For the Record: OPENING REMARK BY RESIDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSIONER – EMEKA ONONAMADU DURING FORUM ON MEDIA COVERAGE OF 2019 GENERAL ELECTION AT TOPRANK HOTEL, ENUGU, 20TH MAY, 2019
The output of this gathering is being awaited by all stakeholders and will feed into the ever consistent need to make our elections to become one of the best in Africa. I am glad this brainstorming will be taking place in a state where some sanity was still left in all the stakeholders during 2019 general election. Therefore the friendly Enugu environment provides the best opportunity for a dispassionate assessment of the entire election coverage.
Before this event, INEC Enugu has organized a quick post media review of Election happened only in Enugu state. In that review there was sincerity, openness and patriotism among stakeholders that painstakingly looked at the entire electoral circle to reach a valid conclusion. That conclusion did not include the key uncontrollable variables that affect the optimism of election administration agency in Nigeria.
Today’s review is wider and thus will be more interesting. This is because election held under different difficult environments orchestrated by politicians and security agencies. 2019 general election certainly reaffirmed my belief that partnership with the media during elections is the best approach to election accountability to citizens.
There are so many positive outcomes of 2019 election as well as positive learning curves that should be given priority attention for the purpose of growth of our democracy and elections in particular. However, I learnt during 2019 general election that allegations, in most cases enjoy more prominence than reality and thus created negative impact on citizen’s participation.
I personally observed that those hard decisions, firmness and strict application of rules enjoyed short but suspicious publicity, when such bravery should form a good foundation for the future. That firmness was unique to our democracy and elections and should permeate the entire political fabrics of our country.
In 2019 general election, politicians constantly threatened me with the media. I guess lots of my colleagues and National Commissioners suffered such threats which should be looked into. When you stop them from bending the rules or having undue advantage over other parties, they will quickly raise an allegation and tell you in your face that if you don’t allow them to have their way, they will go to the press.
And when the call a press conference and make allegation against INEC, the allegation whether right or wrong was given prominence which eventually pollute the election air and weaken citizen, whose suspicion increases, from effective participation. One politician threatens INEC more than five times and during that period, he got from the media what he wanted – to use the innocent media to blackmail INEC officials. Because of this INEC Enugu held over 20 media briefings beyond our budgeted number.
Let me welcome to Enugu, my supervising National Commissioners and the Chairman of Committee on Information and Voter Education, the Director of Voter Education and publicity with his team, the NUJ president and his team as well as NUJ chair of Enugu chapter and his team to this post-election media event.
Since there are too many salient achievements, learning curves planned and unplanned outcomes, I wish you sincerity and focus required to arrive at undisputable and objective conclusions that will serve the best need of the nation’s democracy. We will be happy to welcome you all more as regular guests to INEC Enugu state.