It was all thumbs up for the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), for organizing a three-day workshop for Nigeria’s registered political parties on ways and strategies to enhance their visibility and function more effectively. Altogether, eight papers were presented with a special address by Mrs Elizabeth Egharevba, Director International Cooperation Ministry of
It was all thumbs up for the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), for organizing a three-day workshop for Nigeria’s registered political parties on ways and strategies to enhance their visibility and function more effectively.
Altogether, eight papers were presented with a special address by Mrs Elizabeth Egharevba, Director International Cooperation Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and ECES project Director of the EU-SDGN project.
With the theme: Stakeholders Engagement on The Transparency of The Electoral Process, the workshop had sixteen out of Nigeria’s registered political parties actively participating with their Chairmen and Publicity Secretaries in attendance. It was coordinated by the Political Parties Leadership and Policy Development Centre (PPLPDC) of NIPSS, in collaboration with European Center for Electoral Support (ECES), Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism and BBC Media Action.
In his address to the gathering, the Acting Director General of NIPSS, Brig. Gen CFJ Udaya observed that “it is apparent that accountability and transparency is central to an effective political process and election integrity. While electoral managers play key role in determining the quality of electoral process, the political parties are equally responsible for the transparency of process. Electoral process, in which political parties are key players need to be transparent for citizens to effectively participate. The transparency of electoral process determines its credibility and integrity most especially, the acceptance of election outcomes and the reduction of court cases on election matters”.
He further noted that not only do political parties play fundamental role in strengthening the transparency of electoral process, but also, the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria. “It is, therefore, important that participants of this Stakeholders’ Engagement will productively dialogue and recommend innovative ways to make our electoral process more transparent. The National Institute on its part, through its various programmes is committed to engaging with the political parties, most especially in enhancing their capacities to effectively participate in political process and also strengthen democracy in Nigeria” he said.
Welcoming participants, Dr. Musa E. Umar, the Chief Operating Officer of NIPSS-PPLPDC said the workshop came out of burden of the challenges that confronts our electoral system, specifically, the so many election matters going to court. This emerged after NIPSS-PPLPDC engagement with political parties on Election Alternative Dispute Resolution before the 2019 General Elections. This, no doubt affects the integrity of our electoral process and political stability. We are glad that Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism is working on this issue and gladly accepted to share some of their experiences.
Our main concern in this forum is in the words of Sandra Day O’Connor who said that: The courts of this country should not be the places where resolution of disputes begins. They should be the places where disputes end after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried.”
In his presentation on Political parties and digital communication in post covid-19 era, Hamza Fassi Fihri – ECES Project Director, noted that the first requirement is for the political parties to be present on the internet through the creation of a functional and interactive website and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp etecetra.
Through these various platforms, the political parties could reach out to people by creating relevant content and coordinating their activities and then use the platforms to market specific target audience as defined by them.
He further counseled that being interactive would mean that political parties develop soft competencies which will enable them to listen, to comment, reply or react, or show empathy.The overall objective is that they must be able to manage their community well.
“They must be proactive by being able to generate debate and through it mobilise their supporters and win new members. They must also be responsive to new types of interference and attacks” Hamza Fassi Fihri said.
Speaking further, he advised political parties to enhance their internal communication as this would help to enhance internal democracy, support internal democracy, support electoral campaign and build party cohesion.
Taking discussions to another level, in a presentation on Enhancing Political Parties’ Visibility in Social and Mainstream Media in Nigeria: Issues and Prospects Dr. Sola Adeyanju, who is also the Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Political Parties Leadership and Policy Development Centre of NIPSS, defined visibility as the ability of an organisation to reach its target audience with the right type of information that is noticeable at the right time and cost.
He said an organisation operating in a competitive environment should make it easy for all its stakeholders to know what it is doing at every point in time and carry them along with the right perspective. He advised that communication and visibility must be properly planned as it must be based on well thought-out Communication and Visibility Plan, a Communication Strategy, and action plan for implementation of the Visibility.
Going down memory lane, he noted that historically, the media cannot be divorced from party politics and the early politicians knew the importance of media in the mobilisation of the people for party participation and they used them to the fullest. Many examples abound like the defunct National Concord owned by Late Chief MKO Abiola, The Reporter for Late Shehu Yar Adua Snr, Compass newspapers of former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
He noted that past attempts by political parties at visibility have not been very successful because the parties lost supremacy over candidates for election. He blamed this development partly on the intervention of the military which had weakened the organisational strength of the political parties.
He observed that though the media was used as a means of gaining personal visibility by contestants during election and after winning. But once, the elections are over or the tenure of the candidate expires, the life of the media organisation ‘expires’ and the party gains nothing in visibility.
