The Centre for Democracy and Development on Wednesday raised fears that the current nature of campaigning by political parties and candidates in the country was a cause for serious concern.
While stating that the period had been dominated by a proliferation of electoral disinformation, misinformation and the weaponisation of fake news, the organisation observed that the trend posses biggest threat to the 2023 poll.
The Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, in a statement, said fake news and disinformation has the potential to further fragment the country and skew the electoral outcome.
According to her, the development could play a part in affecting the legitimacy of the elections and the leaders who emerge from the process.
She said, “While campaigns are at an early stage, frontline pro-democracy think tank, CDD joins other stakeholders in calling for issues-based discussions during this campaign period.
“With an estimated 95 million registered voters deciding 1,491 election contests, including a term-limited president, it is important for governance issues affecting citizens to be at the forefront of the political debate.
“CDD urges political parties, candidates and their supporters to focus on the issues affecting the country’s governance and development.
“These include challenges in the security and economic sectors, and its result impact in other areas of governance, such as education, health, power and agriculture among others.
“Debates that prioritise religious and ethnic division only serve to distract citizens from making informed decisions while voting, especially since these issues do not discriminate along religious or ethnic lines.
“CDD recently released a report titled ‘Nigeria’s presidential polls: A SWOT analysis’, which highlighted several key areas that could make or mar the conduct of the elections.
“In line with some of the findings outlined in the analysis, the CDD therefore charges political actors to desist from promoting political violence which is inimical to Nigeria’s development.”
Hassan maintained that politicians must consider Nigeria first, far and above their personal aspirations.
She said, “CDD notes that the current nature of campaigning is cause for concern. The period has been dominated by a proliferation of electoral disinformation, misinformation and the weaponisation of fake news.
“This rising trend poses the biggest threat to the peaceful pre- and post-election conduct of the elections.
This is because fake news and disinformation has the potential to further fragment the country and skew the electoral outcome. This could play a part in affecting the legitimacy of the elections and the leaders who emerge from the process.
“In recent years, CDD has increasingly raised concerns on the potentially disruptive influence of disinformation on elections. The Centre has noted the common forms of disinformation in elections include the dissemination of false information to discredit political opponents or to influence voters and the voting process. These in addition to the falsification and/or manipulation of contents, polling data, delegitimisation of electoral institutions, including INEC, the Nigeria Police and other state agencies.”
Hassan maintained that the spread and impact of disinformation is a global concern and a threat to the sustainability of democracy globally.
She expressed optimism that that the participation of all 18 registered political parties in the signing of the National Peace Accord shows a commitment by politicians to commit to addressing this issue.
“It is why we believe it is important the Nigeria Peace Committee and Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should institute a fact check hub to monitor the peddling of fake news by political parties, its candidates, and supporters before, during and after the general elections and sanction defaulters of the Peace Accord appropriately.
“Finally, we urge all voters, social media, citizens journalists, and mainstream media executives to always fact check information before sharing. We all share responsibility of curbing fake news, to ensure that we can all reap the dividends of our continued democracy”, she said.