Supervising Minister of Information Dr. Nurudeen Muhammad has allayed fears being expressed in some quarters that the 2015 general elections may lead to the break-up of Nigeria. He made the remarks in Abuja while declaring open the forty-fifth meeting of the National Council on Information with the theme “Strategic Information Management for Credible and Peaceful Elections”.
Dr. Muhammad told the Council, comprising Information Commissioners, heads of media organisations, and other stakeholders in the media, that as they supervise the political discourse leading to the general elections, they should strive to eliminate hate speeches, violent languages and incitement to violence in their programmes, news and commentaries to ensure peace and national cohesion during and after the elections.
“As public information managers, we must strive to build understanding, while dispelling misconceptions, suspicion, and fear. The 2015 general elections are not about war, and Nigeria is not about to break up. We are one country and will remain so after the 2015 elections,” he stated.
The Information Minister who harped on the need for balance, fairness and objectivity in news reportage, frowned at interference by some owners of media houses in the operations of the media to further their political interest and shut out the opposition.
He said, “I am not oblivious of the maxim that who pays the piper dictates the tune. This comes into bold relief on occasions when some public information managers black out stories about opponents of the government in power in the environment. Sometimes state-run media decline to accepts adverts from the opposition, even when such promotional materials are fully paid for”.
The minister therefore called for change of attitude among some media managers and strict adherence to the Code of Conduct to guard against rancour and acrimony in the electioneering. He equally directed the National Broadcasting Commission to sanction stations found infringing on the Broadcasting Code.
“Public information managers must also remain vigilant about attempts by some politicians to manipulate them. Elections are not just about politicians. Elections also involve crucial questions about our collective future, and in whose hands the electorate would like to commit. It is important, therefore, that as we nurture our democracy through periodic elections, we should attempt to steer political discourse to issues that have potentially meaningful impact for the electorate.”
He charged the Information Managers to complement the Independent National Electoral Commission in voter education to ensure the overall success of the elections.
In a message to the occasion, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega said security remained a challenge ahead of the Commission preparatory to the general elections.
Represented by Dr. Chris Imoga, National Commissioner Information and Voter Education Committee, the INEC Chairman decried the situation whereby the Commission is being joined in court cases instituted by aspirants claiming irregularities in the conduct of party primaries and said political parties should always promote internal democracy and spare the Commission from needless litigations.
The INEC Chairman hailed the success recorded in the distribution of the Permanent Voters’ Cards across the country, and sought for collaboration of the Media for the overall success of the general elections.