The sordid intrigues and high stakes politicking that characterised events which played out in Lagos State outdoor advertising sector, in the build-up to Nigeria’s 2015 General Elections, have been laid out in George Noah’s new book, 2015 Elections: The Politics of Outdoor Advertising in Lagos State.
Comprising 22 chapters, the book is authored by Noah, who served as immediate past Managing Director of Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA), and piloted the agency through the volatile elections of that year. He was in the eye of the storm, with federal authorities and opposition groups in Lagos engaging LASAA in a battle of attrition famously dubbed ‘The Lagos Poster War’.
Covering a broad array of subjects and themes, which expound the issues that transpired, Noah sifts through the labyrinth of complexities, distilling facts from fiction. In so doing, he sets the record straight and offers a refreshingly unique and insightful perspective of the narratives of the time through his upfront yet inventive style of writing.
George Noah gives an overview of the outdoor advertising sector in Lagos State. He further sheds light on LASAA’s guidelines geared towards ensuring decorous outdoor campaign during the period; the fault lines that exposed initial cracks in enforcing the guidelines; and complicity by law enforcement agents in the spate of impunity that marred outdoor political campaigns.
The author dwells on measures that may be taken to guard against a partisan stance by law enforcement agents in future elections; the role played by groups such as the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) and the Goodluck Lagos Grassroots Project (GLGP) in escalating the crisis. He also addresses issues related to the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Jimi Agbaje’s open letter to LASAA.
The roughshod approach adopted by the then PDP-led Federal Government, which culminated in the termination of all forms of outdoor advertising along major federal government roads in Lagos State, is perspicaciously chronicled in the book. Noah also beams the spotlight on protests that occasioned the Federal Government’s actions.
It was a period of great intimidation, and the threats made against the author and how he addressed them, are elucidated in the book. The author gives an analysis of the cost of the outdoor campaigns in Lagos State, including billboards, wall drapes, bus shelters, street lampoles, hat boxes, branded buses and cars, branded T-shirts, posters, banners, experiential activities, and stick-in-the-ground.
The book also sheds light on the tit-for-tat battles that inevitably occasioned some unpleasant incidents in the course of the outdoor campaign and equally focuses on media coverage, with narratives from print and online publications and outlets that reported on the standoff.
Noah gives details of LASAA’s determination to restore sanity following conclusion of the elections, with the implementation of an Augean task – to rid Lagos of the visual blight caused by the unrestrained use of posters and other political campaign materials.
The recycling initiatives undertaken by LASAA to dispose off over a million campaign posters deployed, with the support of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and stimulus packages introduced thereafter – in a bid to rekindle investment in the outdoor sector – also form topics of discourse.
The popularity of A-Frames during the campaign period and airborne mediums that were overlooked, also form the backdrop of discourse. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. The 2015 political campaign period was also a time for thinking big in the outdoor industry, with innovative and ambitious structures that broke the mould, some of which had never been displayed before in Nigeria. This is also worth remembering and is summarised in the chapters.
There is of course a need for reflection and forward thinking, now, even as the electioneering wounds inflicted on the out-of-home advertising industry are yet to heal. It is in view of this that the concluding chapter underscores the need for proactive steps to be taken to foreclose a reoccurrence.
The book more so looks into the challenges faced by outdoor regulatory agencies during the period of electioneering, as well as the potential personal risks faced by personnel of these agencies. It ultimately seeks to prevent a repeat of the controversial events that engulfed the outdoor industry in the course of campaigning for the 2015 general elections in Lagos State, while highlighting the positive and defining narratives that unfolded.
A technocrat, and political activist, Noah was a founding member of Radio Kudirat and has over 35 years experience in virtually all aspects of the media. A pioneer member of Made In Nigeria (MAIN) Festival Group, Noah is also Publisher of Island News and Chief Executive Officer who midwifed TV Continental (TVC) and Radio Continental in Lagos.
George Kayode Noah previously worked for Insight Communications Limited in Nigeria, the Greater London Council (GLC) and British Telecom International (BTI) in the UK and Media Empowerment for Africa (MEFA) in Norway. Whilst domiciled in London, he was appointed Chairman of the London Borough of Southwark Co-operative Development Agency (SCDA) in 1992. In June 2014, whilst at LASAA, Noah was awarded the honorary title of Lagos State Man Of The Year.