Nigerian communication teachers and practitioners, under the aegis of Consortium of Nigerian Communication Experts (CoNCE), on Saturday, March 25, listed 14 major challenges with the just-concluded presidential election.
They concluded that many things went wrong, although there were some positive outcomes as well. The experts, who featured 12 leaders of professional bodies and regulatory agencies in the communication sector as guest speakers, analysed the presidential election campaigns and results of the voting.
They resolved that there were, at least, 14 major deficits that must be addressed in future electioneering campaigns and elections. Participants that registered to attend the assessment workshop via Zoom were 224.
Among the things adjudged to have gone wrong in the lead-up to the election were: divisive, unethical, and unprofessional communication campaign strategies, tactics, and messages that created unnecessary tension; overemphasis on religion and ethnicity and the exploitation of personal and group identify in appealing to supporters;
Unnecessary denigration of individual presidential candidates, their character, and personality; overpromising on preparedness of the electoral institutions, especially INEC, which had assured the government and people of its absolute preparedness for successful conduct of free and fair elections;
Negative influence of money in buying votes and bribing electoral officers; unexpected decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to introduce new naira notes within a very short time; and use of politicians instead of trained professional communicators as spokespersons for some of the political parties.
RELATING to the conduct of voting in the presidential election, transmission, and eventual announcement of final results, the participants observed as follows:
INEC failed to live up to voters’ expectations because of delays in the delivery of voting materials in some centres.
Compared to previous Nigerian elections, the conduct was generally peaceful, in spite of some flashpoints of violence, voter intimidation, and under-age voting.
The much-publicised benefits of the new technologies of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and iRev were not realised due to man-made errors that could have been avoided.
Although the parties produced well-thought-out and colorfully designed manifestos, they did not find much use for these in actual media campaigns because of their penchant for non-issues and innuendos rather than specific programmes.
In spite of the failures, there were free and fair voting and accurate reporting of results in many centres. The final results, as announced by INEC, showed that the major political parties performed along the same old traditional cleavages of religion, region, and ethnicity, even with the emergence of a third party that seemed to appeal more to the youths.
THE participants, therefore, recommended: political parties should appoint spokespersons who are experienced communication professionals, and as much as possible, use only duly registered Nigerian advertising and public relations agencies.
INEC’s communication must improve its capacity to provide adequate public enlightenment and education on voting procedures to avoid such calamitous failures in future elections.
INEC and other information and communication organs of government, especially the National Orientation Agency (NOA), must collaborate closely and be guided by public interest.
The regulation of election campaign advertising must be sustained and the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), as both a government agency and a body created to propagate ethical conduct of advertising, should be fully empowered to discharge its functions.
Greater use of communication professionals in all aspects of election campaigns is necessary for the attainment of desirable communication results in elections and subsequently in governance.
THE assessment workshop – the fifth in the series of communication engagements designed to examine various uses of communication in the 2023 election cycle – had 12 speakers representing different organisations, including Ms. Tolulope Olorundero of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and Nigerian Women in Public Relations; Prof. Abdullahi Bashir, President, African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) and Ms. Bunmi Oke, past President, Association of Advertising Agencies in Nigeria (AAAN).
Other speakers include: Mrs. Margaret Olele, CEO/General Secretary, Nigerian American Business Council; Prof. Lai Oso, ex-President, Association of Communication Scholars and Practitioners of Nigeria (ACSPN); Mr. Chido Nwakanma, President, International Association of Business Communicators (IABC); Mr. Emmanuel Ajufo, President, Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigerian (OAAN); Mr. Adewale Adeniyi, Vice President, NIPR;
Comrade Isiguzo, President, Nigerian Union of Journalists and African Journalists Association; Dr. Lekan Fadolapo, Director General, Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON); Dr. Everest Amaefule, Business Editor, Newsdaily; and Prof. Mande, Dean, Nigerian National Open University Abuja.