L-R: Mr Samson Itodo, Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, Dr Akin Akingbulu, Executive Director of Institute for Media and Society, IMS, Mr Lanre Argudade, Director of International Press Center, IPC, Lagos and Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Secretary to INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu
Civil Society Organizations across Nigeria on Thursday held a Media Roundtable to discuss issues relating to the media and electoral reforms ahead of the Electoral Reform Town Hall Meeting scheduled for June 30, 2020.
Tagged, “Electoral Reforms: Media as Catalyst for Best Democratic Practice” as a prelude to the coming bigger event, titled YIAGA Africa- ECES/EU-SDGN Virtual Roundtable/Town Hall Meeting on Electoral Reforms”, scheduled for June 30 on Channels TV and Radio Nigeria, the event which was organized by YIAGA Africa and other implementing partners in the European Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria- EU-SDGN project on June 25 was coordinated by the Director of International Press Centre, IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Wilson Manji of the European Centre for Electoral Support, ECES, urged the media to continue to support efforts to reform the electoral process in the country. He pointed out that ECES was working with INEC and the National Assembly to reform the electoral process and urged the media to continue to support the initiative.
Manji noted the important role of the media in the advancement of democracy all over the world.
He said: “There is much electoral stakeholders can do when there exists loopholes in the electoral regime. We have to ensure that elections in Nigeria are transparent, successful and inclusive and in the long run engineer good governance.”
The Executive Director of the Institute for Media and Society, Dr Akin Akingbulu, in his speech, noted that: “The importance attached to it (the event) can be seen immediately in the diversity of participation. Our media colleagues have been invited from all parts of the country, from various media platforms (print, broadcast, online) and from the various media sub-sectors-government, commercial and community sub-sectors. It is not often that this happens. The task at hand certainly calls for this rich diversity.”
He said; “For more than 20 years, Nigeria has been into another effort at building democracy. During this period, at least six general elections have been held, leading to putting citizens into elective offices at various levels of governance across the country.”
Dr. Abiodun Olufemi- Ogidan, a lecturer at the University of Lagos, who spoke on the topic, Challenges of Community/Campus Radio Stations in Promoting Electoral Reform Issues, said Community Radio has been identified as a strong platform for raising public awareness, promoting, upholding and building the principles of democracy.
She said: “For Media to achieve its role as a catalyst of best governance practices, no section of the media should be left out in participating in the electoral process, CR should be respected as a legal instrument that guarantee the right of freedom to hold opinions without interference; Community and Campus Radio Stations should be given fair opportunity to engage political issues so that citizens can seek, receive and source information and ideas through CR platforms”
Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who handled the subject; Relationship between Critical Stakeholders and Electoral Reforms, said the Commission has been interfacing with critical stakeholders openly to devise a just electoral reform that eventually leads to the conduct of credible elections that is fair, equitable and free.
He identified the stakeholders to include the media, political parties, civil society organizations, the judiciary, development partners, registered voters and security agents.
Mr. Samson Itodo, Executive Director of YIAGA, Africa who took time to brief the participants on the main focus and engagements of his organization on the processes of electoral reforms in the country, gave some background information on the state of electoral reforms and shared his reflections on the need to improve elections in the country. In his presentation titled, Reflections on Electoral Reforms, he highlighted critical areas crying for attention on electoral reforms. These are electoral participation, which he noted had declined progressively through the years; dilemma of electoral reforms arising from lack of political will; timing and unwillingness to pursue amendments for fear of losing elections and lack of internal democracy in political parties.
“He said; “INEC must improve capacity to deliver on fair elections as compared to the 2015 polls. The 2019 elections were not the elections Nigerians wanted; they were not the elections Nigerians expected; and most importantly, they were not the elections Nigerians deserved.
“Nigerians need a national conversation on a new electoral design and framework that responds to prevailing socio-political and economic realities. INEC must improve its capacity to deliver credible elections and political parties must play according to the rules. Failure to do so could imperil Nigeria’s 20 years democracy.”
Admitting that electoral reform was a continuous process, he noted that there were logistical, organizational and technical difficulties with the previous elections in the country, which he hoped that INEC and other stakeholders would wish to address
Participants who shared their experiences agreed that there was still much more to be done on electoral reforms in the country and thanked the organizers for their timely intervention.