Nigeria Elections: Council Urge Media To Remain Impartial
Few Days to the 2015 gubernatorial election, the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD) has called on political stakeholders, particularly the media, to shun any form of partisanship before, during and after the elections.
This was made known through its “Council of the Wise” which consists of eminent Nigerians who foster consensus and peaceful resolution on important issues around the planning, conduct and outcome of the 2015 General elections in the country.
According to the council, the role of the media in promoting peaceful elections, unity and cohesion of the nation- state includes a firm commitment to investigative journalism; refraining from sensational, provocative and inciting reportorial language; demonstrating high sense of patriotism while reporting on election issues in order not to undermine national security and image; and ensuring fairness in their news reporting.
Speaking of the role of the media in promoting peaceful elections at a roundtable section with Civil Society Organisation and the media at the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos, Founder and Chairman of the SCDDD, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, said: “The role of the media is to get candidates to address issue and not to use their role to promote hate speech of any kind.”
“One of the things we are particular about is the avoidance of hate speeches and incitement. And that is why the role of the media in the run up to the election is very critical. The media should not allow themselves to be used for destabilization and to provoke violence,’ he said.
Professor Gambari further advocates for a transparent, free and fair election as well as wide participation in the electoral process.
His words: “When you have transparent and credible, free and fair election and wide participation, the outcome is most likely going to be credible so that the result will reflect the wish of the people in Nigeria and will contribute greatly to reducing violence because the history of election in Nigeria has not always been an happy one because of the violence before, during and after election.”
Corroborating Professor Galadinma’s argument, one of the members of the ‘Council of Wise’ and former Ambassador of Nigeria to the United States and Israel, Prof George Obiozor said while there is no country that has experienced a perfect election; having a peaceful election is in everybody’s interest.
He said: “For the politician it is important that the election is credible. For citizen, it is important that it is legitimate, free and fair; and for the nation it promotes the dignity of the nation and the nation’s overall image and the international image as well.”
To the member of the press, Prof George Obiozor said as part of the political elite, they must not take the country for granted.
“You (the press) must be extremely careful and re-examine their personal ambition and then make a difference between personal interest and public responsibility,” he warned.
The SCDDD’s ‘Council of Wise’ advocacy is coming at a time when the Nigerian election is not only been closely been watched by Nigerians, but the African continent and members of the international community.
Large delegations have been sent by international watchdog organisation like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union and the International Criminal Court (ICC) who warned that there will be sanctions for those who want to undermine peaceful and credible election.
“Nigeria is having the first of five elections in Africa this year. So everyone is looking at us if we going to show leadership in Africa given our role as the most populated and the biggest economy in Africa. Nigeria should learn and imitate good things from other countries. Not to copy wrong things and come here to practice it. The world is watching whatever we do,” Prof George Obiozor said.
“People should not be playing with their own life. Violence-free election has become absolutely necessary for Nigeria after 100 years of co-existence, 55 years of nationhood, we ought to be mature enough to know what is right and what is wrong. In fact we should not be used by anybody, especially the politician.”
Inaugurated Dec 2014, the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development seek to promote Democracy through the Rule of law and good governance as well as strengthening security using dialogues for sustainable economic development.
Their activities which are in form of advocacy are considered important because Nigerians at home and abroad and the international community will obviously pay a lot of attention to them and their voice will count.
Upon inauguration of the council, the group immediately swung into action to meet with the critical stakeholders –principally the INEC chairman, the National Security Adviser, INEC, CSOs, Media, Political Parties and the Inspector General of Police who briefed them on the proper role of the police as a neutral body in election processes.
Through the council’s contact with Former UN Secretary, Kofi Anann and the office of the special adviser to the president on inter-party affairs – senator Ben Obi in Abuja, they have been able to get political parties and their candidates to sign the Abuja accord to promote peaceful election and urge all gubernatorial candidates to encourage their followers to do the same.
The council has also spread its violence-free advocacy beyond the Federal Capital to the north central, North West, north east and the South West part of the country where they visited former Heads of State, traditional rulers as well as engaged inter-faith organizations, urging them to see elections for what they are – periodic change or renewal of mandate for governance and NOT the continuing descent to the disintegration of the country.
‘For former presidents we have a special task for them because we believe their voice counts. We make specific request on former head of state and we want them to making an appeal for Non violence and credible election and in the case of traditional rulers, we are encouraging them to issue statement individually on non –violence and credible election,’ Prof. Galadima said.
In the end, the council hopes to Impact as many communities as possible across the six geopolitical zones in the country.