Petition Against The Patently Partisan And Unprofessional Conduct Of Thisday Newspapers Regarding The Public Opinion Poll (Pop) That Deliberately Aims To Boost The Electoral Fortunes Of Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) In April 2011 Elections

 

Dear Sir: 1. On the March 8, 2011 edition of Thisday Newspaper pages 8&9; writing under the rider-‘Gauging the pre-election mood of Nigerians’-the tabloid gave a 73% “somewhat” or “strongly agreed” with the statement that “President Goodluck Jonathan is doing a good job as a President”.

2,   The Newspaper further stated inter-alia, “currently support for the incumbent president in his role as candidate for 2011 presidential office is strong and cuts across the majority of states, this clearly is raising the bar for the other presidential candidates and raises the question on how will they be able to sway the people towards voting for them in the five weeks that are left before the presidential elections.”

3,   But in a swift reaction to this polling outcome, Mr John Campbell, the American former ambassador to Nigeria wrote: “According to a recent opinion poll in Nigeria, 38.1 percent of  respondents “strongly agree” and 34.9 percent “somewhat agree,” “that Goodluck Jonathan is doing a good job as president.” The poll even shows Jonathan with a one hundred percent positive approval rate in Akwa Ibom state, and an average positive performance rating of about ninety percent in the southern states. His lowest score was in Kano with 22.5 percent, but he had an overall approval rate in the North of sixty percent.
The poll was conducted by This Day, a newspaper that is sympathetic to the Jonathan administration, and Ipsos, an international polling organization under contract to the paper.

I am skeptical that this poll accurately measures Jonathan’s support. Indeed, an approval rating of one hundred percent anywhere stretches credulity. While opinion polls are not unknown in Nigeria, they are not common, either.
Shortly before the 2007 elections, a government cabinet minister came to see me with polling results that ostensibly showed overwhelming support for the governing People’s Democratic Party. In hindsight, the Obasanjo government’s sharing of poll results with the diplomatic community looks like it was part of an orchestrated campaign to try and give credibility to the electoral outcomes despite the massive PDP rigging of the elections. Friends of Nigeria must hope that polling data is not now being used in a similar way before the April 2011 elections.”

4,   In the March 21, 2011 edition front page of Thisday Newspapers and writing under the rider, “Jonathan leads with 60%, PDP may lose four states”, the paper inter-alia asserted that “80% of the polled voters said they would vote for Jonathan (PDP Presidential).”

5,   When asked about the challenges faced in conducting the Poll, the CEO of IPSOS(Sub-Saharan Africa), David Somers asserted that: “ What is challenging in our own opinion is the share mass and size of Nigeria. First and foremost, it’s very large country in terms of space and size and a very complex country in terms of culture, heterogeneous, many different languages and it’s always a difficult place to get to. It’s far away places. So we had the challenge of culture on one hand and the challenge of demographic complexity on the other hand. Also we realized this sort of thing has not been done a lot in Nigeria. So one of the biggest challenges perhaps is that we didn’t have many benchmarks to work on, we didn’t have many comparisons to use when going into interviews. So I will say those were some of the challenges we faced.”

6,    The foreign Polling consultant, however, did not mention how those impediments were overcome: how many different Nigerian languages’ experts were employed for the face to face interviews; how the impassable terrains of the rural  communities were navigated; how many rural communities (where the preponderance of the voters reside) were visited?

7,    The entire exercise was predicated on the statistical random sampling with its universally accepted principles. One of which is that the size of the sample is determined by the optimum number necessary to enable valid inferences to be made about the population. The larger the sample size, the smaller the chance of a random sampling error. It is still opaque to the ordinary Nigerians how a sample size of 11,000 respondents was used to capture over seventy three million (73Million) voters spread across the various geo-political zones in the country.

8,   Furthermore, Probability sampling scheme is one in which every unit in the population has a chance (greater than zero) of being selected in the sample, and this probability can be adequately determined. What is of critical importance here are the criteria were used in determining the 11,000 respondents and was there Equal Probability of Selection (EPS) for all the 73Million registered Nigerian voters?

9,     With the completion of the Voters’ registration exercise in early February, 2011, an initial figure of 63 Million voters and later revision two weeks’ later to 73Million voters was reported by the Independent National Electoral Commission; it is therefore germane for the purpose of enlightening Nigerians the duration for the Polling project by IPSOS and the collation/interpretation of the result.

10,   It is frightening to conjecture that a credible polling project could be conducted in less than a two-week duration for a country with such land mass over 900square kilometers with extremely difficult terrains, unpredictable weather and over 350 ethnic communities with heterogeneous cultures and languages!

11,   It is doubtful if a truly professional and realistic polling endeavor was conducted which could be relied upon with much gusto for a Nation in the circumstances as Nigeria’s.

12,    It is of interest to the Nigerian Public the funding for this project since it was Thisday Newspaper that contracted IPSOS to conduct the survey. How much did it cost and from where did the source of funding come from?

13,   If it was funded by Thisday Newspaper, was it a ‘PRO BONO’ service as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? If yes, being a National project, why was there no collaboration with other Media houses of corporate entities in Nigeria?

14,    It is inconceivable that with the seething anger of the Nigerian Public against the twelve years of profligacy by the ruling party, coupled with the recent celebration of recidivism in Lagos by the chieftains of the same ruling party in loudly welcoming a jailed chieftain from prison; a POP will post remarkable result which is diametrically opposed to the mood of the Nation!

15,   The defense of IPSOS as having 30-year polling experience does not preclude it from sacrificing professionalism for clientele approval (as was the case of Arthur Andersen in the celebrated Halliburton saga)!

16,    It is axiomatic that factual, accurate, balanced and fair reporting are the hallmarks of good journalism and the basis for earning public trust and confidence.

17,   It is therefore of National interest that a thorough investigation be conducted on the professionalism of Thisday Newspaper in projecting the image of Journalism with the utterly untidy Polling project.

18,   I look forward to reading soon from you.
Thank you.
Yours faithfully,

Rotimi Fashakin(Engr.)

To: The President,
Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ),
Festus Okotie-Eboh crescent,
Abuja.

Cc:  The President, Nigerian Guild of Editors
Cc:  The President, Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria.

 

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