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Deterrence, cure for political hate messages

Took title: Understanding Nigerian Media and Elections Through Research: Analysis of the

2015 Presidential Election Campaign Messages

Publisher: Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria, ACSPN

Year of Publication:  2018

Pagination: 255 pages

Reviewer:  Udo Ibuot

THIS work is the product of a research that was undertaken by the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria, ACSPN. The work was done in association with the North Dakota State University, NDSU; ORBICOM/UNESCO, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, and other partners.  Funding for the research was provided by the West Africa office of Ford Foundation. The study focused on the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria, and in particular the media campaigns of the two dominant political parties that sought the votes of Nigerians. These parties were the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, led by President Goodluck Jonathan and the All Progressives Congress, APC, led by General Muhammadu Buhari.

The use of traditional and new media, including newspapers, television, radio, social media, advertising and public relations messages during the presidential elections were investigated. The researchers also carried out a perception survey of the electorate on media campaign effectiveness and influence of hate campaigns and messages on voting behaviour of the people during the election. Also examined by the researchers was the level of involvement of local and foreign advertising agencies and public relations consultants in the design and execution of advertising messages during the electioneering period. The extent to which contents of these political messages and the media strategies conformed to ethical codes of political advertising in the country also served as a variable in the study.

The researches were carried out in seven locations. These were Abuja which represents the Federal Capital Territory, and different locations in the six geopolitical zones. Kano was selected to represent the North-West zone, while Maiduguri in Borno State represented the North-East zone. Kwara State served as location for North- Central zone while Lagos and Ibadan were chosen to represent the South-West zone. Anambra State represented the South- East zone while Warri, Calabar and Port Harcourt were selected to represent the South-South zone. The target population for the survey research and indepth interviews included the electorate, leaders and members of political parties, members of professional groups, students and traditional rulers. While 1,140 respondents were surveyed, 98 interview subjects took part in the study.  Content analysis of newspaper advertisements, television and social media were done in selected newspapers such as The Punch, The Guardian, Vanguard, Thisday, The Nation, Daily Sun and Daily Trust. In the broadcast media, contents of television commercials and radio spots were also examined.

Findings from the research were varied and seemed to prove the normative fashion noticed in previous studies. For instance, the researchers found that the voting pattern display a north- south dichotomy with voters from the South-South and South-East saying they voted for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP and majority of the voters from the northern states saying they voted for General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC. Religion and ethnicity were found to have significantly influenced these voting patterns. The researchers also found that 69 per cent of the advertisements were hate focused. In the South-West, 84 per cent of the respondents said the political advertisements were hate focused but the figure varied in other zones. In the South-East, it was 65.8 per cent and 58.9 per cent in the South-South. In the North-Central, it was 55.4 per cent, with the North-West and North-East recording 55 per cent and 54 per cent respectively.

Issues identified by the respondents as generated during the 2015 presidential elections included general infrastructure and housing, the problem of poor electricity supply and the issue of the missing Chibok girls. Also noteworthy was the issue of the parlous nature of the nation’s economy. The researchers noticed that television was the most efficient media for the communication of the campaign messages during that election season, followed by social media, radio and newspapers in that order.

They also found that APC was more dominant on the social media and radio than the PDP while the PDP was more dominant in the newspapers than the APC. Findings from the newspaper advertising revealed that both President Jonathan and General Buhari devoted more than 67 per cent of their adverts on personalities and 32.8 per cent on issues. Equally, 62.7 per cent of the advertisements by both parties attacked the opponent’s party or candidate. In the television commercials and radio spots genre, the researchers found that 52.8 per cent were radio jingles and 49.4 per cent on television commercials. Majority of the broadcast adverts or 49.43 per cent were found to be issue- based. The APC dominated here with 40.44 per cent compared to PDP’s 8.9 per cent.

One of the issues observed as dominant by the researchers was the prevalent tone of the campaign messages or attack advertisements. Survey samples showed that the PDP campaign organisation communicated their hate messages essentially through newspaper advertisements but samples from the in-depth interviews indicated that the APC hate messages were preponderant on the social media. Another issue of concern to the researchers was observance of the code of ethics by advertising and media agencies as well as the political parties and their candidates. Not only did the politicians or presidential candidates of the two parties defy the legal window of 90 days provided by the Electoral Act, they also encouraged the media to defy the 24-hour legal window allowed for the close of publication of campaign messages.

The work ends with several recommendations among which was the need to ensure that advertising agencies and the media not only obeyed professional ethics but that they should force politicians to adhere to these ethical requests as well.

 

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