National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye
The Ekiti State Governorship Election is just a few days away and ahead of the polls, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through its Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, recently released a checklist for journalist who would cover the exercise.
According to Barrister Okoye the role of the media in the election process is very critical and as such, journalists must do their homework before, during and after the election.
At a capacity building/training for newsmen on constitutional and legal issues with special emphasis on Electoral Act, 2022, the INEC National Commissioner said there are issues that are germane and cannot be ignored and the journalist must be abreast of and conscious of these issues.
According to him, here are pertinent questions that the journalist must ask in oreder to be equipped ahead of the polls. ‘
The Checklist for Ekiti Governorship Election
● Have I obtained a copy of the Constitution, the Electoral Act 2022 and the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2022?
Are there new issues in the Electoral Act, 2022 that will shape and impact on the organisation and conduct of the Ekiti Governorship election?
Are there significant differences in the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2022?
● Do I have sufficient knowledge of the constitutive constitutional and legal instruments that will guide the conduct of the Ekiti Governorship Election?
● Is the Electoral Management Body prepared for the conduct of the election? Are the non sensitive and sensitive materials for the election in place?
Are there impediments to the smooth conduct of the election?
Do I have the delimitation details of the State?
Do I know the number of registered voters in the State?
How many of the registered voters have collected their Permanent Voters Cards?
How many ad-hoc staff will be deployed by the electoral management body?
How many BVAS will be deployed? Has the Commission trained the staff in the use of the BVAS; other technological innovations and the general conduct of the election? How many collation officers will be involved in the election?
● How many of the political parties are sponsoring candidates in the election?
Are there pre-election litigation arising from the conduct of the primaries?
How many cases are in court and how many of them have been disposed of?
Are the cases likely to affect the outcome of the election?
● Are there security issues and challenges in the State? Have the security agencies and the Commission mapped out and assessed flashpoints and the areas of security need?
How many security personnel will be deployed for the conduct of the election?
Is it likely that the security forces will maintain a neutral role in the provision of election security?
● Is the situation in the State generally peaceful or is there political violence?
If so will the government’s security measures provide an environment for a free election campaign or are there substantial restrictions on the freedom of expression, association and assembly?
● Are the voters sufficiently aware of the processes and procedures for the conduct of the election?
Do the media provide equal airtime for all the competing political parties in the state?
Barr Festus Okoye was of the opinion that these issues and many more will underscore the election and the role of the media in the election, adding that the media remains a critical stakeholder in the political and democratic process.
“That cannot but be so, for democracy thrives with effective information flow,” Okoye stressed. “Indeed, a true democracy without effective information flow does not exist”.
He said the role of the media in the electoral process has basically been established over time, and they include, essentially, to:
● Avail the stakeholders of timely and relevant information pertaining to the electoral process
● Carry out voter education and public enlightenment
● Mobilize the electorate to participate in the electoral process though awakening in them the consciousness of taking ownership of the political process
● Give vent to the programmes and activities of the Election Management Body with a view to bringing stakeholders up to speed with developments.
● Publicize information and activities of political parties and candidates, with a view to help the electorate make informed choices.
● Ensure through their searchlight and reports that the process and rules of engagement in the electoral system are duly complied with.
For Mr Okoye, journalists covering the governorship election in Ekiti State and assigned to cover the electoral processes and procedures must have a good knowledge of the political, economic and social environment of the State and must be in a position to exercise good judgment in analyzing and taking position on some of the issues.
He noted that the objective and subjective conditions that determines the conduct and outcome of elections varies from one state to the other.
“The topography of states varies. The level of political awareness varies. The security situations in different states and in different parts of the country are not the same,” the commissioner explained.
That established, Mr Okoye said media organizations must have in their fold journalists with the requisite knowledge of the law and the constitution especially the ones guiding the conduct of elections.
“There are constitutional and legal issues in the conduct of elections and this must guide the work of the journalists and the media. The country now has a new electoral act known as and called the Electoral Act, 2022. On the 25th day of February 2022 the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria signed the Electoral Act 2022. The Act repeals the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and enacts the Electoral Act 2022, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Council elections.
“There are creative and innovative provisions in the Act that will impact on the electoral process and the conduct of the Governorship election in Ekiti State and the media must have good knowledge of the provisions of the Act.
The Role of the Media
The INEC spokesman said the media and journalists covering elections must rise above ethnic and religious profiling, narratives and prejudices and remain vigilant, pointing out challenges, encouraging communities to resolve their differences and challenges in a peaceful manner rather than resorting to violence and extra judicial measures.
He added that with its vantage position, it will be tragic if the media are sucked into the toxic ethnic and religious narratives that can only retard the pace of democratic development. Professionalism and objectivity must at all times guide the work of the media and reportage of issues.
According to him, there is no alternative to electoral education.
“The Nigerian people must understand the value of elections and the value of the vote. The Nigerian people must be enlightened through the media and other means of mass communication to make the right choices. The media must continue to show the way in relation to electoral education,” he declared.
Barr Okoye further asserted that the media must continue to hold political parties accountable, and ensure and continue to ensure that political parties, aspirants and candidates play by the rules governing the electoral process.
He also stated that the press must ensure that all the critical stakeholders eschew violence, intimidation and corruption of the electoral process.
As part of the duties of the media, Mr Okoye said engaging with the Political Parties and the candidates in the election is pertinent, he however, emphasized that journalists must ensure that their engagements and activities do not endanger the electoral process and the health of the nation’s democracy.