Not satisfied with the quality of political analysis and reportage in major national dailies, radio stations, television stations and online news portals particularly as it relates to election coverage, a civil society group under the trademark ‘Election Monitor’ has trained political correspondents and election analyst in Abuja with the view to acquainting them with the latest trend in election coverage.
Delivering a lecture on the best ways and techniques to be adopted by political correspondents in the cause of election coverage, the National Coordinator Election Monitor Mr. Ajijola Abiodun cautioned media practitioners not to always buy into the narrative of politicians in the country.
He observed that the kind of undue publicity and blame game given to inconclusive election made it look like a negative plot orchestrated by the electoral umpire to play the bidding of the ruling party in a determine effort to win at all cost when in reality it is a creation of the law and not the electoral umpire as being peddled.
The resource person noted that the politicians who are behind the narrative are the actual cause of the problem, stressing ‘it is these same politicians that will instigate violence or use thugs to snatch ballot boxes, or orchestrate over voting when the poll is not going in their favour to necessitate an inconclusive election and when the election is finally declared inconclusive as a result of irregularities and violent conduct, these same politicians would rush to the media to accuse INEC of incompetence and inconclusive elections.’
Ajijola however, counseled political correspondents to be fair to all the stakeholders in the electoral process and not always blow the parochial and mischievous narrative of the politicians who are determine to win at all cost out of proportion.
He opined that inconclusive election in its very nature is a positive mechanism which is aimed at curtailing electoral manipulation and misconduct, as well as instilling credibility and fairness to electoral process and not a negative tool as been portrayed by desperate politicians.
The National Coordinator also gave insight into some of the factors that compelled the organization to organize the training for political correspondents and analysts.
“The training is aimed at improving the capacity of political correspondents in the area of election coverage and election analysis to ensure that they do not misinform the public. Take for instance; a situation where there was a sudden outbreak of violence during an electioneering process, or during election proper and a reporter reports that many people were killed in the cause of the violent protest and numerous others including security agents were injured.
“Such information is vague and not specific and could cause confusion and anxiety amongst the public and that is unfair. But when you report that two or five persons died in the process of the crisis, it become clearer and specific to the reader or viewer or listener who was not there but is eager to know what exactly transpired.
“Another scenario is in the area of voter turnout, it is common to read election reports in newspaper or even watch on the television or listen on the radio where reporters would just report that there was a low or high turnout of voters during a particular election, it is also vague.
“I believe it is better, clearer and more professional to put a figure to the report or at least a percentage of turnouts of voters judging from the number of eligible and registered voters in the area, while at same time comparing the figure with turnout in previous poll in the area or elsewhere.
“Some reporters or analysts indulge in some of this unprofessional practice out of ignorant or they deliberately do it for mischief purposes and that should not be encouraged. Media practitioners need to be more painstaking in doing their job because majority depend on them for information.” He posited.
He also gave the forgoing advise to media organization on how best they can improve the capability of their reporters, “It is my earnest hope and prayers that media organizations will invest in the training of their correspondents on best ways to report electoral matters and critically analyze elections and democratic processes in Nigeria.
“So we expect that media houses should set up functional library and research units where election data can be stored for easy access, future reference and retrieval when the need arises. As elections are taking place, the outcome of the process should be documented in hard and soft copies including audio and videos by the research unit to enable political reporters and analyst in the organizations retrieve them with ease whenever they have need to compare the past elections and the ongoing or just concluded elections.
“Consequently, with such repository of knowledge in the organization data base, reporters can easily reference old material and be able to accurately analyze and predict the outcome of the coming or ongoing elections. There should also be period training for political correspondents to acquaint them with the modern skills on how best to approach stories on electioneering.
“Media organizations can partner with us to organize such training or alternatively send their reporters on a 3 to 6 months training in reputable international media organizations like CNN, BBC, NewYork times or Washington Post to scale up their professional skills with the view to improving their technical knowledge on election coverage and analysis.”
Ajijola nonetheless, gave the foregoing verdict on the overall performance of Nigerian media industry, “I think the media industry in Nigeria is doing pretty well even though they occasionally make some mistakes but generally they are doing pretty well.”
On his part, another resource person and a senior staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and Director Voters Education Mr. Oluwole Osaze Ozzi while responding to questions from participant defended INEC inability to embark on continuous voter registration exercise as provided by Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
He explained that the commission does not have the required funding to embark on all year round voter registration exercise but above all the provisions of Electoral Act as amended on the aforesaid issue is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution which empowers the commission to embark on the exercise periodically.
On why those on essential duties during elections are not allowed to vote a day before the election as it is obtained in other climes, he explained that Nigeria is not yet ripe for pre-voting, absentee voting and Diaspora voting, noting that such practice is alien to our laws.
“We would not do anything outside the laws because we are creation of the law, for that to happen in Nigeria, the law has to be amended to include such practice. If the law empowers us to conduct pre voting for those on essential duty like the security agents, media, civil society groups, and even our own staff, we would do that but until that happens we cannot.
“It is however, incumbent on the media and civil society groups to carry the advocacy to the parliament who has the constitutional responsibility to tinker with the laws to pave way for amendment of relevant sections in the electoral Act to accommodate pre voting for people on essential duty and Diaspora voting.
“The politicians may not also buy into it because that would substantially affect the outcome of election results which may go against their earlier permutations and they would turn round to begin to raise credibility questions on the election results. So that is why I said that we are not ripe for that yet.” He contended.