Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu has sought the cooperation of the media to support his commission’s determination to make the 2019 general elections Nigeria’s best election ever.
Speaking during the 69th General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) in Lagos yesterday, Yakubu said it was not possible for the commission alone to conduct good elections without media cooperation.
According to him, “We need the full support of all stakeholders. It is our hope that we can continue to count on the support of BON in particular and the media in general. Only by working together can we continue to deepen our democracy.”
In his presentation titled: ‘The role of the media in the Nigeria electoral process’, Yakubu said having explored the role of the media in the Nigerian electoral process, it is important to highlight how INEC and BON can work together towards the promotion of credible and peaceful electoral process and the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria come 2019.
“As an independent, non-governmental umbrella association of all public and private electronic media organisations in Nigeria, we solicit the support of BON in three major areas as follows: civic and voter education,” which he described as the cardinal statutory function of the commission according to Section 2(a) of the Electoral Act 2010 and a shared responsibility involving the commission, political parties, civil society organisations, the media and relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government, especially important value-orientation.
He also tasked the media on fair, professional and ethical coverage of the electoral processes, saying that elections have become an important source of revenue for the media with wealthy candidates and political parties spending large amounts of money on political advertising, which sometimes resulting in skewed coverage in favour of those who can afford the high cost of such advertising.
According to him, “In some cases, sections of the media do not always strictly adhere to professional and ethical standards for a variety of reasons. This not only violates Sections 99, 100, 101 and 102 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), it actually imperils our democracy.”
The electoral boss further recognised the significance of the media in organising debate for candidates seeking political office. He stressed that since the restoration of democracy in 1999, the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG), which is a coalition of broadcast organizations, civil society and professional groups, has been in the vanguard of organising and hosting live televised debates for all presidential, vice presidential and gubernatorial candidates in Nigeria.”
He noted that the debates have also served an important role of demonstrating to the aspiring candidates that democracy is about standing before the public and answering their questions. Invariably, debates assist voters in making informed decisions on election day and provide a yardstick for holding the elected candidates accountable to their party manifestos and campaign promises.
According to him, “As we move closer to the 2019 General Elections, my appeal to the distinguished members of BON is that we should remain vigilant and constantly look out for those who seek to divide and incite Nigerians through fake narratives. When you hear of certain allegations against the Commission, I urge you to endeavour to ask us for clarifications through our open official channels and or by making use of other available channels. Our doors are open and we will always oblige you with the information that you need. We are confident that when professional organizations like yours put truthful stories out there in the public domain, it will be easy to tackle rumourmongers and peddlers of fake news.”
Explaining the achievements of the commission since he assumed its leadership in, Yakubu said “INEC has conducted five general elections since 1999 and the 2015 election has so far been adjudged as the best of them all. Since then, we have conducted elections into 179 constituencies in addition to the recent verification of petitioners’ signatures for the recall of a member of the National Assembly. Since January this year, we have conducted four elections, majority of them by court order. We still have five bye-elections into National and State Assembly constituencies to conduct, including four vacancies that occurred in less than two months (March-April 2018). In addition, we have two off-season Governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States scheduled for July 14 and September 22 2018 respectively.”
Speaking on hate speech and its implications on elections, former NigerianHigh Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade said hate speech is injurious to electoral process and would not allow the country to be at peace.
He therefore advised BON to help in constantly reminding Nigerians who they were and where they are coming from.
The Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, who represented her principal advised the media against involving in partisanship while reporting as bad reports could spark off violence during the elections.