The Press In Nigerian Politics: Analysis Of Issues And Patterns Of News Coverage

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

The Press In Nigerian Politics: Analysis Of Issues And Patterns Of News Coverage


This project is on “the press in Nigerian politics: with analysis of issues and patterns of news coverage.

The aim of the study is to find out whether or not the Nigerian press is selective in its report of similar political issues that affect the progress and functioning of the nation or not.

To carry out this research, the research, the researcher adopted the survey research method.  A total of 200 samples were used to represent the sex (male and female) of Enugu Metropolis.

A questionnaire was constructed for the study.  The questionnaire is made up of 17 questions that were administered to respondents.  They were later collected.  The data contained in them were carefully analysed.

There was the review of relevant literature for the study.  Summary of the finding was given, conclusions were drawn, while the researcher made some recommendations at the end up the study.

Among the many findings of this study, is that the press in Nigerian politics is a direct force in creating awareness, shaping perception, informing and educating the general masses.

Table Of Contents

Preliminary Page(s)

  • Title page
  • Certification page
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • Abstract

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

  • 1.1 Background of the study
  • 1.2 Statement of research problems
  • 1.3 Objective of the study
  • 1.4 Research questions
  • 1.5 Research hypotheses
  • 1.6 Definitions of terms
  • 1.7 Assumptions
  • 1.8 Significance of the study
  • 1.9 Limitation of the study
  • 1.10 Theoretical frame work

Chapter Two

2.0 Review of Literature

  • 2.1 The review
  • 2.2 Media ownership and control
  • 2.3 Pre independence press
  • 2.4 Press in 1998 election and transition
  • 2.5 Summary of literature

Chapter Three

3.0 Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Research design
  • 3.2 Population
  • 3.3 Samples
  • 3.4 Measuring instruments
  • 3.5 Nature of questionnaire
  • 3.6 Data collection
  • 3.7 Data analysis

Chapter Four

4.0 Data Analysis and Result

  • 4.1 Sample characteristics
  • 4.2 Testing of hypothesis

Chapter Five

5.0 Summary and Recommendation

  • 5.1 Summary
  • 5.2 Recommendation
  • Bibliography

Chapter One


1.1 Background Of The Study

The development of Nigerian politics is interwoven with that of the press. The early press, notably Townsend’s Iwe Irolin fun awon oti Egba Yoruba, the Nigerian first newspaper was used as a political progranda tool to fight the colonial administration in Lagos during the struggle for Independence. Idowu (2001:55) reports that the newspaper was so effective that the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in England found it necessary to caution Townsend over his “excesses” in 1963. he further comments that a year later, governor freeman complained to the home government that Iwe Irohim was “aggravating problems of foreign policy”.

This explains why the press is viewed as a very powerful weapon in the hands up both the government and the governed. It is the seeming efficacy of the media that Ngene (2001:1) writes that “As an institution, the press has been described variously”. Some people see and perceive it as the “watch dog of the society”, some describes it as a “mirrow” through which society sees itself as it is. In similar vein, others describe the press as “the unrecognized fourth arm of government”.

This later description of the press gave rise to the tag on the press all over the world as the “fourth estate of the realin”, thus being accorded the fourth position on the hierarchy of leadership in a democratic society. The other arms of government being referred to include the executive, judiciary and legislature.

As the fourth estate of the realm, press enhances not only the smooth operation, performance and interactions between the various arms of government in the service of the people, but also prevents any operation of the people by these arms of government.

Similarly, the press in performing its “watch dog role”, Edeani (1993:80) posits that press the press is supposed to keep a watchful eye on what the government is doing and has the obligation on behalf of the public to criticize the government whenever it thinks that the government has not performed in the public interest.

This not withstanding, the pen profession, like any other profession can also affect a society – negatively or positively. On the positive side, the press (mass-media) appear to possess unequalled and unparallel capacities and capabilities to unveil, portray and reflect the society in which it operates.

On the negative aspect, Kenneth Kaunda, a Former Zambian President explains “given appropriate conditions, the press can cause war or create peace. It can promote development or create difficulties in ways of development”.

What the above statement by Kaunda simply means, is that it is counter productive for any society to create conditions that would provide the press the opportunity of exhibiting its negative traits since the consequences are always far-reaching.

