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Role Of The Media In The Conduct Of Peaceful Elections

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This topic is very important at this time, given the fact that election periods in Nigeria are normally considered by politicians as do or die affairs. It is therefore auspicious for us as Media Professionals to brainstorm ahead of the election year so as to prepare ourselves very well for the onerous task ahead.
The 2023 Nigerian elections will be held, in large part, on 25 February and 11 March 2023. The President and Vice President will be elected on 25 February, with incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari ineligible to run, being term-limited, but his party has thrown up its Candidates for the various positions at stake. Similarly,there will also be elections on the same day for the Senate and the House of Representatives. On 11 March, twenty-eight gubernatorial elections will be held alongside elections to state houses of assembly in all the 36 States of the Federation.
Peace Journalism/Conflict Sensitive and Election Reporting
In whatever we do as Journalists,it is very necessary to take the issue of peace as a cardinal point and take into consideration the need to be careful so that areas that are already fragile do not explode or implode.
Peace is a basic requirement in a democracy. No democracy can flourish in the absence of peace. While, we concede that it is inevitable to eliminate crises and conflicts from our society, however it is important if deliberate efforts are made toward conflict resolution and peace building.
How then can journalists use the power of the mass media to resolve rather than inflame conflicts? How can we as responsible citizens and media professionals help in ensuring a smooth and peaceful democratic transition? Is it possible to use the media pro-actively to help the complex process of conflict management and transformation to peaceful co-existence?
Most importantly,while examining the ethical issues involved in reporting elections and conflicts, how can we play any constructive role in conflict and Post Conflict Scenarios?
As Journalists, we are expected to develop a thorough understanding of the elections and the electoral process, an understanding of conflicts and convey these to citizens in a way that reflect the truth in all their complexities.The proper foundation established by Journalists will provide citizens with the opportunities they require to make informed judgments about issues involved and perhaps help the government in taking meaningful decisions.
Media professionals should brace up for the challenges ahead, especially since they are expected to participate in the process of social reconstruction and democratisation  by providing a positive and participatory forum for the exchange of ideas, democracy and nation building and while discharging their duties Journalists should never attempt to deviate from the ethics of the profession because it will not auger well for the nation. Since the role of the media in Nigeria’s emerging democracy is central, media professionals must maintain the highest possible standards in their practice.
The role of the media in peace promotion or conflict escalation has been heightened by a number of factors which include ownership and funding, editorial policy and the regulatory agencies, therefore it is proper to suggest peace journalism as an instrument in promoting peace and reducing dysfunctional conflict to the barest minimum.
The media have a vital role to play in nation building, by being active partners in the implementation of the development processes. They are veritable instruments and are therefore central to any input-output functions of any political system. However, there may be constraints of the media in this regard which among others include lack of conducive working environment, mass poverty, poor remuneration and lack of adequate training.
It should be noted that the emergence of our country as a democracy in 1999 was a product of collective efforts of Nigerians as represented by the mass media and civil society. Despite its challenges, democracy has provided Nigerians with space to freely discuss their affairs. Every single day of democratic governance in Nigeria helps to further deepen democratic values in the country. Our role as journalists is to facilitate easy access to information that will enhance participation in governance and ultimately enable citizens make informed choices during elections.
We are conscious of our professional responsibility to gather, collate, process and disseminate news. Through this role, we act as gate keepers who determine which news material to disseminate especially against the background of the myriads of available news material.
Using the means of new technology to reach a mass audience, the journalist influences opinions, builds perceptions and mediates among contending social and political forces. We act as mirror for the society to view itself while also influencing social realities.
Clearly, while we have contributed to the process of democratic sustainability in Nigeria in the past 23 years or thereabout, we are also interested in its future. Therefore the 2023/general election is important to all journalists especially because it will further stabilise our democracy and strengthen the democratic culture in Nigerian.
The NUJ is committed to improving the ethical standard of news reportage during elections. We are keen in ensuring that Nigerian Journalists undertake their professional duties within the ambit of the Electoral Law and other regulations. Professionally, we desire to improve the news judgment of the journalist as it affects elections and elections related issues.
Media Professionals should be actively involved in the Pre-voting stage during which electoral frameworks may be developed or refined and  boundaries may be  defined to ascertain voter eligibility. During this phase, voter and civic education, Voter registration, party nominations, and electoral campaigns also take place.
