The Experience Of A Presidential Campaign As A Broadcaster By Aliyu Abdullahi
The APC Presidential Campaign Council was inaugurated on the 7th of January 2015, with Mallam Garba Shehu appointed as its Director of Media & Publicity.
The Directorate of Media & Publicity under the leadership of Mallam Shehu subsequently inaugurated its own Members. On that day, Members drawn from diverse backgrounds, ranging from veteran journalists to new faces in the Print, Electronic Media (Broadcast) and Social Media were all in attendance. Garba Shehu didn’t waste time after the introduction of all members present to lay out the mandate of the Directorate or Committee as it came to be known.
The mandate was simple to understand. The time was ripe and right, the Nigerian Citizens, very resilient were already pushed to the wall, and nothing short of revolution, a “Change” was acceptable to the generality of the People. The Mandate simply dovetailed into the agenda of “Change” by the APC which represented hope for a better future.
It was made known to us earlier in time by the Director that the campaign was not going to be an easy one. The challenges ahead was enormous, the road to that journey crooked, resources especially money was very scarce. The Challenges swelled on the basis that the APC was pitched against the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which presented the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan. The PDP had it easy, counting on vast resources and a broader war chest to pull through the campaign period. The ruling party was obviously not expecting nothing short of victory.
Since I am writing about the Campaign experience from the perspective of the Sub Committee on Electronic Media (Broadcast), I should point out that I was privileged to be the head, although I was not the leader from the beginning. I could not have been when we had veteran and most experienced Broadcasters and other distinguished Nigerians in the Sub Committee. Yet, circumstances demanded I stepped into the shoes and lead the subcommittee much later in the Campaign. Nonetheless, I was passionate and committed like almost every member of the Committee throughout the Campaign period. Hence, this area will be limited to the Broadcast Subcommittee’s work.
As typical of Broadcasters that we were, at least most of us, we were loud, argumentative but very effective, all the same. We operated like close knit group and like an extended family. We were always the first group to complete its tasks and make presentations to the larger Committee of the Media & Publicity. Members of the Sub Committee on Broadcast were Mallam Dasuki Nakande, Ahmed Tijjani Ramalan, Muhammad Labbo, Hon. Austin Braimoh, Muazu Atafi, Abdulhamid Majia, Lauretta Onochie, Uzo Amadi, Ireti Ojekhoa, Bashir Ahmad, Lady Gloria Ehiemua, Dr. Chidia Madukwe, myself (Barr. Aliyu Abdullahi) and Akeem A. Akintayo as the secretary.
Our first assignment in the Broadcast Sub Committee was to identify and make presentations on National, Regional and States TV and Radio Stations, their Advert and Jingle rates, slots in their political/current affairs programs and friendly Stations that we could utilize for goodwill. That first assignment was given to Dr. Chidia Madukwe and my humble self. We delivered within the stipulated time with the assistance of the rest of the team. Shortly after, the negative hate campaign in the form of one hour TV Documentary full of lies and inciting commentaries from the PDP Campaign Organisation started taking over the airwaves through some major TV Stations, the National Television Authority (NTA) and the Africa Independent Television (AIT).
The NTA, a Government TV Station was supposed to be neutral and fair to all Parties. It was expected to be a non-partisan and authoritative platform for airing the truth at all times for the benefit of the Nation, but they were not any of these. NTA was very Partisan and in the process relegated its role and became the mouthpiece of lies and deceits with the sole aim of projecting former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP as the only acceptable Candidate while our Candidate, then General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) was freely portrayed as a total dictator. AIT, a pro Jonathan TV Station with a wide network across the Country and large audience base was at the fore front of the Negative hate Campaign attack against our Candidate.
The Regulatory Body, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) looked the other way while illegal broadcasts were being aired by the two Stations. The hate Campaign was not only full of lies, but looked every bit a shoddy work done by the PDP Media Directorate; it was distasteful, inciting, capable of rupturing the relative peace in a very tensed Country.
On one occasion, during the Campaign, NBC called for a Stake Holders conference at the Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja on the conduct of the elections and Hate Campaign, and I seized the opportunity to address the then Director General (Mr. Emeka Mba). Without mincing words, I faulted the regulatory body for not abiding by its Code, for being Partisan and allowing the continuous airing of the hate campaigns from the two Stations against our Candidate and the Peace of the Nation.
Mr. Emeka Mba responded, and told the meeting that NBC had sanctioned the culpable stations with fines. I responded that the NBC should suspend their licenses as the sanctions were not effective since the breaches were still ongoing. This is because, while the Conference was taking place, the hate campaign messages were still being aired even in the presence of both the Management of AIT and NTA.
