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A campaign season without APCON governing council 

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Mrs. Ijedi Iyoha


For more than three years in a row, the Advertising Council of Nigeria (APCON) has remained without a governing council or board. Concerns had been raised in the past, with practitioners in the sector raising alarm about the sensitive and pivotal role the council plays in contributing to the peace and economy of the country.
  
Their cry seemed to have yielded some positive result when in December 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari, appointed a council chair. But rather than his action allaying fears in the industry, it was left in shock, as a non-practitioner, a politician, was appointed to the council chair. Practitioners voiced their disappointment, saying what the government did was illegal. They then called on government to do the needful, arguing that not having an active regulatory body for the sector may have negative implication on electoral campaigns and processes come 2019, especially since hate speech and fake news have become dominant talking points in social discourses.
  
An active APCON Council comprises of Advertising Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), Association of Advertising Agencies in Nigeria (AAAN), Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), Federal Ministries of Information and Communication and Federal Ministry of Health as well as universities/polytechnics offering advertising-related courses.
  
Practitioners’ question regarding when the council would remain without a chair has become mere rhetoric, as they appear to be helpless; they are condemned to wait for government’s next move, which appears lethargic from all indications.
  
The election campaigns started over a month ago, and APCON, under its Acting Registrar, Mrs. Ijedi Iyoha, is doing all she could to manage a delicate situation regarding political electioneering. According to her, “Based on our experience in 2015, we decided to start early, because in 2015, we had some fake publications that almost marred the electioneering campaign. We are starting early enough to sensitise the public and politicians and their campaign managers to let them know that APCON is there for them to clear their materials and ensure that whatever is exposed is not offensive to the public.”
  
In spite of APCON’s senitisation efforts, however, Iyoha lamented that some campaign managers fail to clear political advertorials with the council before exposing them and claiming ignorance, “especially, some media houses. When you go to their office to tell them, they will still tell you they are not aware.
  
“So far, some of the political parties are complying and there are other pockets of resistance. I won’t say it is from the political parties; probably group of persons that want to be relevant can put up advert and come to APCON. So we are already addressing that through political parties. The big parties and agencies are complying.
  
“The print media is one of our challenges in terms of compliance. When we had a council, there was no representation because the leadership then was not a registered member and the council insisted that whoever must be in the council must be a registered member. So, they pulled out and I know we had a case with them in court. So compliance from that area is at zero level except for some few ones that are managed by professionals or where we have our members doing what they are expected to do.”
  
On how APCON relates with other sectorial bodies in the absence of a council, Iyoha said the relationship is not bad as the council periodically schedules courtesy visits to some of them, which she hope would continue this year.Vice President of AAAN, Steve Babaeko, was quick to remind government that the chairman of the council must be a fellow of the profession, adding, “If this government is serious about creating jobs, it cannot leave out the only industry that is employing thousands of people to just lay waste.”

Director, International Press Centre, Mr. Lanre Arogundade stressed that, “the absence of the board may mean that there is no legitimate regulatory body to engage with if there are issues around hate advertorials. It would have been ideal for the board to be in place at this point in time.”
  
Also, president of AAAN, Mr. Kayode Oluwasona, stressed that the implication of not having an APCON council was clearly seen during the last elections, noting, “With no regulatory body, there were all sorts of unregulated campaigns.”
  
At the time of filing this report, all efforts to reach the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, proved abortive.Although the electioneering campaigns so far do not appear to be as politically charged with vitriolic and bad blood as that of 2015, it is still early to say how much of the rules regulating campaigns would be breached and how prepared APCON is in reining in errant parties and if it has the political will to mete out appropriate sanctions to any erring party with a governing council and a chair.


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