28 April 2014

Nigeria: Pro-Jonathan Groups Spend Big for 2015

Many political groups rooting for President Goodluck Jonathan's re-election are spending lots of money in media campaigns, raising questions about their source of funding.

Daily Trust correspondents observed that the groups, most of which propped up this year, have been sponsoring expensive television jingles, newspaper advertisements and billboards in strategic locations in the past months.

Their messages are generally about the president's achievements and the need to consolidate them by having him re-elected in 2015.

This is happening even though the president has yet to officially declare if he would run.

Some of the organisations are shadowy, while others have come forward to hold public rallies and hold news conference.

Daily Trust investigations found that at least 10 such groups have been engaged in the media spending frenzy, likely amounting to dozens of millions.

Two of the groups take regular prime television slots everyday on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), African Independent Television (AIT) and Channels Television. They are the Protectors of Nigerian Prosperity and the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN).

A one-minute advert slot on 9pm NTA Network News costs about N800,000 while on Newsline on Sunday, the slot costs N1 million.

On AIT, a minute jingle on prime-time is N625,000 while Channels TV charges N279,000 for a similar slot, according to insiders who spoke to Daily Trust.

The groups running newspaper advertisements include Defenders of Nigeria's Democracy, Niger Delta Residents Alliance, Goodluck Jonathan Leadership Centre, National Coalition for Jonathan and Sambo Presidency, Dynamic Delta Ladies, The Transformation Network, Goodluck Initiative for Transformation (GIFT), and Jonathan/Sambo 2015 Forum.

They have run series of insertions of mostly colour pages in the major national dailies, including Daily Trust, Thisday, Vanguard and Leadership over the past two months. The average cost of colour page advertisement in the major newspapers is about N600,000 per page.

There are also billboards in strategic locations of Abuja, most of them erected in March and April, with categorical messages asking Nigerians to vote for Jonathan in 2015.

Advertising agency officials told Daily Trust that placing an advert on the billboards costs up to N15 million yearly.

"The cost is based on appeal, location and class of the intended audience," one official said yesterday.

Questions over funding

There have been questions over the source of funding for the pro-Jonathan groups, with suggestions that government may be behind them.

But the Presidency yesterday said it had no links with the groups, and that no government money is involved what they were doing.

The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Barrister Ahmed Gulak, in a telephone chat with Daily Trust, said the groups are volunteers spending their own money.

Gulak also argued that they were not engaged in any presidential election campaign because there was no candidate yet.

"These groups you are talking about are volunteers. Neither Mr President nor the Presidency is sponsoring any one of them," Gulak said.

"They are spending their own money on those activities you talked about like adverts in newspapers and jingles in the electronic media as well as erecting billboards. It is their own money they are spending.

"They are not campaigning now because there is no candidate yet. So, you cannot say they are violating any rule since what they are doing is not a campaign."

'He must stand'

Jonathan has not officially declared his intention to seek re-election in 2015 but it is widely believed that he would be in the race.

Daily Trust reported last week that the president may make a formal declaration next month.

One of the supporters groups, "GIFT 2015", with office at Wuse II of Abuja, said it would compel Jonathan to contest in the elections.

Its national coordinator Chinedu Okpalanma said they had no links with former Aviation Minister Stella Oduah, who was the arrowhead of Jonathan's campaign groups in the 2011 elections.

On March 31, Okpalanma led other groups for a "March in March" solidarity rally for President Jonathan's government, where they urged the president to seek re-election.

Another man being associated with 'GIFT', Mr. Daniel Kanu, told Daily Trust he was not behind the group but was coming up with his own association to canvass support for Jonathan.

"People have been trying to associate me with all kinds of organisations but I have my own, known as the New Deal, which I am bringing up to campaign for President Goodluck Jonathan," he said.

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