The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has stated the importance of debates among candidates running for political offices in 2019.
This was disclosed by Yakubu while delivering a speech titled, ‘The role of media in the Nigerian electoral process,’ at the 69th General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria in Lagos during the week.
The Chairman said, the debates were a vital part of the democratic process as they helped to guide the decision of voters.
INEC Boss said, said, “as a key player in the Nigeria Elections Debate Group, it is appropriate that BON and its members, in consonance with the practice in advanced and developing democracies, should remain in the forefront of efforts to institutionalise the practice of debate among candidates seeking political office in Nigeria.
Such debates are necessary for deepening democracy by promoting civil discourse and providing a platform for candidates to articulate their positions on public policy issues. They also allow the public to judge aspiring candidates for political office under pressure and evaluate their arguments in competition with other candidates.
Debates also serve an important role of demonstrating to the aspiring candidates that democracy is about standing before the public and answering their questions.”
The advent of social media has made the dissemination of information faster but has also made it easier for mischievous persons to spread false information.
Yakubu called on the media to help the commission tackle the threat of fake news and hate speech which could undermine the electoral process or heat up the polity.
He said, INEC would not support censorship of social media as recommended by some.
However, he said the traditional media would need to step up its game ahead of the general elections.
“Elections have become an important source of revenue for the media with wealthy candidates and political parties spending large amounts of money on political advertising which sometimes resulting in skewed coverage in favour of those who can afford the high cost of such advertising.
Yakubu appealed to the media to ensure that all political parties are given fair and balanced coverage ahead of the elections.