By Joy Odor
Ahead of the resumption of political campaigns for the 2023 general elections across Nigeria, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mahmood Yakubu, has warny that a political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.
He also warned politicians that abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.
The INEC Chairman who was represented by Barrister Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee made this known in his welcome address at the ongoing two-day capacity building workshop on the commission’s progresses, innovations, preparations for the 2023 general elections and critical issues in the Electoral Act 2022 in Lagos on Monday.
Alhaji Yakubu charged state apparatus including the media not to allowed themselves to be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election.
According to him, the 18 political parties that fielded candidates for next year’s general elections should desist from any form of hate speeches ahead of Wednesday’s campaign kick-off.
INEC Boss called on all the registered parties to critically study the provisions of the Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Police Act and the Public Order Act for proper and peaceful conduct of political campaigns, rallies and processions.
“A political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.
“Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.
Professor Yakubu explained that INEC Press Corp are first-hand witnesses to the activities of the Commission and supposed to be the repository of electoral information in Nigeria.
He said this places INEC Press Corp in an advantageous position to play a critical role in shaping the opinions and editorial policies of their media organizations on issues relating to the programmes and policies of the Commission.
“Let me also remind the media of their constitutional and legal obligations. State apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election.
“The INEC Press Corp must therefore strive to understand the intendment and nuances of the powers granted to the Commission by the Constitution and the Electoral Act that are expressed in subsidiary legislations including the Commission’s Regulations, Guidelines and Manuals” he stressed.
“The Commission will continue to collaborate with the Press Corp in providing the requisite information that enables them to engage the electoral process and educate citizens to make informed choices.
INEC Boss assured Nigerians that the Commission would deploy and continue to deploy appropriate technology for the conduct of elections.
In his remark, Mr Denis Mutabazi of DAI/EU-SDGN M&E Expert mentioned that the workshop is a crucial demonstration of INEC’s strong commitment to transparency, and in ensuring that the public is and remains well informed about INEC’s stewardship of the electoral process.
Represented by DAI Team Leader, Mr Rudolf Elbling, Mr Mutabazi also noted that the event demonstrates the importance and critical role of the Fourth Estate in amplifying INEC’s public outreach and awareness raising endeavours.
He hoped that the Press Corps members but also the entire press fraternity in Nigeria will find the two-day capacity building workshop greatly beneficial to the widest extent, and very nich source of electoral facts and evidence to inform their journalistic work.
In his speech, the Resident Electroal Commissioner Lagos State, Mr Olusegun Agbaje expressed that healthy functioning democracy is predicated on the electorate making informed choices and this in turn is dependent on the quality of information that they receive hence the media is one of the trusted primary sources of news and information.
According to him, it is the role of the media to ensure that the principles of fairness and balance in the coverage of political party campaigns and activities are observed by distinguishing between government activities in which incumbent public office holders feature and election campaign by such office holders.
“It therefore follows for a watchdog to be effective in its duty; it must clean itself, shun corruption and avoid any form of smear and smudge.
“This is probably the first role the media must play to guarantee Nigerians free and fair elections in 2023 general election.
Speaking on the workshop aims and objectives, Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi narrated that it is to broaden the participants’ knowledge about the Commission’s processes and procedures, innovations, critical aspects of the new Electoral Act 2022 and preparations for the 2023 General Election.
He said members of the Press Corps will have the opportunity to interrogate all presentations in what promises to be a series of robust interactions and convergence of ideas.
According to him, the outcome will equip them with the comprehension that they need to report more accurately and robustly on the Commission’s Strategic Plan 2022 – 2026, the Election Project Plan, Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections (2022) and adequately propagate its voter education strategy for the 2023 polls.
In his Goodwill message, the Chairman of INEC Press Corps, Segun Ojumu called on the INEC to respond to issues quicker as they come up in the weeks and months ahead Election.
According to him, a lot of fake news, misinformation and disinformation have found their ways to the media space, hence INEC must be on top of its game and be in charge of the narrative.