In Defence of Press Night: Beyond Formality


Olanshile Ogunrinu

Press Night in the University of Ibadan has long been a cornerstone in the campus political space. Aspiring student politicians present their manifestos to the Press, they are scrutinized and made to answer questions that delve into the feasibility and sensibility of their plans. However, the current state of Press nights as  mere formality raises concerns about its efficacy in shaping the electoral process. Over the time, Press nights have evolved into a ritualistic event, often separated from its potential to influence the electoral process. In the view of this development, it is time, as conscientious and progressive students, to transcend the current formality and imbue press night with a more substantive role in shaping the campus political trajectory.

Press night, in its current state, has become a ritual that precedes the day of the election. Candidates don on corporate attires, field questions from the Press, and receive scores indicating their performance. Despite this seemingly structured process, the disconnect between the event and its impact on candidates is palpable. It raises questions about whether the Press night is fulfilling its intended purpose or has merely become a box to check before the actual election day. One glaring issue is the reduction of Press night to numerical scores, diminishing its role to a quantitative representation. In recent years, there has been a noticeable tendency among candidates to view Press night as a mere formality, an obligatory step to be completed, rather than an opportunity to genuinely engage with the Press and the student body. The ritualistic nature of candidates donning corporate attire and going through the motions without a sincere commitment to articulating their plans reflects a disconnect between the event’s potential and its current execution. It is trite to acknowledge the untapped potential of these results and move beyond their role as mere metrics. Press nights should serve as means for substantive decision-making, providing nuanced insights into candidates’ capabilities, beyond what numerical scores can convey.

Concerted efforts need to be mustered by all stakeholders involved to strengthen the Press night as a platform that really matters in the electoral process, and not just as one of the formalities to be observed during the election season. Some candidates exhibit a lackadaisical attitude  because they believe that Press night results hold no bearing on their overall candidacy. This perception undermines the purpose of the event and contributes to an electorate that may not be fully informed. To elevate the significance of Press nights as an important tool in evaluating and ensuring that capable students emerge to serve, some metrics must be added, which include and are not limited to being a disqualification criteria. A minimum performance threshold such as scoring below 50  should lead to disqualification as applicable with the screening. Scoring below the pass mark is an indication that the candidate lacks knowledge about the roles of the office he/she is vying for, and foisting such a candidate on students will be a great disservice to the university community.

Press night results could play a vital role in resolving tie situations in election outcomes. By incorporating the performance from this event as a tiebreaker, the importance of candidates taking Press nights seriously amplifies. This proposed change ensures that even in scenarios where there are ties between candidates, a candidate’s performance in presenting their manifesto to the Press becomes a decisive factor. This tiebreaker mechanism not only adds value to Press night, but also motivates candidates to invest time and effort in preparing for the event, understanding its potential impact on their candidacy.

Strengthening the credibility and effectiveness of the electoral process is perhaps the most far-reaching benefit of an impactful Press night. As Press night gains prominence as a decisive factor in candidate evaluation, the electoral process becomes a more reliable mechanism for identifying capable leaders. The public trust in the system is boosted when candidates are scrutinized not just for their scores, but for their ability to articulate and defend their plans convincingly. This increased credibility translates to greater confidence in the elected leaders, building a sense of legitimacy and responsiveness.

In conclusion, Press nights in the University of Ibadan have the potential to be more than a pre-election ritual. By redefining its role and utilising the results effectively, it can become a powerful instrument for shaping the future of campus politics. Embracing these changes is not just a call for reform, but a commitment to a more informed, engaged, and impactful student body in the democratic process.  There is the necessity to raise the bar to ensure that only the most qualified individuals progress, leading to a more competent and effective student leadership.

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