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Why INEC Failed to Meet Nigerians’ Expectations – Communication Experts

…Attribute failure of BVAS, IRev technology to man-made

By Hillary Asemota

With less than 3 days to Saturday’s Governorship and National Assembly polls, slated for March, 11, over 145 Nigerian Communication experts, have said the deployment of BVAS and IRev technologies failed at the February 25 polls due to man-made errors.

This is coming even as the group averred that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also failed to meet the expectations of Nigerian voters because of the delays in the delivery of voting materials in some centres.

When compared to previous elections, the electoral umpire, said the conduct of the February polls was generally peaceful in spite of some flashpoints of violence, voter intimidation, and under-age voting.

The virtual polls postmortem organized by the experts held on Saturday March 4, 9 days after the Presidential polls, said it was designed to examine the uses of communications in the 2023 election cycle.

The group had over 13 speakers representing reputable organisations in attendance included: Ms. Tolulope Olorundero, NIPR, Prof. Abdullahi Bashir, President, African Council for Communication Education, Ms. Bunmi Oke, Past-President, Association of Advertising Agencies in Nigeria (AAAN), 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, Mr. Emmanuel Ajufo, OAAN, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, President, NUJ, Mr. Adewale Adeniyi, VP, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Dr. Lekan Fadolapo, Director General, Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), Dr. Everest Amaefule, Business Editor, The Punch, Prof. Samaila Mande, President, Brands Academy Nigeria and Dr. Ikechukwu Neliakuchukwu, Chairman, Rightangle PR, Abuja.

The group in a statement however admitted that there were some positive outcomes from the elections even though many things went wrong, they added.

The experts, identified, 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 the preparedness of 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 as some of the factors that went wrong with the polls.

The unexpected decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to introduce new Naira notes within a very short time, the use of politicians instead of trained professional communicators as spokespersons for some of the political parties, the association averred compounded the polls.

On the conduct of the election, CoNCE, said: “Relating to the conduct of voting, the transmission, and the eventual announcement of the final results, the participants observed as follows:

INEC failed to live up to the voters’ expectations because of the delays in the delivery of voting materials in some centres.

“Compared to previous Nigerian elections, the conduct of this election was generally peaceful in spite of some flashpoints of violence, voter intimidation, and under-age voting.

“Although the parties produced well-thought-out and colorfully designed manifestos, they did not find much use for these in the actual media campaigns because of their penchant for non-issues and innuendos rather than specific programs.

“In spite of the failures, there were free and fair voting and accurate reporting of results in many centres.”

The group also acknowledged that the final results of the polls 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 the Labour Party (LP) that seemed to appeal more to the youths

In the final analysis, the experts recommend that moving the country’s electoral process forward, political parties should appoint spokespersons who are experienced communication professionals and should 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 the other information and communication organs of government, especially the National Orientation Agency (NOA) must collaborate closely and be guided by the 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 the 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. 

Other notable participants at the discussant roundtable included: Jahman Anikulapo, veteran Journalist and Executive Director, Culture Advocates Caucus, Lagos, Bimbo Oloyede, veteran Nigerian TV journalist and producer, Biodun Adefila, Chief Operating Officer – SO & U Advertising, Oise Ihonde, Director of Sales at MODEC, Houston, Texas, United States, George Chukwu, Deputy Director National Broadcast Academy, Blaise Udunze, The Nigerian Voice, Lagos, Nigeria and Marie Awolaja, Isobar Nigeria.

The Consortium of Nigerian Communication Experts (CONCE), claimed it is a non-partisan with no ideological or political affiliation.

It added: “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.”

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