Mahatma Ghandi acknowledges this much when he said “the press is a great power but as an unchained torrent submerges the whole country side and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy”.

Okunna (2001:75) supports the press for its roles in politics when she says the history of the press in many societies shows that journalists have always been in the forefront of the struggle for freedom. The best journalists, that is, those who distinguish themselves and stand out among their peers are journalists who speak for the people/or grant people access to the media.

1.2 Statement Of Research Problem

This work sets out to determine the role of the press in Nigerian politics particularly its patterns of reporting and analysing political issues, crises and struggle since their pre-independence era. For quite a long time now, as could be observed from the preceding studies, the press have proved to be a potent tool used in shaping, altering, perceptions and causing attitude change.

The press (radio, television, newspapers, and magazines) are used to lend credence, support, and authenticity to certain political issues, political office holders and parties yet, little or no effort has been made to find out the impact of continuous press participation in the nations politics.

Based on the above, the researcher therefore deem it expedient and purposeful to investigate the role of the press in politics. A historical analysis of issues and patterns of news coverage.

1.3 Objectives Of The Study

The main objectives of the study is to find out whether or not the Nigerian press is selective in its report of similar political issues that affect the progress and functioning of the nation or not.

The study will also find out the circumstances and the reasons for the performances of the press especially in periods of political crisis. This study will further strive to ascertain what was responsible for the dearth of investigative reporting during the period and the in updating of the payes of newspapers and magazines with personalities who hold and support similar views as the newspaper organizations they work for.

Similarly, this study will determine the implications of using the press for pure sectional, ethnic and religions biased coverage’s of events.

1.4 Research Questions

For the purpose of carrying out this study effectively, the following research questions have been formulated to guide the study.

  1. Do Nigerians thinks that the press was selective in its coverage of similar political issues in the country?
  2. Does ownership and location of a media organisation affect its patterns of news coverage on politics, events, and political issues?
  3. What implication does investigative reporting and a high preponderance of views/opinions in the press holds for the Nigerian press?
  4. Is sectional, ethnic and religious bias glaringly observe in the pattern of news coverage and analysis of issue by the Nigeria press?

1.5 Research Hypothesis

  1. H1: The Nigeria press is selection in its coverage of similar political stories and issues.
    H0: The Nigeria press is not selection in its coverage of similar political stories and issues.
  2. H2: Ownership and location of a media organization affect its pattern of news coverage on political issues and events.
    H0: Ownership and location of a media organization does not affect its pattern of news coverage on political issues and events.
  3. H3: Absence of well-investigated reports and stories have adverse effect on the image of the Nigerian press.
    H0: Absence of well-investigated reports and stories on political message does not affect the image of the Nigerian press.
  4. H4: The patterns of news coverage and analysis of issues by the Nigerian press do manifest incidents of sectional, religions and ethnic bias.
    H0: The patterns of news coverage and analysis of issues by the Nigerian press do not manifest cases of sectional, ethnic and religion bias.

1.6 Operational And Conceptional Definition Of Terms

At this point, it is necessary to define concepts under study both operationally and conceptionally. To this effect, the following concepts have to be defined: press, politics, analysis, issues, pattern, coverage.

Conceptional Definition:

Radio, Television, Periodicals – including newspapers, magazines, book, leadlets, that are used in Nigeria for the dissemination and transmission to widely dispersed audience.

Operational Definition:

In this study, press refers to the use of organs of mass-communication like radio, and television.

Conceptional Definition:

The art of science with guiding or influencing government policy, winning and holding control over a government.

Operational Definition:

The struggle for power and dominance, sharing and allocating of the country’s resources.

Conceptual Definition:

An examination of issues, events, and topics that are complex so as to elucidate and make its meaning clear.

Operational Definition:

In this study, it is the manner in which the media reports or packages political news to aid the struggle and quest for power and control of the nation.

Conceptual Definition:

These are important topics for discussion and argument.

Operational Definition:

These refer to policy, options or programmes put in place by media organization for the over-all purpose of advancing the country and politics.

Conceptual Definition

This is a design or reliable and systematical style or packaging news coverage’s.

Operational Definition:

Here, pattern is the way and manner the press/media organisation treats position and slant stories to favour a cause.

News Coverage
Conceptual Definition:

Conceptually, this means gathering and presentation of happenings, events peoples and places on newspapers, magazines, radio and television.

