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Gaps in media coverage of pre-2019 electoral issues

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Journalists on duty

Gradually, the scorecard of the media in the coverage of critical issues that shaped just-concluded 2019 elections is emerging. Interestingly, one of the critical stakeholders in the media industry undertook the assessment as the South West arm of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) held its maiden edition of ACSPN Empowerment Series (AES) on April 23, 2019 at Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

With Multi-Culturalism And Election Reporting as theme, the event attracted the attention of royal fathers, journalists, academics, media consultants, professionals, researchers, students, political elite and general public. In attendance were personalities such as Dean, College of Arts, Social and Management Sciences (CASMAS), Crescent University, Prof. Kamaldeen Balogun who stood in for the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ibraheem Gbajabiamila; the National President of ACSPN, Prof. Lai Oso; Deputy President and Dean, School of Post Graduate Studies, Bayero University, Kano, Prof. Umar Pate; Vice President (South-west) of ACSPN and Dean, School of Communication, Lagos State University, Prof. Rotimi Olatunji; Head, Department of Mass Communication, Crescent University, Dr. Kola Adesina; Assistant General Secretary, ACSPN, Ifedolapo Ademosu; comrade Oladunjoye Tunde, a journalist and political strategist; Coordinator/Mobilisation Officer, South-west ACSPN, Mr. Kabir Alabi Garba; His Royal Majesty Olota of Ota, Prof. Adeyemi Obalanlegbe; Oba of Akinale, Oba Olufemi Ogunleye among others.

Executive Head, The Guardian Editorial Board, Mr. Martins Oloja was the guest speaker and spoke on challenge of reporting in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious setting: The case of Nigeria’s 2019 General elections.

Oloja was pointblank as he charged the Nigerian media to sharpen their coverage of politicians and political office holders ahead of the 2023 general elections.

He said the Nigerian media failed to highlight, through reports and editorials, the consequences of President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to sign the Electoral Reform Bill into law.

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“The National Assembly too got trapped in dirty politics nurtured by ethnic and religious ambush. The media didn’t ask enough questions around the failure of leadership at all levels on this.”

Mr Oloja, a former Editor of The Guardian, said the media failed to provide information on those engaged in the buying and selling of votes during the election.

“Most local and international observers posted this in most reports. But the Nigerian media did not report this scandal and blighter well. Only the BBC did.

“The media failed to interrogate and track what governments have been doing with our money. If the GDP cannot tell us how well nations are performing, what can? This is how data journalism shapes election as a process around the world.

Oloja said the media also failed to focus on a lot of the political actors – current and former state governors, senators, and reps members – ahead of the elections.

“Nigerian voters should have known better about these politically exposed people. There should have been some journalistic legworks on these people for who and what they are. There are reasons most of them could not win elections.”

He said these issues in democratic election news would have enriched the content of political stories during the 2019 elections.
Ahead of the 2023 elections, Mr Oloja advocated for journalists to embrace financial journalism as a means of holding governments accountable for their monthly IGRs and federal allocations.

He said the media also needs to draw attention to all state laws that give too much money to governors even when they are out of office.

“The severance packages for the governors have been too much and our state correspondents have been too quiet about all these during elections.

“In Kwara State, for instance, the state is still building more than N1 billion worth of house for the former governor in Ilorin and Abuja. Most of the state governors have passed laws for enjoyment after office.”

Earlier, in his remarks, Tunde Oladunjoye, the special guest at the event, said the empowerment lecture should be continuous and proceedings published periodically as part of the resources to help the upcoming as well as to refresh the professionals.

“Without delving into the nitty-gritty, I want to say that, to get the best from any profession, including journalism or mass media practice, practitioners should be well trained, well grounded, and well remunerated.

“The issues of poor pay, slavish allowances, and backlog of unpaid salaries continue to bedevil our profession and its practice so much that even quacks from other professions continue to ridicule, harass, embarrass, and irritate media men and women as if there is no big deal in reporting.”

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