The process of voting where citizens come to cast their votes is also very important for the media to be active participants. In addition to the casting of votes, this phase also includes vote counting and the verification of results. It is therefore another critical stage where the attention of Journalists is very key. It is the responsibility of Journalists to provide the necessary information whethr the  electoral system is fair and equitable, without ethnic- or regionally-based discrimination.
The media must always beam their searchlight on the Election management body- INEC to ensure that it is impartial and competent, that it embraces  transparency and inclusivity in its  composition and mandate in order to discharge its  duties effectively.
The role of Journalists in the proper functioning of a democracy cannot be ignored. Their “watchdog” role should center on unfettered scrutiny and discussion of the successes and failures of politicians , governments, and the electoral management body. Journalists should inform the public of how effectively they have performed and help to hold them to account.
Other roles of media professionals should include educating voters on how to exercise their democratic rights by reporting on election campaigns through providing equal platforms for the political parties and candidates to communicate their messages  to the electorate.
Similarly, they should provide a platform for the public to communicate their concerns, opinions, and needs, to the parties/candidates, to the EMB( INEC) the government, and to other voters, and to interact on these issues.
Another important responsibility is bringing the parties and candidates to debate with each other. This is a veritable means through which voters can have ideas on where to cast their votes.
It is the duty of Journalists to report election results as released or provided by INEC, and monitoring the entire process of vote counting. They should scrutinise the electoral process itself, including electoral management, in order to evaluate the fairness of the process, its efficiency, and its probity.Journalists must provide information that, as far as possible, avoids inflammatory language, thus helping to prevent election-related violence.
Social Media, Fake News and Hate Speech.
Journalists must avoid hate journalism, and fake news as these evils can destroy a society.
The advent of multi-media technology has changed the pattern and flow of communication, globally and since journalism is in the business and practice of Communication, it has also been impacted upon tremendously.
Social media platforms have thrown up challenges and opportunities for the practice of journalism which many journalists and their media organisations have not embraced.
Social media is both a threat and yet affords opportunities for journalism and businesses especially in Nigeria. It is a healthy trend but there is need for change in roles between traditional media and social media.Journalists need to avail themselves of the opportunities being provided by the Social Media Platforms to provide credible information and reduce the prevalence of hate speech and fake news. This will assist immeasurably in dousing tension in the polity.
Finally
The media plays a major role in keeping the citizenry abreast of current events and raising awareness of various issues in any society. It also has an extremely significant impact on the public’s views and way of thinking. The media is the primary means through which public opinion is shaped and at times manipulated. If this is the media’s role then in normal course of events, it becomes even more vital in exceptional periods, one of which is electoral junctures, when the media becomes a primary player. Elections constitute a basic challenge to the media, putting its impartiality and objectivity to the test. The task of the media, especially national media outlets, is not and should not be to function as a mouthpiece for any government body or particular candidate. Its basic role is to enlighten and educate the public and act as a neutral, objective platform for the free debate of all points of view. (“Media and Parliamentary Elections in Egypt: Evaluation of Media Performance in the Parliamentary Elections” Human Rights Movement Issues 26, (Cairo, Egypt: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 2011): 27)
Conclusion
Journalists in Nigeria should work towards the advancement of the right of freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of the press, media independence, conflict transformation and peace building. These are prerequisites for open governance and development, which ultimately serve the public interest.
In order to properly advance public interests, earn public trust and be watchdogs of the society, the pursuit of truth and public good must be the cornerstone of journalism practice in Nigeria. This makes it obligatory for every journalist to maximally comply with ethical principles and professional standards. It also makes it obligatory for every journalist to be entitled to decent wages, protection from attacks or hazards and conducive working environment.
It is our hope that participants will avail themselves of this training opportunity to ensure that a level playing field is provided for all political actors and ensure that peoples’ votes will count through a highly professional management of news by journalists who are equipped with international best practices. This is the only way we as professionals can advance the course of peace and ensure a credible and peaceful transition.
Being the text of a keynote address delivered by the President of the Nigeria Union Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, at a Training on Election and Conflict Sensitive Reporting for Journalists in the South-South organized by the Center Democracy and Development (CDD) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), held in Port Harcourt, this week.

