mediaI would like to thank the President and members of NAS Benin for the honour of this invitation to share same thoughts on, the role of the media in the electoral process, especially in Nigeria- more so in this year 2015 that could be precipitous. May I say that you are not alone in your concern. In 12 days time, on January 22 2015, The Daily Trust Newspaper is organizing a dialogue in Abuja with the Theme — 2015 Elections; How To Make Nigeria The Winner. So, your concerns are nationwide. Online and in the social media, it is a frenzy about the 2015 elections, and elections generally. So your Citizen Summit is spot on in exploring-Voters’ Education, The need for Electoral Credibility: The way forward.
Coming to my area of concern- the Media and the Electoral process, I may ask if this is a presumption or an assumption that the Media can play any role? I say this in a professional and intellectual manner, because from studies done else where there are certain conclusions which would serve us as good guide. Firstly, all Media systems follow closely a nation’s political system. The political system in Nigeria while being pretentiously liberal, democratic and pluralistic, is AUTHORITARIAN simpliciter!!
We have not left our historical military shackles and behavior. Therefore can the Nigeria Media be relied on to deliver on its social and popular expectations? Are we therefore expecting the Media to deliver its offerings on the side of the people or to follow the elite behaviour and the Nigerian Political tendencies of — religion, ethnicity, clannishness, bias, ignorance and prejudice?
Then there are the hard core theories of the Media which are about SELECTIVITY- selective exposure, selective attention and selective retention. These are issues on the side of the consumers. In effect, the theory explains how we watch, read, listen and analyse News and information. You as a consumer selects what you want and love to see, hear, pay attention to or retain for further understanding and communication. Translated into political information consumption, it means if you are APC UPN, PDP or APGA, only APC or only UPN or only PDP or only APGA politics will interest you, command you attention and cause you to keep regurgitating same preferred information. So it confirms the analysis that the Media’s capacity to swing voters is very minimal.
In our social psychology, we hardly swing. We are very conservative. We tend to dig in and are most intolerant of other peoples’ views in fact, we hardly listen to the other side. This has been very much confirmed in our buying habits by marketers A knorr cube person, a Harp Person, a Guinness Stout person, a Honda person, a fresh fish person, a Versace person just goes on being that and hardly changes. So can the Media really make a large difference in our circumstances when it comes to communicating CHANGE or providing in-depth content analysis?
I have presented these important scenario for you, Media and political behaviour and our social perception and behaviour so that they become the template on which we can examine our Nigeria case study as well as look at the IDEAL MEDIA in its proper professional role in Mediating in an electioneering process.
We are not yet there where the society is very enlightened and the politicians act with the intent of common good and public interest. In such climes, the Media becomes profound in providing due directions for society. In America, Britain and France for example, the major networks function that way. They can through unfiltered and uncensored information, strengthen the faithful and cause swing voters to change their minds. At best, our attempts can only have what we describe in the Media as producing “Minimal Effect’. Our case is worsened by the brown envelope, political thuggery, political intimidation and electronics Media insisting on cash for story syndrome. So where money has either legitimately or illegitimately exchanged hands, how can we discover or hear the truth? In spite of the ethical controls of the Nigerian Media Council and the free rein of the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, the NTA, meant to serve Nigerians is a political party in power mouth piece and the state owned print and electronic media are imprisoned by fear, self censorship and the overbearing control of state governments. The private Media are/5 owned by contractor owners who are too afraid to loose their gate takings to tow the line of independence.
However despite the current cloud, the Nigerian Media can still spring surprises. It has had a long history from the colonial times and even in the military juntas to fight on the side of the people. Ominously change is in the air, if you take the pulse of public opinion. The Media would be at peril if it does not follow the mood. The opposition has never been as formidable. The incumbent has never been as threatened and while no incumbent has ever lost in Nigeria, I dare say, we are at a cusp in our politics and electioneering history.
The ultimate outlet that, if I may suggest, is the safety valve, is the Social Media. Out there in the cyberspace, there is freedom and Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora are sharing and talking and affecting the soul and minds of a wider spectrum. The genie as out of the bottle and that is where political and interest controls cannot touch. May be, this is the beginning of the new and beneficial role of the media. With 67 million internet users and127 million mobile phone device users in Nigeria — the conversation to be engendered and the political education to emanate can be wide scale and the impact massive. Nigerians can by blogging, texting, instant messaging, tweeting, what sapping overcome the authoritarian Nigerian state. And if I may suggest, why can the opposition or concerned citizens not take to the international media to reveal our fears, anxieties, and concerns on the 2015 elections? CNN, Al Jazeera, the BBC are there to the rescue.
Now I turn to the expectations of the media and its role in the electoral process. And then finally, I zero in on the role of the Media and the 2015 elections and going forward.
In the interface of media and society as a key institution in the dynamics of social communication, it is the function of the media, derived within the context of the social responsibility theory of the media to set the agenda for all sections of the society.
The media has as its social functions:
1. To make issues of public opinion and convert them from social concerns to public policies and social action.
2. To constantly make explicit what is implicit, which is to articulate befuddled issues, ideas and thoughts and clarity them for greater public understanding and provide where needed, social explanations.
