PDP PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES: HOW STATE-OWNED RADIO STATIONS DEALT WITH ATIKU
Though the Peoples democratic Party (PDP) presidential primaries have come and gone, the dust is yet to settle. The papers are still brimming with stories of subterfuge and under-hand tactics deployed before the epic battle at the Eagle Square, Abuja and after Mr. President's ground quaking victory.
Tales of intrigues that characterized the botched zoning formula is quite familiar. Nigerians have also been regaled with vulgar details of how the major contestants have haggled and negotiated with delegates (through their principals i.e. the governors), and how the much-touted power of incumbency had expectedly carried the day mainly because of the arm-twisting tactics deployed by the state governors to boost their selfish ends and political survival.
We have also been told how like heifers, these delegates were herded into hotel rooms and quarantined so that opponents and their agents could neither reach them nor contaminate them before the D-Day.
About three months ago Dr Okwesileze Nwodo, the former PDP National Chairman, enthusiastically shared with us at a media parley, his plans to reform the 'largest party in Africa.' Much as some of our colleagues tried to draw his attention to the fact that it's no use subjecting a pig to a perfumed Jacuzzi bath because the next minute the animal will go back straight to where it belongs, but the well-spoken politician was optimistically unwavering, assuring all that his party was ready for positive change and that was why he had come all the way to Lagos to launch what has now turn out to be an idealistic campaign titled: Restoring True Values. As we can see, this laudable effort at turning the party around for good became his undoing. The rest is now history.
Media debates still persist on how free and fair; how truly the level playing field at the party primaries. Apart from the seeming orderliness we saw on the television screen, did all the contestants get equal opportunity to reach their audiences?
Information gleaned from MARKETINGmatters investigation reveals that this was hardly so particularly with some state radio stations in the country. However, this was quite different with the Press being that the newspaper business is dominated by profit conscious private entrepreneurs who made their pages available to as many political office seekers that were ready with their money to buy up advertisement pages for their political campaigns. In fact, it was good business for newspapers this period as ad revenues witnessed an appreciable lift.
The private television stations and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) equally enjoyed handsome takings in not just the political commercials alone but in coverage of political campaigns and sundry news as fairly as it could possibly be in this clime. Times were in the Second Republic when instructions were handed down by over zealous Ministers of Information to NTA to reject opponents' campaign commercials and totally black them out from the stations news coverage and other programmes. These crude and unsportsmanlike tactics against political rivals appears to have become a thing of the past in the national television station since more urbane technocrats with better business attitudes began to assume the helmsmanship of the supervisory ministry and the NTA itself. The station now earns better respect and makes more money.
The fact that a particular party is in government does not mean that a television station built with public funds should cover only the party's activities and censor the rest. These stations are not the exclusive properties of the political parties in power, be it state or federal. And the same goes for the radio stations.
In spite of the fact that 'he who pays the piper dictates the tune', public servants and media practitioners should be able to draw the line between the coverage of government activities and the sometimes unnecessary attention and flattering spotlights they lavish on the party's affairs. Government activities should attract more coverage given the fact that the public that supposedly elected them would necessarily want to know what their government is doing. But once it's an election period when more candidates and their parties are on the stage to sell their products to Nigerians, it would amount to a huge disservice to the people not to allow them know what viable alternatives that are being offered.
MARKETINGmatters source reliably revealed that some of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar campaign radio jingles were tactically blocked from being aired. And the worst culprits were the state radio stations in the eastern region of the country. He was a PDP aspirant who sought the ticket with President Jonathan.
They didn't come out plain to say they were not going to broadcast the tapes. Instead, they told campaign organization media agents that the materials would be sent to their legal departments for vetting to ensure that they dd not contain libelous information, and that's the end. From then on, the material was stuck and the commercial department is under veiled orders not to query the status of such bookings. By the time the media agent does not hear from the legal department he/she needs not be told that the material is doomed.
A campaign organization consultant, who spoke to MARKETINGmatters revealed how some of these state radio stations, who can barely pay their staff salaries have turned down good opportunities to make good revenues because of the selfishness of their politicians in government. The consultant gave instances of how they waited for the legal departments of some of these stations to give their approvals only to be secretly told by their marketing executives not to waste their time because the so called legal vetting is hoax; just an excuse to frustrate the broadcast of these campaign materials. He said they had to eventually send the tapes to the federal government owned Purity FM, Heartland FM and a few other private radio stations where they were aired without delay.