The Role Of Electronic Media / Internet On Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

The Role Of Electronic Media / Internet On Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria


Abstract


This study was carried out on the role of electronic media/internet on democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The electronic media or internet has become almost an inseparable part of human life in places where they exist. In recent times, electronic media have evolved new forms of democracy, government, and have become a clear and more effective voice of many. This study maked use of both the primary and secondary sources of data. The use of questionnaire was of utmost importance in the area of exploring the views of different stakeholders within the context of the title of this study. Since the focus is on Osun State, one hundred questionnaires were administered in each of the three senatorial districts that make up Osun State. Also, interviews were conducted with relevant stakeholders. These included media executives, journalists and members of the public at large. The secondary source of data is also optimally utilised in the areas of existing literature on the title, the internet, newspapers, magazines, official documents and journals. The study revealed that the electronic media/ internet is an essential, indispensable part of democratic consolidation. It also revealed that democratic consolidation in Nigeria, generally has been rather slow compared with the expectations of the people, and among the factors that account for this is the less than conducive political climate under which the mass media have had to carry out their responsibilities. The study recommended that Training, re-training and support for journalism and other media institutions should be priority areas to develop the media in Nigeria for the future.


Table Of Contents


Preliminary Page(s)

  • Title Page
  • Declaration
  • Approval
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of Content

Chapter One

Introduction

  • 1.1 Background to the Study
  • 1.2 Statement of the Problem
  • 1.3 Research questions
  • 1.4 Objectives of the study
  • 1.5 Hypotheses
  • 1.6 Significance of the Study
  • 1.7 Scope of the Study
  • 1.8 Limitations of the Study
  • 1.9 Methodology

Chapter Two

Literature Review and Theoretical Framework

  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Conceptual Review
  • 2.3 Theoretical framework

Chapter Three

The Challenges of Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria


Chapter Four

Data Presentation and Analysis

  • 4.1 Secondary data presentation
  • 4.2 Interviews and opinions
  • 4.3 Primary data presentation: questionnaire

Chapter Five

Summary Recommendations and Conclusion

  • 5.1 Summary of findings
  • 5.2 Recommendations
  • 5.3 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix

Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

Essential to the people in a democratic society is their freedom of expression, association and assembly, which is guaranteed and protected by the fundamental law of the land. Among other principles of democracy are equality before the law, periodic, free and fair election, majority rule, independent and impartial judiciary and accountability. These ingredients of democracy nevertheless would need a platform and channel of communication which the government and the people can freely and meaningfully use to contribute to the development of the democratic system.

The electronic media or internet has become almost an inseparable part of human life in places where they exist. In recent times, electronic media have evolved new forms of democracy, government, and have become a clear and more effective voice of many. In fact, electronic media have influences on all spheres of human life. The impacts of the electronic media or internet were obviously felt in the 2011 general elections in Nigeria. It was felt in the electioneering processes-campaign, and eventually the polling procedures. According to Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (2012), the 2011 elections in Nigeria witnessed a remarkable use of the electronic media as a tool for political communication. It was used for campaigns via television channels, radio stations, personal websites, blogs, all electronic media applications, and several other media.

The internet has become the most accessible source of information, particularly in the last two general elections in Nigeria. Before the day of the election, the internet disseminated many messages to the public that went viral. The internet communicated to the public a lot of information that could have caused unrest in some volatile nations. For example, the internet gave other reasons for the postponement of the election from 9th April 2011 to 16th April, 2011 aside from the unpreparedness of Independent National Electoral Commission. Reasons that made the public believed that the postponement was to the advantage of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as it would provide the opportunity for the ruling party to manipulate the election in such a way that the power of the electorates would amount to nothing. This sort of report can cause anarchy in nascent democracies of which Nigeria belongs (Oyenuga, 2015).

The electronic media/internet passes information freely, because they are unregulated. The information can come in the form of broadcast on electronic media application, like WhatsApp and BBM, blogs; or even text messages. With the unregulated nature of the electronic media, it is certain that many of the information are not subject to scrutiny and may be conjured, misrepresented, or even misinformed. Nevertheless, the role of the electronic media in political mobilisation and participation across the globe cannot be over-emphasized.

