeastern INEC offices in December. The commission repeatedly vowed to hold the elections freely, fairly, and peacefully but analysts noted the fragility of the electoral process and the high potential for violence.
Punditry also included projections for the state-by-state results of the election. While AfricaElects is yet to release our projections, two sources—geopolitics firm SBM Intelligence and newspaper ThisDay—unveiled their ratings in December. On the polling side of pre-election analysis, the ANAP Foundation released a NOIPolls survey in December that showed a narrow Obi lead while BantuPage conducted a series of state-by-state polls in the month as well. Here at AfricaElects, we plan to publish our outlook on the elections in the week prior to polling units opening on 25 February.