18 December 2018

Nigeria: Campaign Spending By Leading Political Parties May Double 2015 Figures

Photo: Atiku Abubakar/Twitter
Atiku Abubakar in Sokoto.

The election campaigns kicked off about a month ago, and the season is full of prospects, especially for the media outfits, as the two major political parties, All Progressive Congress (APC) and People's Democratic Party (PDP), battle it all out to clinch the ultimate prize of presidency.

Nigeria has a history of not disclosing election-spending figures, and data is equally unavailable on the actual spending of politicians on campaigns. But going by the volume of materials churned out through the different communication materials on all platforms for political parties, billions of naira was spent in the 2015 election campaigns.

A report by Compliance and Content Monitoring Ltd (CCM) revealed that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Party (APC) spent a combined N3.23 billion on political campaign advertisements in 2015 general elections. The report said PDP spent about N2.5 billion (77 per cent) and APC spent N728 million (23 per cent).

APC's National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Onillu-Isa said no one could determine the spending profile of the party during the campaigns, adding, "Whatever I will say here will be in the realm of conjectures."

Another APC spokesperson, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said he could not put a figure to how much would be spent on the campaigns considering the nature of the president who does not believe in unnecessary spending.

"I know all the media houses are very important to driving the campaigns, but the social media I would say, is diverting some of the freebies, Igbokwe said. It is fast and has wider reach. I don't think the print and broadcast media would get as mush as they have always gotten in the past.

"I also don't think more money would be spent on political campaigns; I mean, the kind of president and governor we have do not condone such; they don't spend money anyhow."

Advertising experts have argued that this year's campaign will be different because of voter apathy due to prevailing economic situation.

The Vice President of Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) Steve Babaeko told The Guardian, "From all of the excitement of the last election it seems as if the electorate are a bit jaded. There's nothing exciting that any of the parties are throwing up. If nothing is done we may just witness the lowest voter turnout ever."

Considering the limited time politicians have to campaign, Babaeko said they need mass media platforms to hit the base, including all the crannies of the country, adding, "The digital space is another country entirely and no party wants to be caught outside the circle of the heated conversations going on there."

Former Director-General of National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, opined that the advertising market in Nigeria has evolved since the last election and is still evolving quite rapidly, pointing at NCC's estimate of over 104million internet users in the country.

"That is a vast market in advertising, especially in political advertising. In the wider media industry, we reached the crossover point in the past three years in which expenditure on digital advertising began to edge expenditure on the traditional platforms. This trend is going to deepen in this political season as politicians seek to turn out the youth demographic who are the main drivers of enthusiasm, turn out and ballot protection.

Odinkalu said he could not place an explicit figure on how much would be spent on media campaigns, but noted, "but I am confident that the numbers will outstrip those for 2015 geometrically."

Chief Creative Officer, Noah's Ark Communications, Mr. Lanre Adisa, said the stakes are higher this time and stressed the likelihood of higher advert spends by both parties.

Head, Advertising The Guardian, Mr. Peter Obiebi, said, "Advertisement revenue usually goes up during political campaigns for a short time, then it declines after the campaigns and elections. It then goes up again with the congratulatory messages.

He said the two major candidates would want to outdo each other with all manner of campaign messages.

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