Ayantola Alayande's research
Ayantola studied election observers in Nigeria
Election Observers in the News: Media Perception and Representation of Election Observation Groups in Nigeria's 2019 General Elections
One keenly debated aspect of election observation in Africa is observers’ assessment of elections, especially their reluctance to make pronouncements on election quality using bimodal terms like '(un)free' and '(un)fair'. Despite this, many observer groups have been victims of the oversimplification of their statements and reports by the media. Yet, the question of how observers are represented in the media has received relatively little or no attention in the election observation literature. Addressing this gap, this study explores the media coverage of 9 foreign and domestic observation groups during Nigeria’s 2019 general elections. Using a combination of expert interviews and a desk review of media content and observation reports, it argues that both the Nigerian and international news media misrepresented observers’ statements and/or reports on the elections. It shows how Nigerian journalists’ limited understanding of the work of observers created a mismatch between what observers said and what the media reported.
This dissertation gave me an opportunity to work in a field I was entirely new to; a purely ‘politics’ research, rather than my usual interest in economic-related studies. It was also thrilling handling my own project; from designing the study parameters, to the fieldwork and writing up. I had great time interacting with political stakeholders and coming up with policy-relevant findings!