As the 2019 general elections draws close, SUNDAY ISUWA writes on how the attention of stakeholders is gradually moving to focus on political advertisement.

In recent times, over 100 media houses have been sanctioned for carrying political advertisements injurious to candidates and political parties in the 2015 general elections. This action marks the beginning of a shift in the focus of regulators and Nigeria’s electoral commission towards the 2019 campaigns.

The reason for this, authorities say, is that political advertisements sometimes, come with obtuseness, wit or goad which if not properly checked, could heat up the polity “Let us grow this democracy together,” INEC chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu said as he addressed members of Advertising Practitioners Association (APAAC), in Abuja.
The INEC chairman, who was not happy with the incidences that occurred during the 2015 political campaigns insisted that more attention will be giving to the 2019 general elections.

It was however gathered that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on its part, had since dusted its guild lines on political broadcasting and won’t want to leave to chance, an aspect it says will have strong influence on the 2019 general elections. “We are willing to cooperate with advertising professionals in the country to mitigate hate speeches,” the electoral umpire’s boss said through the commission’s national commissioner, Prince Adedeji Solomon Soyebi.

Soyebi is the chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), a unit that should know more about political advertising. He believes that their intervention in advertisements this time around would make all the necessary difference. “We will promote sound political advertising as the 2019 general elections approach,” he said.
The commission is of the view that working with professional bodies such as APAAC would bring about sanity in the practice as it relates to campaigns and political advertising. “We don’t only want to work with organisations that would add value to the 2019 general elections, but APAAC must work closely with the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in order to sanitise political advertising,” Soyebi said.

Stakeholders, it was gathered, are worried about political contests in Nigeria which they say have always been characterised by violence, misgivings, fake news and propaganda. “In spite of these, INEC has remained on the path of providing Nigerians credible elections,” the APAAC chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu said. “We want the 2019 general elections to be free, fair and credible amidst daunting challenges,” he conceded.

He further disclosed that as a patriotic organisation, APAAC is prepared to assist INEC in sensitising political parties on ethical advertising and how campaigns should be in order to avert a repeat of what happened in 2015, “where hate speech and foul languages were prevalent.”

“Promoting sound political advertising in the build up to the 2019 general elections is our priority,” said a zonal head, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Alhaji Adamu Yelwa.

According to Yelwa, APCON is also worried about the incidences that were recorded in the 2015 general elections but he pledged the council’s commitment to cooperate with INEC on political advertising.

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), an organisation that licenses and monitors the activities of broadcast media in the country, has dusted it’s guidelines on political broadcasting, ready to punish any media that violate it. “Over 100 media houses have been punish following misconduct on political advertising during the 2015 general elections,” NBC’s assistant director, Antia Ekanem said.

Ekanem, who is also the spokesman of the commission, while regretting incidences that happened in the 2015 general elections, said they are poise to ensure a non-repeat. “We have started sensitisation in the South-east and the South-south,” Ekanem said. “We will continue with other regions after the Sallah break,” he added.

He said NBC rely on INEC electoral code on political advertising and will hit any media organisation that violates the rules on political broadcasting and advertising. “It depend,” Ekanem said, referring to different punishment violators would face. “The punishment won’t only be monetary. If we ask them (violators) to stop airing an offensive programme and they refuse, the punishments are in the guidelines but we could cut the airing time or close the station. It all depends.’’