Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

BAYO AGBOOLA reviews some of the factors that will make for successful 2023 general elections which were the highlights of a workshop held in Ibadan Oyo state 

With few months to the 2023 general elections, concerted efforts are ongoing by concerned stakeholders towards ensuring a free, fair and flawless elections in and across the country.

This includes removing all the foreseen circumstances capable of disrupting the nation’s developing democracy. 

One of these efforts was a workshop/training of journalists on the theme: “Prioritising Anti- Corruption and Accountability issues during the upcoming 2023 elections.” 

Objective of workshop

Organised for media practitioners in Ibadan, by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, (CISLAC), the Executive Director Auwal Musa Rafsanjani who declared the training open, said the project was aimed “to reduce corruption in Nigeria by sensitising citizens’ groups and inspiring support for anti corruption among electoral officials, political parties, frontline candidates, and critical interest groups and networks involved in the 2023 electoral processes in select states”

He further said, “with the 2022 primaries and the gubernatorial elections in Nigeria bringing to the fore the reality of vote trading as well as the current challenges confronting the country such as corruption in electoral processes as well as an upsurge in insecurity, it is safe to say that there is an urgent need to accord priority to anti-corruption and accountability during the upcoming elections.”

He emphasised that the programme was also “to train journalist on the need for transparency in the political processes, need to advocate for the enforcement of the laws guiding political party financing and the demerits of vote trading.

“If you look at the recently concluded Osun state elections, you will notice the rampant vote trading. It has been observed that anti-graft agencies were making arrests and we commend them. 

“However, prosecutions and convictions of these offenders as well as the politicians sending these individuals on these errands need to be enforced and implemented.

“The funds used for vote trading and electoral bribery are channelled through our financial institutions, and it is important for the anti-graft agencies to target these channels also. 

Need for anti-graft agencies states, LGA

“Considering the growing focus of anti-corruption at the federal level, CISLAC currently advocates for the need to have anti corruption initiatives and entities at the sub-national levels and this project which is implemented with support from the MacArthur Foundation advocates for that. 

Improved media 

The project plans to advocate for: improved capacity of the media to investigate the presence of dirty money in Nigeria’s political processes and finally, increase citizens demand for accountability in the funding of political processes, educating voters on how to exercise their democratic rights, scrutinizing the electoral process itself, including electoral management, to evaluate the fairness of the process, its efficiency, and its probity”, he said.

Auwal Musa added, “The media plays a crucial role before, during and after the election process by informing, regulating, and generally setting the tone of the election as well as the reception of the election and its verdicts. 

They are essential for ensuring transparency, accountability and participation as fundamental elements of good governance and human rights-based development. The media are not only the shepherds of democracy – representing the voice of the people, but they also play an indispensable role in the proper functioning of a democracy. 

“In recent times, we have seen attempts by the government to stifle the free press by fining them for revealing the truth to giving them fines for so called debts when the government itself is a champion of borrowing and debt.”

“CISLAC has pushed back on each of these times and be assured that we will continue to advocate for a free press. The vital role of the media in contributing to growing political unity, political participation of the citizenry, and in influencing political discourse, particularly during elections cannot be over emphasized. 

“Universally, the role of the media in information dissemination and public enlightenment through the provision of platforms for electoral campaigns, public debate and voter education is a pre-condition for free and fair elections”. 

He maintained that, “without the media, safeguarding the credibility and transparency of the electoral process would be futile. While a free and objective media can foster transparency by disseminating important electoral information, a stifled or compromised media can undermine the electoral process, ultimately weakening democracy.

“To all intents and purposes, the media has continued to play a key role in the struggle for, and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. In fact, the media played a pivotal role in the struggle for the return of democracy in 1999.

“CISLAC is therefore calling on the media to sustain this spirit and continue to hold government accountable.This hopefully, will instil some level of sanity in the Nigerian political elites whose actions continue to tarnish the good image of the country as a democratic space which operates within the purview of maximum respect for the rule of law”.

Media as stabiliser of democracy 

Tasking journalists on the need to beam their searchlight on the executive, the legislative and judiciary arms of government towards stabilizing our democracy, he cautioned against falsehood which could mar the general elections and as such the 2023 general elections should be a total change from what the issue of elections used to be in Nigeria.

 “If the information is false, it can destroy the nation, but if it is true, it can help to shape the nation. The vital role of journalists cannot be over emphasised. All of you here are representatives of various media organisations in the country. This programme is a brainstorming on the way forward not a training because if you have not been trained, you will not be here. 

“We want you to prioritise issues of anti-corruption and accountability as we approach the 2023 general elections. This is to ensure free and fair elections. The “aim of  this brainstorming is to let you know that you have critical role to play in ensuring accountability during the elections”. 

Readiness of media for 2023 polls

Oyo state chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Alhaji Ademola Babalola, in his remarks emphasized the readiness of journalists in the state 

towards ensuring a successful 2023 polls, especially, in joining in the crusade at prioritising Anti Corruption and Accountability.

Papers presented

Two papers were presented “Techniques in (Investigative) Reporting and how to build stories by Taiwo Hassan Adebayo, (Editor Investigation, Premium Times).

The Guardian Newspapers’ Bureau Chief, Dr. Bridget Onochie, in her presentation, entitled: “How to effectively navigate challenges faced by journalist in Nigeria”  defined a journalist as ” an individual who collects or gathers information in form of text, audio or pictures and processes same to be news – worthy before sharing to the public. 

“This act is called journalism. So, a journalist includes all practitioners who engage the use of text, sound or video to disseminate information. Journalist is not anyone that can send information to the public”.

Inspirations drawn 

The participants agreed that the training was timely and very necessary considering the increasing wave of monetisation of elections in the country which became more pronounced in the days of ‘Dibo ko sebe’ (cast your vote and get paid) slogan to this frightening era of ‘Naira for naira’, ‘Dollar for dollar’, ‘Pound for pound’ which directly or indirectly is on yearly basis is fast eroding the beauty of Nigeria’s democratic structure.

This was said to have deprived Nigerians the real dividends of democracy as those spending money in election time would definitely concentrate on how and ways to recover all what was committed to their election.

Indeed participants at the training were inspired after extensive deliberations on the presentations. 

They agreed that the time has come for journalists in the country to rise up to the crusade on on prioritizing ” Anti Corruption and Accountability issues during the upcoming 2023 elections” with a view to making the general elections a huge success .

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