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Political Campaigns: Stakeholders Urge Advertisers, Politicians To Conform With ARCON Act

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L-R; Director General, Centre for media and development, Barr. Charles Odenigbo; Director General, Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo; Chairman of the occasion, Akin Odunsi; Guest Speaker, Former Resident Electoral Commissioner, Lagos State, Akin Orebiyi; Chairperson, Advertising Standards Panel, ARCON, Omowunmi Owodunni during the ARCON forum meeting. Theme: Political Advertising: Leadership responsibility and compliance with law in Nigeria in Lagos yesterday.

The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, ARCON, has urged advertisers and politicians to comply with the newly enacted ARCON Act in light of the 2023 general elections.

This was reiterated at a leadership forum organised by ARCON last Tuesday in Lagos. The forum themed, “Political Advertising: Leadership Responsibility & Compliance with the Law in Nigeria” had in attendance stakeholders from the advertising council, National Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, politicians, the general public, and media practitioners.

The Director General of ARCON, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, while giving his welcome speech said the forum was organised to sensitise advertisers and communication experts on the need to abide by the new ARCON Act in their communication materials as political campaigns will officially open from September 2022.

He said, “This is the third in a series, we have done it in Kano, Ilorin and Lagos being the third city, we will still move round the country. The purpose is to sensitise the political gladiators and their stakeholders to make them understand the need to apply etiquette in political campaigns. The political campaign period is always filled with misinformation, comparative advertising, etc.

“The forum is very much needed because it is coming after the assent to the act which repels the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON law and enacts the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, the ARCON law. The new act has increased the statutory functions and powers of ARCON in other to ensure a comprehensive regulation of all advertising, advertisement, and marketing communications, including those relating to political campaigns in Nigeria.

“With the new law, the definition of advertising has been broadened. The two key issues involved are the advertisements and the sponsors of advertisement as it relates to political campaigns. Political advertisement has been a major point of contention around the world and Nigeria has not been an exception. Regulatory frameworks are made and shaped to repel the negative consequences which usually trail such campaigns. My details of career in the advertising industry avail me of requisite information and experience on the effect of political advertising in several pre and post-election period in Nigeria.

“Close monitoring sadly shows that as much as the media has provided the podium for the unapproved political campaign to strive, the action of promoters or propagators of such political ideas and causes are the foremost factor that deserves to be addressed. Every political party is thereby encouraged to be very conscious in character as well as in their actions.”

Dr. Fadolapo further reiterated that the forum was designed to inspire, Nigerians by enabling mutual respect and tolerance of diverse views for a more united Nigeria.

“The role of interest groups in ensuring compliance with the rule of law with a view of eradicating unethical political advertisement in all its forms should not be diluted. The political parties, candidates, media, and all relevant stakeholders should realise their potential and pursue it diligently as they are all gatekeepers,” he said.

The forum had a panel session comprising communications experts, ARCON members, and an official from the electoral umpire, INEC, as panelists who spoke on the need for advertisers and politicians to come up with communication strategies and issue-based political campaigns ahead of the 2023 general election.

Chaired by communications expert and politician, Senator Akinola Odunsi, the forum had Mr. Olusegun Agbaje, Resident Commissioner, INEC Lagos State, represented by Mr. Adebisi Oladepo, Administrative Registrar, INEC, Lagos State, Hon. Aniekan Umanah, Barr. Charles Odenigbo, Mrs. Bunmi Oke, Mrs. Omowunmi Owodunni, and Dr. Chibuike Ogwumike as panelists.

While delivering his remark, Senator Odunsi, who commended the DG’s unrelenting efforts to improve the practice of advertising in Nigeria said he looked forward to knowing more about the law as it seems more like a government regulatory body, which was not the intention of the founding fathers of APCON now known as ARCON.

“Dr. Fadolapo has done quite a lot since he became the registrar of APCON and now the DG of ARCON. We are very much proud of him. Though ARCON is sounding like a government parastatal, when the founders of APCON started, I don’t think we intended it to be a government regulatory body. Our intention, then, was that we will set up an advertising practitioners council and get an enabling law, a decree as it were to give it support, give it backing, and occasionally seeks grants from the government. That way, we would have been a professional body just like we have with the Nigerian Bar Association and the other bodies.

Cross-section of the panelists at the forum

“Anyway, we have come a long way. At the appropriate time, I will get to know more about ARCON, and its intention. But as it is, it is here, and it is now a regulatory body, and the budget must be presented to the National Assembly every year; and we know what it means to be a government organ. But I think the Director General is an experienced advertising administrator with great track records.”

In her speech, CEO/ Lead Consultant Ladybird Ltd., Mrs. Bunmi Oke, called on the need for politicians to engage the service of professional advertising agencies and ARCON registered practitioners for their electoral communications. This, she said would prevent misinformation.

“If you have worked in this industry, you work with different segments of the society. CBN vets, NAFDAC vets, and so many other bodies. We are just getting to the point where the political class is realising that there is something called ARCON that vets advertising. Working with professionals will save you all the troubles. The first problem is that many of the people running political campaigns are not professionals, hence the campaign blunders. Even the level to which they are exposed, they don’t have the knowledge of working across industries,” she added.

On the concerns about delays in the vetting of communications materials by the Advertising Standards Panel, ASP, an organ of ARCON, the Chairperson, Mrs. Omowunmi Owodunni reassured the agencies that the arm is ready to perform its responsibilities in terms of vetting and improving of all advertisement that will be exposed in Nigeria.

“We have started putting resources in place. We do have our regular meetings which will have to increase at this point in time to accommodate the barrage and of course even from the backend, we are quite well resourced to take on all the responsibilities. Be rest assured that all the political ads will be vetted and approved without delay, she said.

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