Without any reasonable doubt, media have very vital roles to play in the success of any election all over the world as they serve the expected collective role as an informant not only to the citizens, the competent electorates but also to the Political Parties and the election Candidates. This is manifest in the dissemination of news and information not only of the Political Parties and their sponsored Candidates but also in shaping the citizens thoughts, modes of interpretation and analysis of Political information and events.
Prior to election, media serve as a major source of information which make and cause the eligible voters to partake fully and meaningfully in the process of election and even enlighten them in making political choices regarding who to vote for. In some instances, the voting pattern is tailored not along the Political Parties but based on the personality and antecedent of the Political Parties’ Candidates.
Furthermore, the media is expected to inform and enlighten the citizens of the antecedent of each Political Party regarding its performance(s) if they have been previously elected to power in the past, uncover their achievements, if any, and the ill performance of any Political office seeker, including unfavourable utterances which have caused and still cause ‘’hate’’ between the ethnic groups in the Country. The media, expectedly, is to evaluate, opine and assess each Candidate objectively regardless whose of horse is gored
It is worthy of note that the attempts to obstruct the conduct of free and fair election is yet another vital role of the media. The body constitutionally mandated to conduct election must be monitored by the media with a view to publicly inform the citizens of its alignment with any Political Party to rig the election. The positive attempt by the body to conduct free and fair election must also be reported for the notice of the citizens.
To fulfil the above obligations, media must do very thorough and impartial job before passing information of Political and governmental activities and the antecedent of each Candidate of Political Parties to the citizens.
However, it is quite unfortunate that the Nigeria Media, in some instances have not been performing the vital roles expected of them because quite a number of them have been partisan as some of the people in position of the crucial reports have sympathy for one Political Party or the other and thus throw into the dust bin neutrality and objectivity with the resultant effect that the public is misinformed about very vital information which could assist them assess correctly the election Candidates.
Prior to the election, Media coverage should be unbiased and not favouring one Candidate while undeserving, untruthful and incorrect coverage are made to discredit the others.
It is of real importance and absolute necessity that Political journalists who engage in the use of Twitter and other forms of social media need to be up and doing, upgrade their mind status by giving accurate, unbiased, patriotic and verifiable reports of various campaign strategies employed by Political parties and their Candidates including the making of unfavourable and instigating statements during and outside their outings.
Eagle eyes ought to be focused on Political Parties’ Candidates in particular and beam light on the information on their successes and failures either as private practitioners in their various endeavours or as Public Servants.
The objectivity of the media will, in no small measure, contribute the acquired education and knowledge of the public about each electoral candidate which will assist them in voting for the correct candidate regardless of their party belongings and inclinations.
Another vital role of media in the pre-election is to provide a forum for engagement of Candidates for debates not only to present their ideas but also to inform the public about their performance(s) in the past and present endeavours which will sensitize the electorates and have visual assessment of each Candidate.
The general public, in giving critical view of the performance of the media in the forthcoming 2019 general election, will assess whether the media perform all or any of the following functions:
1.Do they assist the electorates in the performance of their democratic rights and obligations?
2.Do they give accurate reports about the Political Parties and their Candidates?
3.Do they provide the fora for Political Parties and their Candidates to air their manifestoes and messages to the electorates.
4.Do they provide the fora for the Public to air their own view about each Candidate in terms of communicating to the Political Parties and their Candidates their opinions, concerns and needs at interactive sessions?
5.Do they provide the fora for inter parties/candidates debates with each other?
6.Do they objectively assess and evaluate electoral processes including INEC’s preparation, intimacy of candidates and Political Parties with the body conducting the election?
7.Do they report attempts made and/or being made by political parties/candidates to rig election, the mode to be adopted for rigging and the planned strategies to be adopted in executing the rigging?
8.Do the media report inflammatory and inciting statements against any religion, ethnic and group?
Except the posers above are answered in the affirmative, media shall not have performed creditably as a source of information to voters to mode their views, opinions and thinking devoid of being a mouth piece of any political parties/candidates.
Thus, media are indispensable before, during and after the 2019 election as I have the impression that it is difficult, if not impossible, to have good government without them as they cause restraints of politicians in terms of corruption and recklessness. Media can make and mar the prospects of candidates seeking elective posts and can even secure winning for a bad candidate through aggressive data driven campaigning.
Media are expected to provide an open platform for broader public deliberation during the 2019 general election. This is the expectation of Nigerian Citizens particularly in Nigeria where millions of the populace are illiterates and remain unconnected to internet. The only accessible mode of transmitting information to the general public is via the media.
Finally, the importance of media cannot be over emphasised in a democratic setting. This position was emphasised in the view of the former President of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, when he spoke about the indispensability of the media. He said
‘’Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter’’.
The media, in my mind, is the blood of democracy and if the blood clots democracy suffers stroke which will lead to eventual death.
***BY HON ALBERT ABIODUN ADEOGUN MHR, IFE FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY
Adeogun is a two term member of the House of Representatives.He currently represents Ife Federal Constituency
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