Election postponement puts strain on Nigerian media
The decision of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the election from last Saturday stunned the entire nation when its chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu announced a shift in the dates of the general elections by one week.
The decision was greeted with a mixture of anger and disappointment, as citizens questioned the rationale behind waiting till a few hours to the opening of polls before announcing a new date for the election. The major political parties have since engaged in a war of words over who was in bed with the electoral umpire.
The postponement has no doubt caused major economic losses to many organisations and individuals. The media, saddled with the responsibility of reporting the election processes, was not spared either, following its deployment of journalists across the country to ensure maximum coverage.
However, in newsrooms across Nigeria media owners and editors, who had invested huge resources to deploy their reporters across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory for real-time coverage of the voting process, were left scratching their heads over the next line of action: Should the already deployed reporters be ordered back to base? How will additional finances to shore up what had been sunk in the coverage be raised?
It could be said that for the media, the postponement is unquantifiable. The Guardian, for instance, deployed resources – men and materials – across the country to far-flung places with a view to capturing the voting process and experience the exercise directly.
Even if figures could be ascertained for the financial losses media incurred, what about the psychological trauma and physiological dislocation suffered by the journalists on the field across the country?
A Senior Correspondent with Premium Times, Mr. Ben Ezeamalu, told The Guardian that most of the reporters deployed across the country have to stay put for another week, adding, “This means the original budget for the election coverage will have to be increased by about 200 per cent per head. And that’s an enormous cost considering the lean budget media houses work with during events such as these.
“And it’s not just the monetary aspect; the fact that a huge number of reporters have to stay away from their primary beats at the same time will also affect their coverage of things happening in their beat. So the media aren’t just losing money, they are also losing the services of their reporters for at least one week.”
For Executive Director, Media Career Development Network, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin, the cost implication has to do with logistics for the media.
According to him, “Because the election was postponed a few hours to kick off, journalists had already been deployed across the country, especially in an era where the industry is becoming competitive. Flights have been booked, hotel reservations have been made, and if they have to return to their stations, it would cost the media houses more money. The electronic media would have deployed a lot of gadgets, which would have cost so much.”
Publisher, RealNews online, Maureen Chigbo, said the postponement was traumatic, as it caused a lot of pressure on the media to report accurately.
“For some media outfits, there is a lot of financial burden involved, because if you spent money to deploy staff to locations, you would have to spend additional money to redeploy.”