The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, says the reviews of the 2019 general elections have been generally positive, but not without some concerns.
Yakubu, represented by Mr Mohammed Haruna, a National Commissioner, made the observation at the forum on “Media Coverage of the 2019 General Election” organised by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in collaboration with INEC, on Wednesday in Abuja.
He said since the end of the general elections there were series of review by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), domestic and foreign election observers that monitored the poll.
“Though the reviews of the elections had been generally positive, they have also been critical of its conduct in several aspects, notably the prevalence of vote buying, violence, poor voter turnout, etc.
“While the CSOs, domestic and foreign election observers have been reviewing the elections, the Nigerian media have yet to do so on a collective basis.
“Hence today’s forum which is being organised by the NUJ in collaboration with INEC.”
Yakubu said as a critical stakeholder in the country’s democracy, he hope the media would tell INEC frankly and objectively where it went right or wrong.
He recalled that during a world conference in Abuja on Feb. 27 the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, rejected INEC’s declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the election.
“In rejecting the result, he described it as an “electoral fraud” and “the grand theft of the people’s will.
“Two days ago, 75 of the 91 registered political parties passed a vote of confidence in INEC’s Chairman, and by extension, on INEC for the conduct of the elections.
“Obviously the two cannot be right at the same time. Hopefully, at the end of today’s forum we will find out who is right. In telling us who is right I am sure the media will do so with facts and figures,” Yakubu said.
The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the forum provided the opportunity for stock-taking.
Oyekanmi said the commission was deeply grateful for the tremendous support it received from the media before, during after the 2019 general elections.
“As we prepared for and eventually conducted the general elections, we read, listened to and appreciated many objective and excellent narratives and analyses about the electoral processes and what the commission did in the media.
“But we have also been confounded by the outright lies, fake news and subjective stories and views written and expressed by some media practitioners.
”I hope the opportunity to dwell on one or two examples will come later on in this programme.
”Indeed, we are all challenged and concerned about the problems associated with the social media and I believe it is our collective duty to find lasting solutions to this menace,” Oyekanmi said.
The NUJ President, Mr Chris Isiguzo, said cases of intimidation and harassment of journalists were reduced in the 2019 general elections, adding that he was happy that journalists went through the elections and all returned.
“Incidence of clampdown, assaults, harassment and intimidation of journalists clearly were reduced to the nearest minimum in the course of 2019 general elections.
“This was as a result of strategic engagements we had with stakeholders in elections management, the INEC, security agencies, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other groups,” he said.
Isiguzo said the forum is like a postmortem on the elections, to see how the media fared in the poll as well as to look at areas they could improve on as it concerns future outings.
He said the Abuja forum is for Northern states while a second one would be organised for Southern states.
“I believe this constant engagement will help us to further appreciate our roles in ensuring that we deliver not just credible elections but also our action to deepen democracy in Nigeria,’’ he said.