On our side, we decided to counter the hate campaign in two ways, one by doing our own TV Documentary titled “The Lies and the Truths” showing the lies in their TV Documentary for all discerning minds to deduce the truth. Secondly we agreed not to attack the personality of the PDP Candidate, the then President Goodluck Jonathan, but to attack the failures of his Administration in virtually every sector in the Country. The Jonathan’s Government had nothing to show for its almost six year of existence. We started attacking sector by sector and our messages were received well by Nigerians simply because they represented the truth.
In doing that, we spent a considerable amount of time in research and acquiring materials from vendors. We tailored the information collated to our needs. We packaged what we wanted in form of 60 seconds jingle which was about the only item of Broadcast that we could afford to pay for its production and subsequent airing in some major TV and Radio Stations along with other Friendly Stations that did not collect a dime from us.
The process of reviewing the works was tedious and time consuming. After each review, we would make recommendations to the Director, Mallam Garba Shehu who upon approval would revert back to us to get the APCON’s clearance for airing. APCON was also afraid to approve some of our works they considered too critical of the Government of the day. Consequently, some of our works were denied clearance while those from the PDP Campaign Office were always cleared. That was a classical case of partisanship by an organization that was supposed to maintain neutrality and safeguard what goes out as Advertisement to the airwaves in the Country.
In addition to the 60 seconds jingles we acquired from vendors outside, we set up a small production unit within the Sub Committee headed by Mrs. Ireti Ojekhoa with assistance from Lauretta Onochie, Dr. Chidia Madukwe, and Uzo Amadi to make productions of mini TV Documentaries, they were a success story and very frugal with the little resources allocated to them. In addition to that, Muhammad Labbo was commissioned to do another TV Documentary centred on the life of the Candidate which came at the end of the Campaign and was converted to a victory TV Documentary and was subsequently aired during i inauguration. Nigerians received the Documentary with great enthusiasm.
The 6 weeks postponement of the General Elections from 15th of February to 28th of March 2015 by the then Government of Goodluck Jonathan under the pretext of insecurity in the North East was a calculated and deliberate attempt to render the APC Campaign of General Muhammadu Buhari practically broke. All opinion polls were in favor of our Candidate, and the PDP Campaign needed time to strategize and strengthen their rigging mechanism. Again, there was one huge problem; the newly introduced Card Reader Device by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the Chairmanship of the distinguished Professor Attahiru Jega. This was no doubt a challenge to the PDP which felt it could not win a fair and free elections. The postponement afforded them more time to test all manner of ways to beat the card reader device by experts who came from across the word.
We were disappointed with this maneuver and lack of level playing field while we contended with the problem of cash crunch. Our Candidate flew to United Kingdom to rest and to present a paper at the famous Chatam House in London. With his trip to London, most of the APC Campaign Council Directorates closed shop but not the Media & Publicity Directorate. We continued to work, attend political talk show programs at TV and Radio Stations across the Country. A lot of Media Houses were sympathetic to our situation and accorded us slots in their programs freely.
I must not conclude without mentioning some of the Media Houses that stood by us in those days and hours of need. These include, Channels TV, TVC Lagos, Liberty TV, Radio Kaduna, Freedom Radio Kano, Nigeria Info Abuja, ITV Benin, Unity FM Radio Jos, Vision FM Radio Abuja, WE FM Abuja, Rahma Radio Kano and some few privately owned Stations across the Country. We were grateful for those gesture of kindness.
What will be will always be, our victory looked inevitable… by the end of the six weeks postponement, our message of “Change” anchored on the tripod of Fight against Insecurity, Fight against Corruption, Economy/Job Creation has resonated well with most Nigerians and defeat was starring the PDP Campaign in the face despite the monumental amount of money spent on their Campaign. The plans to rig and disenfranchise Nigerians from voting, render the use of the Card Reader a nullity were largely unsuccessful not for want of efforts, but due to the fact that for the first time in a long while, Nigerians decided to take their destiny in their hands and gave the ruling PDP a befitting answer to its wasteful sixteen years of misrule. They voted our Candidate, then General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) on the 28th Mach, 2015. That ushered in a new Administration, People’s Government, the “Change” Administration, a new development in our democracy, power changing hands from a Ruling party to an opposition Party without the Country breaking as earlier predicted by many. Finally, it would not be out place to state that the Media and Publicity committee of the APC Presidential Campaign would not have been successful without the able leadership of Mallam Garba Shehu and the help of his two Deputies, Paul Ibe and Ayobanmi Oyalowo.
A Memoir written by Barr. Aliyu Abdullahi, Head, Sub Committee on Broadcast of the Media & Publicity Directorate of the APC Presidential Campaign Council 2015.