Operational Definition:

Operationally, the actual style, language, positioning and slant given to a story in any of the various organs of mass-communication in Nigeria.

1.7 Assumptions

The following assumptions are made:-

The critical, pungent and vocal posture of the Nigerian press on political happenings, events, and politics in Nigeria as well as its patterns of news coverage are responsible for the advancement of the nation.

That print and electronic channels as well as political messages and advertising have helped Nigeria to become a democratic nation.

Professional and credible discharge of functions by the press could lead to sustenance of democracy.

That the respondents are aware that the media of communication affect and reflect social, economic and political forces and processes.

1.8 Significance Of The Study

Circumstances have assigned the press (mass-media) in many countries the unique function of presenting and clarifying the goals and values of society.

The mass media are also expected to give the citizens of any country full access to the day’s intelligence. As a result of this role of the press, the greatest significance of this study lies in the provision of an insight into what the Nigerian news media’s sojourn and participation in politics holds for the country.

In this regards, this study will ascertain whether or not the press fulfilled their social responsibility role of providing access to the days intelligence. This study will also show the extent political news, a vital information and educational needing the society, receives coverage in Nigerian print and electronic media.

The study when completed, would have succeeded in providing a validly rich data on which further studies on this and related areas will be based.

1.9 Limitations Of The Study

The need to meet up with the costs that would be involved in carrying out a study that will cover a wider area was a major problem. Hence the researcher limited the research only to Enugu Metropolis.

1.10 Theoretical Framework

The background theories upon which the researcher hinge the study so as to give it clarity and meaning are the agenda setting and social relationships theories.

In his celebrated book “the processes and effects of mass – communication”. Wilbur Schramm (1980) noted that a major factor which is extremely important in understanding and ascertaining the effects of mass-communication of the audience members is the interaction between people in a society, which according to him is explained in the social relationships theory. This theory, he further painted out is closely related to the social categories theory but that the crux of the social relations theory stems from the emphasis it places on the interaction of members of social categories, that is, the relationship between them. Interpersonal communication and interactional symbolism becomes evident and of significant importance during face-to-face communication.

Members of group (press) are able to influence one another and that helps to also determine the effect of mass-media messages on individuals. “No man is an island” and that we cannot live for ourselves alone are catchy phrase which perhaps, captures succinctly the power and essence of social relationships.

Attitudes and behaviours of people whether in private or public life are known to be powerfully shaped by social influence.

Herman Melville (1964) acknowledges the above position when he notes that “our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads”. According to him, these threads may strain with tension, vibrate with joy or he peacefully calm. Surely, relationships of various kinds whether of the media and government of the family and one of its members or even relationships existing between members of staff of an organization and its management is often a complex issue and a suspect idea. Hence, the media, social fact whose primary task is to serve society needs.

Accordingly, the major premise of the agenda setting theory is that it acknowledges the undisputed ability of the mass-media in exercising a powerful influence in determining the degree of attention or prominence they give to subjects in which they are interested.

Succinctly put, “Agenda setting” is label often given to the ability of the mass media to direct attention to certain subjects.

Cohen (1963:120) appears to agree with the above statement when he affirms that: “the press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.

The important and implication of Cohen’s assertion is indeed predicated on the fact that the mass-media do indeed have a strong influence on what people think is important. Thus, any issue or subject matter that escapes the attention of the press is considered unimportant.

Thus, the press, through its discharge of its legitimate function of informing the people on politics, party manifestoes, party mission statements and other related issues influencing the political landscape of the country. This confirms Peterson (1980:98) finding in America 1976 election campaign that the respondent defined as “most important” those issues and subjects matters the media emphasized in its coverage. Thus there exists a co-relation between journalistic emphasis and public preoccupation on politics and political stories.

Chapter Five

5.0 Summary And Recommendation

5.1 Summary

The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the place and contributions of the press in Nigerian politics and to specifically analyse past, current issues and news coverage’s of political actives and further highlights its impacts or effect on the society. This objective was achieved by answering the four research questions and hypotheses posed and formulated for the study.

Research question one aimed at determining whether or not Nigerians think that the press is selective in its coverage of similar political issues in the country. The findings showed that a significant percentage of the respondents agree that the press is selective thus, giving vent to the belief that reporters report similar stories differently because of their individual differences and their different perceptual censes.