By: Chris Isiguzo
Isiguzo is the President of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

 

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2023: A’ Court Seals Senate President’s Return Bid

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The Court of Appeal in Abuja has affirmed Bashir Machina as the authentic candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Yobe North Senatorial District.
The court, on Monday, upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Damaturu, Yobe State, which held that Senate President, Ahmad Lawan was not the APC’s candidate for Yobe North Senatorial District in the 2023 elections.
Justice Monica Dongban-Mensen, who presided over a three-man panel, gave the affirmation in an appeal by Lawan, challenging the decision of Justice Fadimatu Aminu of the Federal High Court Damaturu, which had on September 28, 2022, declared Machina as the winner of the primary election organised by the APC in May 2022, while Lawan opted to contest the presidential primary election organised by the APC on June 9.
The Federal High Court sitting in Damaturu had in September ordered the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise Machina as Yobe North senatorial candidate of the party.
The presiding judge, Justice Fadima Aminu, nullified the parallel primary election that produced Lawan on June 9, 2022.
The judge also ordered the APC to forward the name of Machina to INEC as the authentic winner of the primary held in May.
“In the final analysis, the conditions for the validity of primary elections were fulfilled in the election of May 28, 2022, which produced the plaintiff. The phantom election of June 9 2022 which produced the second defendant is hereby declared invalid in view of the outline provision of the law of the very primary election.
“Consequently, the plaintiff is hereby declared the validly elected candidate of the first defendant conducted on 28/05/2022 for the 2023 general election.
“The first defendant is hereby ordered to prepare the name and details of the plaintiff to the third defendant as its rightful candidate. This is my decision,” Aminu ruled.
The judgement come weeks after Machina distanced himself from the notice of withdrawal from the race which went viral.
The Tide source had on August 9, 2022, reported that INEC denied recognising Lawan and Senator Godswill Akpabio as senatorial candidates of the APC, respectively.
Both Lawan and Akpabio had contested the APC presidential primary. However, after losing, both of them were listed as senatorial candidates by the APC, but INEC refused to recognise them.
Recall that Lawan, Akpabio, and Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, had chosen to pick Senate tickets for Yobe North, Ebonyi South and Akwa Ibom North West senatorial districts respectively, after losing out at the presidential primary of the APC.

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Ekiti Assembly Leadership Change, Rape Of Democracy – Ajulo