He said new media, championed by the computer changed the whole media scape of party politics, particularly in Nigeria. The internet could be a veritable means of mobilising members, organising the parties, getting messages across to members fast, as well as generating funds.
Social media, he said, offers another opportunity for political parties to mobilise individuals and groups for its cause. While candidates during elections may be said to have keyed into the use of social media for mobilisation, same cannot be said of political parties.
Political parties should standardise their visibility plans as done by their counterpart political parties around the world. They should explore and perfect the use of media, particularly the internet, for fundraising. The organising and publicity secretaries should take interest in this, he concluded.
In a paper “Using Social Media for Membership Recruitment and Citizen Mobilisation” Mr. Jude ‘Feranmi, Convener, Raising New Voices Initiative said political parties should identify their target audience. He urged the political parties’ managers to understand who their audience is and research on which social media platform they engage the most. He urged them to maximize the effectiveness of paid adverts through accurate audience targeting and linking posts to optimized web pages.
He said different individuals need a diverse methods and levels of engagement. Online passion and enthusiasm can be translated into physical town meetings, personalised emails and online WhatsApp groups for volunteers. He also urged the parties to get relational and make their audience understand that your stakes are theirs: “Once your supporters are invested through continuous engagement, it is easier for them to take more actions that will help your cause” he counselled.
Participants were taken through some practical sessions, one of which was a presentation on Content Management in Website Design by Richard Akinwumi, Head Digital Strategy & Technology, PREMIUM TIMES who noted that “today, the online presence of political parties is seen as highly important to political party’s ability to inform, engage and mobilize.
He defined the purpose of a political party website to include Information which is direct communication from the party to the citizens, where the party does not have to communicate through the editorial filter of newspapers, radio or television; engagement which is the ultimate goal of using the web for political communication and mobilization for donations, campaign activities Interaction and Dialogue.
Amongst several suggestions the stakeholders called on the National Assembly to speedily conclude work on the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010, well ahead of the 2023 general elections. And, more regulation for the activities of the political parties while encouraging them to play by the existing rules. In the same way, they suggest trial and punishment for those that commit electoral offences.
It was agreed that transparency in the electoral process is not limited to the election management body but also to the political parties especially in the way they obey their own rules and processes in the nomination of candidates, conduct of primaries and the entire electioneering process. Political parties should not act and behave with the mentality of the end justifies the means.
Moderating a session at the workshop, Professor Bolade Eyinla, the Chief Technical Adviser, INEC said political parties have been a major drawback for democratic advancement in Nigeria and constitute all the ills of the electoral system.
“Political parties are the bane of our electoral process” he said and buttressed his position with the example of the recent bye-election for one constituency in Ekiti state, involving only 39 polling units but which had to be cancelled because it turned bloody resulting in the death of three persons because of the activities of political parties and their candidates. “Are we progressing or retrogressing?” he asked. He posited that while other processes keep improving in Nigeria, the actions of political parties remained unchanged.
He compared the Ekiti state untoward act with the reaction in April 2015, of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who while still awaiting results from three states, picked his phone and called his main rival President Muhammadu Buhari congratulating and conceding victory to him. He recalled, that singular act lowered tension and restored peace to the polity.
Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, Executive Director, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism had earlier highlighted some factors hindering transparency in a democratic process to include sponsorship of thuggery to obstruct elections by political parties; lack of inclusivity by political parties; prohibitive cost of nomination forms by political parties leading to exclusion of women and youth; lack of internal democracy by political parties and delay in passing electoral reforms bill by the National Assembly.
Other factors include vote buying by political parties; and opposing judgments by courts of coordinate jurisdiction. He called on the political parties to lighten the burden of INEC by playing according to the rules and not always trying to circumvent the law governing electoral process.
The Special Guest of Honour, Mrs Elizabeth Egharevba who is the Director International Cooperation, Ministry of Budget and National Planning said the theme of the workshop which is transparency of the electoral process is significant because it has to do with the right to information which must be guaranteed to engender trust and confidence in the democratic environment.
In his contribution while giving a vote of thanks on behalf of participants, Dr Leonard Nzenwa, Chairman Inter-Party Advisory Council, (IPAC) commended the NIPSS-PPLPDC, for organising the workshop which has added to the valuable resources of the political parties on how to improve their visibility using the mainstream and social media. He, however, advised the parties to be conscious that while the social media was easy to use and cost effective, it could also be misused for fake news.
Dr Nzenwa urged the political parties to balance their usage of both the social and mainstream media as they all have their challenges. He advised parties to exploit the benefits of social media to sell their manifestos, mobilise voters’ support and do other legal things that would help them to win elections.
Some of the participants lamented the absence of the two largest political parties in the country at the workshop. These are the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and that of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The organisers said invitations were extended to all the registered political parties in the country.