Research question two was aimed at determining whether or not media ownership and location, affect its pattern and tilting of news coverage’s on political events and political issues. The finding shows that nearly 70% of those location where a media organisation does its operation affects its pattern of news coverage’s on political activities and issues. When a further comparision/analysis of the respondents perception of the actual airtime devoted to political activities and stories was done, I found out that a short time (duration) was usually allocated to political stories during the military eva and that this situation has improved tremendously with the emergence of democracy.
Research questions three and hypotheses three sought to find out the implication, lack of investigative reporting and a high preponderance of views in the press hold for the media industry. The finding glaringly shows that it portends danger and is capable of stunting the growth and flourishing of a free and dynamic media system in Nigeria.

Research question four and hypotheses four sought to ascertain if sectional, ethnic and religious bias are observed in the pattern of news coverage and analysis of issues by the Nigeria press. The data collected shows that this ugly trend and unacceptable determinants of news values is in vogue today.

Some respondents cited instances where the media belonging to and located in certain geographical area of the country are used to fight for the advancement of the needs and aspirations of that ethnic group. Bola Ahmed Tinubu is still firmly seated on the saddle as the executive governor of Lagos State when allegations of perjury and falsification is hanging on his head where as TELL, TEMPO, and NEWSWATCH all western or Lagos axis press were used to unseat Salibu Buhari and Evans Enwerem, former speaker of the Federal House of representatives and president of senate respectively.

These same powerful and influential outfits chose to keep mute thus setting a wrong precedence. All in all, the contextual treatment of political stories and issues by different media organizations showed more similarly than differences. Perhaps, the major difference that exists is that the government owned ones are rarely used to criticize “persons” in power while it is used to attack people in the opposition.

Coverage of political activities, news and issues deserve a place in priority list because politics is central to the nature of society, to its development and to the functioning of economic and social institutions.

Political news coverage’s and indeed the broadcasting and analysis up political figure heads views opinion, perception, and policies is a very portent force for prompting mass mobilization, mass education, awareness, stimulating human trust and confidence and inspiring national unity. However, the findings of this study, especially the use of the press to pursue ethnic, religious and sectional interest, have made it even more imperative to review the state of news processing and dissemination of political activities in Nigeria. Thus, the need to emphasize the imbibing of core professional and ethnical consideration on the part of journalist. This position is in agreement with Onyisi (1996:136) contention that “certain structural and functional aspects of our press have to be improved on in some respects in order to make them capable of inculcating in our people the essence and spirit of democratic principles and practice.

This conclusion, it is hoped will silence those who have muted the idea that the media should not play any role in politics either as a direct force in creating awareness, shapping perceptions and educating electorate on choice of candidates and their planned programmes of action or as on interviewing variables in information dissemination.

The reasons for this opposition to the apologist for press participation and reportage of political events and activities are many.

Apart from the prevalent high level of illiteracy in Nigeria on one hand and the very scant treatment given to political news stories and political activities in our press (Radio an TV) on the hand, there exists few or no viewing centers in the rural areas that habited by over 80% of the citizenry. Besides, the content of stories on political activities should be written, packaged to suit the expectations of the rural Nigerians and in the process allow them to participate in decisions making on politics and other issues that affect them generally well being.

Again, there’s need to ensure balance and objectivity in the handling of political stories. This has become even more critical and necessary now that there is a multiplicity of parties in Nigeria.

5.2 Recommendation

For the press to continue its relevance and perform constitutional obligations/roles of informing, educating and mobilizing members of the public on political events, issues and trends, the following recommendation are hereby made.

  1. The press should stand for justice and fairness in their dealings and stead fastly uphold and adhere to the cherished concepts of objectivity, impartiality and balance in the discharge of their duties.
  2. That the press must consider society and its people first, knowing that they are the raisen d’ etre for their existence as an enterprises.
  3. That the people should embrace education while the media practitioners should see training and retraining as an on going dynamic process that is normal if they expect to live up to the credibility rating of the people.
  4. That the recent democratization and de-regulation of the media be continued but new outfits should be rural-centric.
  5. The Nigerian press should embark on a kind of stock taking of its past achievements and failures in the past and consequently use the past and present as a guide to the future
  6. It is also recommended that further research be undertaken into other angles in this field of study.

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