The 2019 general elections have been full of intrigues. Nigerians witnessed the burning of INEC offices in some locations, the last minute postponement due to logistical challenges, pockets of violence, vote buying and selling as well as inconclusive elections in 6 states namely Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto. The Rivers State elections is suspended indefinitely while supplementary elections will hold Saturday 23 March in the states declared inconclusive.
A LONG WALK TO PRESS FREEDOM
The unfair treatment and attacks on journalists and members of the civil society during the 2019 elections is condemnable. During the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections held on March 9, there were reports of journalists and observers who were assaulted, harassed and abducted. A journalist with the Premium Times was intimidated and abducted by thugs and party loyalists while on election duty for exposing cases of underage voting in a polling unit in Plateau State. In similar fashion, BBC Africa Pidgin reporter who was slapped in Lagos by a politician over her coverage of vote buying at a polling unit. Journalists were also not spared in Kaduna, Delta, Yobe and Edo States with various reports of physical assaults, abduction and so on. Such acts of harassment and intimidation are strongly condemned by the Wole Soyinka Centre of Investigative Journalism. In order to foster our democratic practices, we must ensure we get rid of all forms of electoral violence.
The press, which is an integral and indispensable element of the society, exists for the society. It derives its powers to function from the constitution. As stipulated in Chapter II section 22 of the 1999 constitution;The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people. This provision implies that the press shall be a watchdog over the excesses of government and shall ensure that government delivers it promises to the people. The WSCIJ had hoped that the freedom and safety of Journalists during the 2019 Elections would improve after the presidential election. It is indeed a long walk to freedom.
ELECTORAL MANIPULATION AND EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS
The do-or-die attitude of the political class where they interfere with the electoral process is unacceptable. This could imperil Nigeria’s democracy if not properly addressed. There were some incidences of vote buying and selling where in some centres, the election was determined by the highest bidder. The height, is the level of violence resulting to loss of lives and destruction of properties.
The Wole Soyinka Centre of Investigative Journalism denounces cases of electoral violence and the vandalization of INEC offices all in a bid to prevent the electoral commission from conducting elections. Some politicians are determined to subvert the electoral process for their personal gains whereas the common good should be the ultimate goal of public leadership. All these can be seen in the level of poor voter turnout in the just concluded state elections. The role of the media in rethinking credible elections, democracy and governance in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized at this point.