3. To provide leading ideas by enabling society to think outside the box, through the rigour of intellect.
4. To unite and forge the people into their higher selves.
5.  To make the public aware of public discontents, fears, suspicions and anxieties and force governments to rectify errors.
A free, independent and active media is essential in a democracy. But to play such a role, media persons must engage in the process of continuous education and enlightenment and be dedicated to the pursuit of truth and justice.
To underscore the essential ink between the Media, Democracy and Development, Dennis Mcquail said it has been largely up to the press to ensure that voters are well informed and capable of actively participating in public life, to subject politicians and governments to scrutiny and evaluation and to express public feelings and provide a platform for ideas”.
The media has much more to do than recording and reporting events. The media is a watchdog. Contemporary Democratic Theory appreciates the rote of the media as a watchdog by ensuring that governments are held accountable and by enabling and enobling the people. The watchdog role of the media makes it the guardian of public interest. And in doing this, it can help warn them of destabilizing factors and warn citizens against those doing them harm.
The Media should partner with the civil society who are in great need for democratic space. The benefit of the civil society are many. It creates a push and pull effect. It develops and encourages participatory democracy, which is so essential for people’s free expression and freedom. It develops a critical mass so essential in the dynamics of change. It creates a viable public opinion that understands issues and drives the process the media wants to advocate. Public opinion cannot be quite disregarded even in Nigeria, no matter what anyone may think. Public opinion does influence individual, group behavior as well as public policy.
Finally to understand the critical role of media function in the electioneering linear matrix, the media must emphasize (annotate, follow up, recall, make issues of, make comparative analysis) and thus shape and re-shape societal and organizational thoughts through the diffusion of innovation through social focus groups.
A major benefit of progressive journalism when practiced at its most professional service delivery level is that it would reformat a society to be strategic and to learn to think in the FUTURE TENSE. A group thinking in the future sense requires a futuristic development paradigm.
The challenge that the media will have to surmount in the practice of effective electoral communication lies at three critical levels. Ours is not a very literate society and hence we cannot be said to have a very aware and dynamic society such that communication and learning is pervasive and has a deep penetration. Secondly, being largely still traditional, we are majority ethically set in our ways and hence modernizing of mores in a traditional society can be an uphill and difficult task. Thirdly arising from the preceding two issues, within the context of a nation in search of stability but still buffeted by international values, technologies and standards, we are yet to build a consensus of values that can find ready acceptance by the majority. Our case is compounded by history of military/Hausa-Fulani hegemony, multi-ethnic rivalries, mistrust and suspicion, and faith based inclinations to reality and phenomenological interpretations. The media must then realize the depth of the challenges, before it can make any moves and create the needed impact.
Having examined the ideal media and its challenges in the context of today Nigeria, in the light of 2015, particularly in the build up to, a defining day in the 54 year history of Nigeria, February 14th 2015, what should our media do, if it must point the way to
a) A full participatory democracy.
b) That elections remain a contest and not war.
c) That results declared wih be expression of the people’s true will.
d) That genuine results mean true mandate that comes from the people.
e) That such mandate translates into legitimacy.
f) That legitimacy leads to purposeful and good governance and
g) That good governance translates into — accountability, service delivery, stability, peace, harmony, genuine growth and development.
The Media must confront voter apathy in an active way and ensure that the people register to vote and take active interest in who represents them. People must be much more aware that governance is about us all, and not a party affair. The Media must ensure that the fairneos doctrine is operational — which is that, all sides must be heard. If all sides are not heard, how can the people make informed choices?
The Media must drive for nobler values. Historically, we seem back to 1993 when we jettisoned religion, regions and ethnicity and voted Abiola. Nigerians are seemingly much more concerned in 2015 about saving Nigeria and by extension their lives than issues of South/South or North/North or Christians and ‘Muslims. We have been lied to and deceived with all that through the years. Ethnicity is nothing. Your townsman in the saddle is not a guarantee that anything will be delivered to your table. Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea Uiat started out where we were in the 60s, have outpaced us. They moved with discipline ironclad control of society, savings, investments, patriotism and vision. They are not driven by values of ethnicity and religion.
The Media must re-examine our electoral behavior. All power in the Third World is obtained through violence. Most we sustain cultism and criminals  as the route to power or must votes not genuinely count?
The sickening violence in our elections merely re-enforces and entrenches more violence. The media must warn and highlight consequence. This was the route of Somalia. This is the route of South Sudan. This was the route of Ivory Coast. Nigeria is in an environment of between the hard rock and the hard place. If the North wins, there will be violence and if the South wins there will be violence. To avert the crisis of anything on towards happening, why should the Media not point squarely to the man who is the current president who has the task to secure Nigerians and who swore to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of Nigeria? Why has the Media not dragged out all past Presidents whom we overfed with our resources and who have benefited most from Nigeria? Should they not collectively salvage a near sinking boat?
