THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised the alarm over rising fake news and misinformation ahead of the forthcoming off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Kogi, and Imo states.
According to the Commission, fake news might severely affect how the country manages its elections if not stopped early.
National Commissioner and the Commission’s Information and Voter Education Committee member, Kunle Ajayi, said this on Monday while addressing a two-day capacity-building training for INEC Press Corps members in Akwanga, Nasarawa State.
The training, sponsored by Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI), has the theme, “Ethical, Safety Practices, and Critical Issues Relating to the Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa Governorship Elections.”
Ajayi described fake news, hate speech, and misinformation during the general elections in 2023 as repulsive.
“The Commission’s distasteful experience with fake news in the 2023 general elections has shown that if not nipped in the bud, fake news can become the bane of election management in Nigeria.
“The alarming prevalence of misinformation, fake news, hate speech, and the weaponization of disinformation has become very worrisome to the Commission,” Ajayi stated.
The National Commissioner explained that disinformation related to elections had grown to be a significant tactic used by nefarious individuals and groups in the political sphere to manipulate the populace to their advantage.
“Election-related disinformation has become a major strategy used by nefarious individuals and groups in the political space to manipulate the general public to their advantage, regardless of the consequential effect such propaganda may have on the peace and stability of the electoral process and the country at large,” Ajayi added.
In his address, the Team Leader for DAI, Rudolf Elbling, said the media was an essential part of any democracy, adding that a democratic election without the press was impossible as they act as a crucial watchdog to democratic elections, safeguarding the transparency of the process.
Elbling stated, “Election without the media is not complete. The reportage of the media must be correct and factual. Free media is the oxygen for democracy. Journalists must maintain a high level of professionalism.”
He noted that the livewire of democracy is uncensored media, and a high level of professionalism is required of the press.
In less than a month (on November 11), Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo state residents will elect a new governor as INEC conducts the states’ off-cycle governorship poll.
The states are three of six states in Nigeria with off-season governorship polls. Others are Ondo, Edo and Osun.
While the current governor of Imo State’s term expires on January 14, 2024, Okoye said the governors of Kogi and Bayelsa States had respective terms that expire on January 26, 2024, and February 13 of the same year.
The ICIR, in this report, presented the top candidates in the three states and their chances.