he Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has organized a training for its Publicity Officers.
The 4-day Training, holding in Abuja, was made possible with the support of the European Union Centre for Electoral Systems (ECES).
Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC) of the Commission, Festus Okoye Esq. who declared the Workshop open, yesterday, recalled that part of the challenges faced by the Commission during the 2019 general election revolved around information management: “It revolves around strategic communication. It revolved around managing public perception around the processes and procedures of the Commission”.
He continued: “it revolved around the caliber and knowledge of the staff saddled with managing its image and communicating to and with the public. It revolved around making information available to the media in real time to avoid speculation, rumor mongering and fake news”.
He therefore underscored the importance of the training thus: “this training will equip and empower you with modern skills of monitoring the activities of the media, to keep the Commission abreast of issues as they break or begin to trend especially on the social media” .
“We believe that this is the way to go in being proactive in information driven society where political considerations and partisan posturing sometimes play a huge role in the dissemination of fake news, misinformation and disinformation.
”Media monitoring will help us appreciate what is being said about us and where we need to respond and timely too”, he added.
The IVEC Chairman said, “the establishment of a media monitoring center within the Commission is a step in the right direction. It is important for the Commission as a public trust to understand what the mainstream and the social media are doing and saying. The media shapes, molds and defines the direction of public opinion in given circumstances” .
He Continued: “as a Commission that does not own radio and television stations, the Commission relies on the media to get its messages across to the Nigerian people. It is important for us to know whether our messages as a Commission gets to the Nigerian people and in what form the message gets to them. It is important for us to understand the mood of the nation and the interpretation given to the actions and inactions of the Commission.
”It is important for the Commission to use the instrumentality of the media to formulate policies, reshape policies and mold public opinion in given circumstances” said he.
Barrister Okoye highlighted the premium placed on information management by the Commission and stressed the need for Information managers of the Commission to be knowledgeable. He said “the Commission has consistently tried its best to provide information to the media. It has been upfront in media appearances and in some instances providing education on novel and unclear areas of the electoral process. This demands that the spokespersons of the Commission must be conversant with the happenings in the Commission.
“They must be conversant with its laws and procedures. They must be conversant with its processes and procedures. They must listen to the radio and the television. They must read newspapers of different qualities and varieties. They must access the social media platforms and understand the thinking of the different segments of the populace and their views about the electoral process”, he said.
He added: “They must decipher manipulated information from outright fake news. They must understand when information is skewed and slanted to appeal to a constituency or achieve a particular result or outcome. They must know when a report or opinion is based on outright ignorance. These must then be turned into actionable recommendations for better image management and policy formulation”.
The IVEC Chairman appreciated ECES for facilitating the establishment of a world class media monitoring centre at the INEC Headquarters and called for sustained partnership between both organizations. His words: “the Commission appreciates the collaborative partnership existing between it and the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) targeted at strengthening the processes of the Commission, promoting Nigeria’s electoral process and deepening our democracy”.
“The establishment of a world class Media Monitoring Centre at the INEC Headquarters is no doubt a testimony to this collaborative effort. We assure our partners that the Commission and its staff will make good use of the facilities at the media monitoring center to promote the work of the Commission and in the process enhance its image”.
The Director, Voter Education and Publicity department, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, explained that the training was long due. He said the Media Monitoring Training was supposed to be a pre-election activity but noted that the training marked the commencement of full fledged media monitoring by the Commission ahead of future elections.
He said: “this training has been a long time coming but, we are happy that it has eventually came. It has been on plan for many months. It was actually designed to be pre-election activity to build the capacity of staff of the Commission to better monitor and look for trends in the media as they covered the 2019 general elections.
The Director however noted that “It is never too late because election is a cycle. The end of one is the beginning of another, So, the end of 2019 is the beginning of another. Until we end the elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, we have not finished the circle. This is a continuous cycle. So it is never too late to hold such training and capacity building.
“Basically, our work of monitoring has started. Our work of Monitoring does not start on election day, we must monitor everything, how aspirants emerged, how candidates emerged for party is critical. How a winner -members elect, governors elect emerges, all these factors we shall be taking into consideration”, he said.
Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, in his presentation on “Fake news and the 2019 General Elections, Preparations for Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship Elections,” recounted several incidences of fake news the Commission had to deal with before and during the 2019 general elections.
Oyekanmi, lauded the Commission’s proactiveness and openness to the media on its policies and actions.
He further called for a more strategic approach to image management and harped on the inevitable use of social media to inform the public, gauge perception and interact with the public.
The Coordination Advisor/Electoral Administration Expert, with ECES, Wilson Manji said the training represented another element of their support to INEC’s “extremely active media, communications and outreach strategy”.
Manji recalled previous professional trainings for staff of the department supported by ECES and explained that “ This week’s training has the objective of introducing you to the basic skills and techniques used in Media monitoring, that will contribute to improving the Commission’s internal and external engagements with stakeholders, providing accurate information for a timely response to emerging issues in the entire polity through qualitative and quantitative data collection, processing, analysis and reporting throughout the Commission” .
Speaking on the objectives of the workshop, the Deputy Director Publicity, Aliyu M Bello said the workshop was ”designed to train participants on use of modern technology to monitor radio, television and social media contents for informed contributions to improve perception”.
Editor-in-Chief: Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi
Editor: Aliyu M. Bello
Reporter: Nathaniel Audu Gana
Technical Support: Bala Ato Agyo