Experts advocate More Research on Presidential Elections
Renowned Nigerian communication experts have given their verdict on the recent presidential election campaigns and the results of the voting, as announced recently by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC).
Their verdict, which aligns with those of many segments of the international media community, is that many things went wrong with the planning for voting, the conduct of the elections, the communication of the results, and the aftermath.
They acknowledge, nevertheless, that there was much that went well with the elections, and recommend more research to understand what happened and consequently the strengthening of democracy through free and fair elections.
The Nigerian communication experts who represent multiple communication associations that include the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) and the Association of Communication Scholars and Practitioners of Nigeria (ACSPN) reported that among the things that were adjudged to have gone wrong in the lead up to the election were the divisive, unethical, and unprofessional communication campaign strategies, tactics, and messages that created unnecessary tension in the polity.
They also found that there was overemphasis on religion and ethnicity and the exploitation of personal and group identify in appealing to supporters.
Their other criticisms of the campaigns include the unnecessary denigration of individual presidential candidates, their character, and personality, and overpromising on the preparedness of the electoral institutions, especially INEC, which had assured the government and people of its absolute readiness for the successful conduct of free and fair elections.
The negative influence of money in buying votes and bribing electoral officers, the unexpected decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to introduce new Naira notes within a very short time, and the use of politicians instead of trained professional communicators as spokespersons for some of the political parties were adjudged to be some of the avoidable flaws.
Relating to the conduct of voting, the transmission, and the eventual announcement of the final results, the communication experts observed that INEC failed to live up to the voters’ expectations because of the delays in the delivery of voting materials in some centres, the failure of the much-publicized new technologies of BVAS and iRev, which did not work optimally in many areas due to man-made errors that could have been avoided.
Professor Lai Oso, Ex-President of the ACSPN in his presentation identified the persisting influence of the old traditional values of ethnicity, religion, and regionalism, which this time were moderated by the new forces of social media and youth enthusiasm, especially following the #ENDSARS uprising in Lagos. It was sad that although traditional communication practitioners were active in the election campaigns, they allowed themselves to be controlled by the politicians, who had no regard for professional standards. In his words, “while the print media were greatly influenced by ownership, regionalism, and ethnicity, our television anchors saw
themselves as celebrities and threw journalism ethics to the winds.”
Professor Oso adds further that “while the results as announced by INEC are not completely unexpected, we have tended to over-emphasize the negative aspects of our politics, and unwittingly engaged in unnecessary de-marketing of our great country. Many things are right with Nigeria, and these deserve more attention in our media.”
Among other communication experts at the assessment workshop were Mrs. Bunmi Oke, ex-President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Mr. Chido Nwakanma, President of the International Association for Business Communication (IABC), Dr. Lekan Fadolapo, the Director General of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), and Comrade Christopher Isiguzo, the President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and the African Union of Journalists.
The participants recommended increased interest for funding election communication research that will yield accumulated knowledge about Nigerian politics and thereby contribute to the strengthening of democracy and democratic purposes.
This assessment workshop, which was organised by the Consortium of Nigerian Communication Experts (CoNCE) was the fifth in the series of communication engagements, designed to examine the various uses of communication in the 2023 election cycle. The event attracted 145 registrants from diverse communication sectors that include higher education, journalism, advertising and public relations, and regulatory agencies.
CoNCE is the umbrella network of academic and professional communication associations and individual patriotic Nigerians who are committed to the purposeful uses of communication in all its aspects and ramifications to promote sustainable social development through research, education, capacity building, and advocacy.