Something the media has failed consistently to do is to provide the  background, fact checks and personality analysis of all contestants. The people’s lack of such content analysis makes them to always be faced with limp choices? Why vote candidate A and not candidate B? Why should we prefer Buhari to Jonathan for example? Is Jonathan in a second term going to be a better second term candidate unlike any other Nigerian experience? Will Buhari provide a better deal for Nigeria in 2015 and beyond? Does having a PhD President provide better governance, leadership and leading light?
Is having a military background without a PhD such as Buhari, a better needed value for the Presidency in a Third World country? Has high or higher education proven any value in our environment? These are all aspects of voter education that provide informed choices. All we have going so far, are not enough for properly informed decisions. In the end, it is about who brings about the needed progress in Nigeria. In Edo State’s case who lifts Edo State far better in 2016? And in 2015 who is a far better person to represent a constituency?
Should our politics not rise above stomach infrastructure? Should ideology not begin to drive our politics? Should insult thrown back and front be the only way to distinguish between the political parties? Should we continue to allow rigging as a standard electoral procedure in Nigeria? India with a 2 billion population and Brazil with a 200 million population, in 2014 used electronic voting. Nigeria is still in a manual, analogue and fraud filled election mode. With over $50 billion annual remittances from Nigerians abroad, should Nigerians in the Diaspora, who cannot be bribed, and cannot be used for rigging, should they not be allowed to vote in Nigeria Elections? Indians, French, Israelis, Britons, Germans, Americans, and Koreans abroad, all vote from overseas. Whereas a fraudulent political class in Nigeria, will take in their remittances without due representation.
Finally, the danger signs of electoral fraud and violence are all there. Tompolo war ships, light weapons everywhere, the insecurity in Nigeria’s North East are early signs that any results will be violently contested. In the traditional violent politics of Africa, an incumbent de-mobilizes’ the national army and mobilizes its chosen militia in anticipation of an all out civil war. The Ijaw tribe knows what they have in their backyard in readiness for the “denouement”. The oil majors have been selling out to some southerners in the name of Local Content Development. The massive stealing from the National treasury and excess crude account is for a purpose. This is not cluelessness, but moving to a pre-determined conflagration.
Is the impending catastrophe avoidable? I have my doubts. Excepting for the news that MEND has shifted allegiance to Buhari, the scare of an impending conflagration was as certain as can be. But then, how reliable is the news and MEND’s declaration? We have lived a life of no discipline but a life driven by instant gratification. Nigerians must suffer for commonsense to prevail. Wishing for any other outcome is how to be foolish. America never became what it is now without the war of independence. Ghana never had its envious path without Nkrumah and her Young Pioneers. India could not have made it without Mahatma Ghandi. China could not have finally became what it is now without Mao Tse Tung and the Chinnse cultural revolution. Life is about thesis and anti-thesis. That is the contradiction that brings progress. We cannot avoid the impending conflagration with a political party that has held power for over sixteen years. They will not give up power and privilege without a bloody fight.
Our political history and power struggles has always been a dangerous cocktail of, according to Pastor Tunde Bakare, POLITICS economy, MILITARY And RELIGION  The “four beasts” are about to consume us and drive us to the Euroclydon. The pity is that it is the poor people, and the many apolitical persons who would bear the brunt. The biggest pain is that stealing on a continuous basis has drained the economy of any life blood. Added with it, are the drop in oil price, a weak naira and a rising dollar. A dangerous politics and a comatose economy is a prescription for civil war and political instability .
And just a nice word on Jonathan, when in about 2012 he suggested a single
6 six year term presidency, an unthinking and selfish political class shouted him down. I know for a fact that his motivation was because each state got N3 billion for political mobilization, a total of N118 billion. That expense plus campaign rallies, advertising, travels and party leaders “egunje” bled Jonathan’s heart. He therefore in good conscience wanted only a single term of six years so that we can avoid the destabilization and unbeneficial expenses of seeking a second term. Now in hindsight in the circumstances and fix we are in now, who is clueless and who is wiser? Sadly being not a hard bargainer and a child in an old man’s body, Jonathan could not press his arguments harder. We are all losers.
Some PDP stalwarts, even in Edo State have already been empowered with recruiting electoral officers against February 2015. This means that the rigging
machine has been pre-set all over Nigeria    —    —
If the media does not make these matters national issues, proffering solutions, involving the wider civil society into action, long before the apocalypse, the media may go down with the rest of the country. It would have become an irrelevant social institution. Why was the media expected to set agenda? Why was it conferred with powers in the constitution? Why was it necessary for it to drive public opinion?
Only an enlightened and informed citizenry can be a countervailing force to the doomsday prediction. For 54 years, we have believed in compromises. On February 14th 2015, like the fabled two foolish goats on a narrow bridge, the North and South will lock horns on the Nigerian bridge. And according to the fable both fell into the river.
The Motto of the West African Pilot owned by Nnamdi Azikiwe in the Colonial times is apt as my very last comment. The Motto Show the light and the people will see the way. The Nigerian media must show our disconnects, the dangers and the best path to choose and the people will see the way. It is a constitutional mandate. Today, we all need to go on the ROAD LESS TRAVELLED.
Thank you all.