Communication researchers, who recently gathered in Port Harcourt for the eighth annual conference of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria, reported on their findings on the recent Fourth Republic elections, ahead of the upcoming 2023 campaign. Charles Okigbo who was among the researchers writing
Although the 2023 presidential election is 17 months away, it did not seem so far away at the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) Eighth Annual Conference, held in Port Harcourt. , in Rivers State, where many communications researchers have reported on their ongoing investigations into the recent Fourth Republic elections, ahead of the upcoming 2023 campaign.
This is a sequel to similar research reports on election campaigns that were presented at the 2021 African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) International Conference at Bayero University in Kano, which took place is held May 25-28. Some of the noteworthy presentations at the ACCE Conference in Kano include Mr. Ralph Anyacho from APCON who reports on the use of radio and television commercials, Ms. Susan Agbo, also from APCON who reports on the trends campaign advertising, and Dr. Nnanna Nworisa who presents the semiotic analysis of outdoor advertising, among others.
ACSPN and ACCE are the two leading associations of communication educators, researchers and practitioners in Nigeria, and they conduct applied action research aimed at solving our multivalent social problems, especially in political communication and communication. governance.
The two recent presidential elections of the Fourth Republic were the subject of three separate but related presentations at the ACSPN Conference in Port Harcourt. These focused on the themes and frameworks, radio / television journalism and newspaper reporting of the 2019 electoral cycle. They are part of the larger and comprehensive study of the 2019 elections coordinated by three partners, namely C&F Porter Novelli (Nigeria), North Dakota State University (United States) and ORBICOM, at the University of Quebec (Canada). This pan-Nigerian study was designed to determine how various forms of communication, particularly press journalism, print advertising, broadcast journalism, advertisements, outdoor advertising and public relations, were used by both. main political parties.
Among the specific objectives of this ambitious research project are the identification of trends in electoral campaign communication, establishing the nature and differences between the strategies of major political parties and providing the basis for a possible explanation of the campaign. “Nigerian factor” in the framing of our electoral communication.
One of the most engaging presentations on this research group at the ACSPN conference in Port Harcourt was made by Dr Jude Ogbodo from Ebonyi State University (ESU) and Ms Stella Jibrin from National Press Council (NPC). The other members of their team were Drs. Greg Ugbo from Oye Ekiti Federal University and Henry Duru from Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka. Using the intriguing concept of âmedia capture,â they attempted to explain how many journalists appeared to be in the service of politicians and party pillars, rather than objective non-partisan reporters, columnists and analysts. This research builds on previous studies Dr Ogbodo started in the UK, which are now extended to cover the Nigerian elections by journalists and editors.
A complementary presentation was based on the choice of themes and framing approaches of audiovisual journalists during the 2019 election. It came from Professor Bala Musa of Azusa Pacific University (United States), Dr Erere Joy Anho from Delta State Polytechnic and Dr Osita Aniemeka from the International Center for Development Affairs (ICDA, Abuja). They concluded from their analyzes of FRCN, NTA, AIT and Channels TV coverage that âradio and television are the most effective mass communication media for elections because they transcend the literacy barrier to reach the potential voters wherever they are â. They stressed the need for âindependent, free and responsibleâ broadcast journalism to guide voters âto make the right choices for their elected leadersâ.
These various research efforts on the 2019 presidential election campaign are a consequence of the continued interest in electoral communication research by committed Nigerian academics and practitioners, under the aegis of ACSPN, ACCE and some of the oldest communication departments of our universities and polytechnics. .
Noteworthy is the pioneering research of Mr. Ayo Oluwatosin, who, as CEO of the Rosabel Group, conducted a critical appraisal of the uses of advertising in the 2015 elections. This was the eighth edition of the series ACSPN empowerment campaign, in which he reported that PDP and APC “use all types of media”, especially social media “which was widely used to connect with the young population and spread messages” . He found marked differences between the two political parties, although they both engaged in “massive roadshows to experience the voters.” Propaganda was a mainstay of both sides, as was negative publicity. As an indication of the nature of the 2019 campaign, Mr Oluwatosin concluded that it was ironic that the ruling PDP did not communicate its several accomplishments, but rather “seemed determined to bring down the presidential candidate from the APC “with negativity.
Subsequently, Professor Rotimi Williams Olatunji of Lagos State University led in-depth Ford Foundation-funded research into the 2015 election campaign. In this multi-method study of public perceptions, print advertisements, From radio / TV ads, social media content, overseas consultants, outdoor advertising and political interest groups, the researchers found much to criticize the way the two parties handled their campaigns. They recommended using more social media, being more creative, enforcing regulations and reducing propaganda and hate speech in future presidential campaigns.
The ongoing multi-team survey of the 2019 presidential campaign builds on these existing studies, and all of these efforts are aimed at better understanding and explaining the nature and trends to be expected from the next presidential campaign in 2023.
The results obtained so far show that there are marked similarities and differences between the two main parties All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in their thematic focus, the use of communication strategies, the use of multimedia approaches, the use of emotional appeals and the involvement of partisan political action groups. As Mr. Ayo Oluwatosin discovered in the 2015 elections, the campaigns are âmoney-turists for the Nigerian pressâ. This is part of the reason why many journalists and their media houses appear to be victims of ‘media capture’, as Dr Jude Ogbodo and his team discovered in their analysis of newspaper coverage of the campaign. 2019.
The similarities and differences between the two main political parties in their approaches to campaign communication can have significant impacts on the eventual outcome of our presidential elections. ACCE and ACSPN researchers, as well as many communication practitioners, agree that advertising, journalism, public relations, and other forms of communication can be among the critical determinants of eventual election results. The battle lines for the 2023 presidential contest are already being drawn, with campaign architects and electoral researchers preparing the first plans for the expected battle royale for what is shaping up to be the most important electoral contest. of the Fourth Republic.
Good governance and the sustainable development of democracy in Nigeria requires adequate support for electoral research which uses mixed methods to determine the nature, methods and effects of professional electoral communication. In this regard, organizations such as ACCE and ACSPN deserve reliable support from local and international funding agencies.
According to Professors Charles Okigbo, Bala Musa and Muhammed Musa, three renowned Nigerian communications academics who are active in both ACCE and ACSPN, and engaged in ongoing research on the 2019 elections while seeking to design studies of the upcoming 2023 campaign, âelection communications research should not be a footnote or an afterthought; it is a strategic investment for the common good, and it deserves more financial support than we are currently giving it. “
– Okigbo is professor emeritus of strategic communication analysis.