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A Constitutional and Human Rights lawyer, Dr Kayode Ajulo, has described the impeachment of the Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Gboyega Aribisogan, as a glaring rape of democracy and an intentional violation of the rule of law.
Ajulo, in a statement signed by him, also, joined the league of leading legal luminaries in Nigeria to condemn the recent controversies over the leadership of the Ekiti State House of Assembly.
He said that “political players in Ekiti State should not allow selfish personal interests that brewed the sad commentary coming from Ekiti State constitute a great disservice to the State’s enviable records and indelible marks of honour to national building and development of the likes of Aare Afe Babalola, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Femi Falana, Dele Adesina, Dayo Akinlaja and other eminent citizens of the State.
Recall that the Ekiti State House of Assembly had on Tuesday, 15th November, conducted an election to choose a new Speaker following the demise of the erstwhile Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Funminiyi Afuye, on October 19, 2022.
The election had two members of the Assembly contesting and one Hon. Gboyega Aribisogan won and was duly sworn-in, having polled 15 votes as against the 10 votes of the other contestant, Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba.
However, the new Speaker was reportedly impeached and suspended with six others on the 6th day after swearing-in, even before he could start acting in his new role and the candidate who had contested against him, Olubunmi Adelugba, was announced the new Speaker.
Ajulo, who hailed Aare Afe Babalola, Wole Olanipekun, Femi Falana and other notable legal professionals from the State following their collective stance on the allegedly controversial change of leadership in the Assembly, also described the event as “a glaring rape of democracy and an intentional violation of the rule of law.”
The legal luminaries from the state, which include Aare Afe Babalola, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Dele Adesina, Olu Daramola, Femi Falana, Dayo Akinlaja, and Gboyega Oyewole, had described the event as “an act of illegality”, adding that the election that produced Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba was “unconstitutional and ridiculous”
They noted that election into the position of the Speaker of House of Assembly dictates that the present occupant of the office must be accorded fair hearing before being removed from the office, saying the alleged suspension and stoppage of the salaries of the Speaker and six other members of the House were misplaced, illegal, illegitimate, null and void.
Ajulo, in the statement, described the position of these foremost lawyers as a just fight to strengthen democracy and uphold the laws of the country, saying impunity is detrimental to the development of a nation.
“ You cannot underestimate the unmatchable contributions and services of these notable men to the development of legal profession and general growth of this country. “I have had the privilege of working with almost all the 6 of them. They do not engage in frivolities and their integrity is intact.
“They possess enviable track records in the legal profession and national development that precede their names. “ All of them had, at one time or another perfectly resolved more complex national issues. So, you do not expect them to fold their arms while this is happening at the backyard.
“It may be understandable if such a scenario had happened in some of the unsettled States of the country, but it is totally unthinkable to expect such in a peaceful, sophisticated , civilized, educated, egalitarian, land that parades Professors and notable men who have contributed to the development of this country in no small measure and don’t expect a strong reaction.
“I commend these noble jurists for their collective stance on this sheer and gory impudence on the symbol of democracy in their State, Ekiti.
“Delibrate violation of the rule of law must not stand in Ekiti State or anywhere else.”
Ajulo, therefore urged other notable figures in the legal profession to join in the call to end deliberate violation of the constitution of the country.

 

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INEC Vows To Deliver Despite Attacks On Facilities

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The Independent National INEC Vows To Deliver Despite Attacks On FacilitiesElectoral Commission (INEC) on Monday lamented the incessant attacks on its local government offices across the states.
This was as the commission said that though, it will recover losses from the attacks, it could not condone rising attacks on its facilities.
The INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, stated this during the visit of African Union Special Pre-Electoral Political Mission to the commission.
The Tide source had reported that within the space of three weeks, three attacks were carried out on local government INEC facilities in Ogun, Osun and Ebonyi states.
Yakubu however re-emphasised that the commission would not be deterred by the challenges, noting that it was ready to conduct a free and fair election.
“In the last three weeks, three of our local government offices were attacked in three different states across the country. The last attack happened yesterday. Though there are no casualties, quite a number of the materials acquired and delivered for the election have been lost.
“The good thing is that so far, we can recover from all the losses but it is a source of concern which should not be allowed to continue.
“We will continue to engage security agencies to make sure that our offices, personnel and facilities are protected ahead of the election. We may express some concern about the attack on these facilities but it will not deter the commission from conducting the election as scheduled.
“I want to assure you that yes, we may suffer little hitches here and there but overall, the commission is required to proceed with the election and in the manner that the law requires us to do using the deployment of technology for the purpose of accreditation and uploading of polling units results.”

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