The media the world over is driven primarily by the quest to push certain agendas which in the short or long run make an impact on the economic bottom line. In the West, for instance, the media is polarized along the two broad ideological lines of conservatives and liberals with their journalists having sturdy views on either side before they become journalists.
This explains why the movement from one media house to the other has an unwritten rule of it being regulated by ideological biases. For example, CNN’s Richard Quest who is openly gay turned down an offer to join the conservative Al Jazeera because he didn’t think he would be a right fit.
It is no crime for Nigerian media houses to have their biases ideological or otherwise but they should be balanced and objective when accommodating divergent and dissenting perspectives.
I was at Banex, Wuse, Abuja recently and a popular cable TV station interviewed me under the guise of sampling the opinions of Nigerians on the recently concluded Presidential elections. The lady interviewer asked me a series of questions and prominent among them was my view on the election. The use of BVAS and the uploading of results on the IReV portal.
She further surmised that Nigerians are not happy that there was no BVAS upload of results. It was at this point that I saw she was mixing up BVAS use and the IReV portal upload (even the man they interviewed before me was mixing it up, saying BVAS was not used).
I proceeded to explain that BVAS was used generally that even the KKK states had their votes figure having to shrink massively this time as compared to the last polls.
I said the issues raised by Dino Melaye and other opposition voices at the collation was the simultaneous transmission of results into the IReV portal as the results are being read by the various State collating officers. The interviewer further added that don’t think that’s against the Electoral Act, i.e not uploading the results in real-time on the server.
I had to quote relevant sections of the Electoral Act that gives INEC the prerogative to choose the method of results transmission, whether it’s electronic or manual. I went further to explain that the major process of result collation is from the polling units (PU) to the Ward level to the Local Government, State level then to the National collation centre as signed by party agents.
I was further probed in the interview if I believed that the election was rigged, a claim being advanced by the majority of Nigerians. The interviewer further added that the mood of social media was gloomy following the announcement of Bola Tinubu as the president-elect. I explained that I can’t categorically say the election was rigged as the results in my polling area were tallied with the collated figures.
I said cases of malpractice would be proven in a court of law. I mentioned that Bola Tinubu is not popular on social media and the cosmopolitan places in Nigeria and as such the views on social media and urban areas may be one-sided. He indeed lost in Nigerian urban areas. Lost in Abuja, Lagos and many cosmopolitan areas. He did well in places like Zamfara which cannot be said to be exactly urban.
I spoke on the shoddiness of INEC, how they promised electronic transmission at a point, their dilly dialing et al and how much was expended on technology but still failed to deliver on real-time electronic transmission. But added that it is not compulsory to transmit electronically. Well, I tried to be fair in my analysis, for and against.
But to my consternation, when the report came on air on that TV station, they only aired where I criticized INEC on their shoddiness as regards electronic transmission but left out other analysis on the election, the BVAS use, other things I said. They tagged the report ‘Nigerians criticize the election blabla’ and called it sampled opinions of citizens. I believe this is a media conspiracy; to promote only negative views to suit a certain narrative and thrash the positive reviews. Thank God for the liberalisation of the media which has seen the emergence of many online and new media platforms become behemoths in a jiffy.
However, because of human frailty and the need to protect this critical institution that holds the government to account, it is necessary for the government regulatory agencies to ensure that our media space is hate speech free by cracking down on the purveyors of half-truths and outright lies.
Our journalists must exercise caution and restraint so that objectivity can be their platform’s trademark and trust by the public can be reposed in it. It was the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson that said he would prefer the presence of newspapers without a government; can Nigerian citizens in this 21st century agree with him?
• Arakunrin Ayoola Faseyi, a journalist wrote from Abuja, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org).