Jega expresses mixed feelings over new media tools

By Danlami Nmodu

Professor Attahiru  Jega, national  chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC  has expressed mixed feelings over the use of new media tools in the democratization process.Though the professor of political science acknowledged that the new media are vital tools of interaction and networking , he,also  expressed worries about  its misuse to raise what he called  false alarms.Jega spoke at a conference on new media and governance  in Abuja on Monday.

The INEC boss said “The 2011  General election have been described as the first set of elections in Nigeria driven by the new media .In INEC we had  Situation Room where we used the various new media platforms.. to engage the public.It was a profound experience in real time interaction  with the public as we engaged in instant dissemination  of information..”

He added that the use of new media provided  a “vehicle for unprecedented mobilisation of the emergent generation of youths in the political process.This was crucial because youth between ages 18 and 35 constituted 62.4% of the 73.5million people registered by INEC during the voter registration  exercise conducted early in 2011”.

Explaining how new media tools  help to add value to the electoral process, Jega said “ they have enhanced the transparency  of the political process and made INEC  more accountable to the public in conduct of election

“Simultaneously, they have strengthened INEC’s power of oversight on the electoral  process by empowering  the public to alert the Commission of incidents requiring swift security intervention.

Also, Jega said new media “ helped  to mobilize  the citizenry –particularly  younger generation  who in the past stayed aloof to the political process” and “ they have helped  to integrate our world into a community networked in real time with inter-communication  that Marshal Mcluhan could never have foreseen when he projected that the world  become a ‘global village’ through the media of mass communication.

Inspite of the benefits he listed above, Jega said the new media could also be used for misinformation.”Practically speaking,we in INEC have received alarms many times in our Situation Room during election that turned out to be red herrings.Even though we will not stop responding to all alarms,could there be  a  way to filter communications on the new media platforms and avert possible  unsavoury consequences and false alarms?”Jega asked

Among the speakers at the event on Monday include  Professor Steven Livingston of the media and international affairs ,George Washington  University ,Stephen King, partner Omidyar Network, Nike Adekambi of IamLagos,Chidi  Odinkalu of Open Society Justice Initiative ,Yemi Keri,Governor Kayode Fayemi  of Ekiti state ,Paul Lenz of My Society and Caroline Sage of the World Bank among others.

The new media and governance conference  is a two day event hosted by Shehu YarAdua Foundation  with Enough is Enough EiE Nigeria as  co-organizer.This is being held in partnership with  several local and international bodies  and institutions including Galaxy Backbone, the DFID,The Canadian High Commission and the Mac Arthur Foundation.

A dinner was held  on Monday at Transcorp Hilton where Banky W and Darey  Art Alade performed to the delight of all and sundry.Honourable Farouk Lawan, chairman of House of Representatives committee on Education was at the dinner.The Lawan-led adhoc committee on subsidy payments exposed the fraud in  the system.

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