Consolidating democracy in Nigeria as a whole through the conduct of credible elections has remained an albatross. The history of Nigeria’s democratic experiments demonstrates that elections and electoral politics have generated so much animosity which has, in some cases, threatened the corporate existence of the country (such as happened after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election) and in other cases instigated military incursion into political governance, most notably in 1966 and 1983 (Animashaun, 2010).

The 2011 general elections demonstrated the extent to which the electronic media has penetrated the urban populace in Nigeria. The benefits of the penetration of electronic media in Nigeria came to light during the 2011 elections. Since the return of democracy in 1999 to the 2011 general election there has never been such great political mobilization and participation from Nigerians as was expressed in the 2011 general election. This was largely as a result of the prevalent activities of the social media (Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, 2012).

Although it seems obvious that electronic media contributed in no small measure to the success of the 2011 elections, it is pertinent to understand specifically how particular stakeholders in the 2011 elections, like INEC, politicians/political parties, the electorate, and CSOs, used the electronic media during the elections. It was not only INEC that tapped into the opportunities provided by electronic media for greater and more efficient political communication. Politicians and political parties also utilized the electronic media largely to engage with voters and constituents. Many candidates that contested the 2011 general elections had Facebook, Twitter, and/or Youtube accounts. Hence, this study explored the role of electronic media/internet on democratic consolidation in Nigeria with a specific reference to the 2011 general elections.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

The use of social media as a formidable force for social engineering and political electioneering has continued to grow. The technology is participatory, interactive and cost-effective. This has made it the medium of the moment as far as political communication and participation are concerned. Nigeria had her first true test of social media use for political participation during the 2011 general elections. Many positive results were recorded. For instance, both the local and foreign observers rated the election as the best in the fourteen year history of unbroken democracy in the country.

However, a Human Rights Watch report of April 18, 2011 says that although the April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history, they also were among the bloodiest. The reports further show that a total of not less than 800 persons were killed, more than 65,000 others displaced and over 350 churches either burnt or destroyed in the violence that precipitated the announcement of the 2011 general elections results in the northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara by Muslim rioters.

Adeyanju and Haruna (2011) believe that social media played a huge role in instigating and fuelling the violence. They argue that during the period, many Facebook pages were awash with false rumours and gossips that added to hitting up the polity and creating unnecessary tensions.

The GSM short message service (SMS) was used to spread false election results that differ from what INEC eventually announced. This made electorates believe that their votes did not count and that they were massively rigged. There was what Okoro and Adibe (2013) refer to as “social media war” on the various social media platforms, making use of all kinds of abusive languages, all manner of attacks and counter attacks among members and supporters of various opposition parties and groups. Several insulting and inciting messages flourished on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, BBM, blogs or even text messages. These culminated in the violence and tensions witnessed before, during and after the elections in many parts of the country, with some states ordering non-indigenes to leave.

Despite the global acknowledgement of social media as an instrument of social, political and economic cohesion, it nearly threatened the progress of Nigeria’s nascent democracy. Experts decried the wrong application of the social media platforms among users before, during and after 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.

Hence one begins to wonder if electronic media is consolidating Nigerian democracy or having a retrogressive effect on it. Hence, this research project investigated the role of electronic media/internet on democratic consolidation in Nigeria with a particular reference to the 2011 general elections.


1.3 Research questions

  1. To what extent has the electronic media/ internet played its role of entrenching democratic values into the Nigerian democratic system?
  2. What challenges have the electronic media/ internet had to battle with in the course of carrying out its responsibility within the polity?
  3. How conducive has the political climate as a whole been for the electronic media/ internet to effectively play its part in the democratizing process?
  4. What better ways/methods are there for the electronic media/ internet to carry out its tasks and responsibilities more effectively?
  5. To what extent has the media been autonomous enough to be able to carry out its tasks effectively?
  6. To what extent has the electronic media/ internet facilitated the strengthening of Nigeria‘s fourth attempt at democratic governance?

1.4 Objectives of the study

The objectives of the study are to:

  1. Critically asses the roles the electronic media/ internet have played in entrenching democratic values into the Nigeria political system;
  2. Assess democratic consolidation especially with regards to the Nigerian political system;
  3. 3. consider how conducive the political atmosphere has been for the electronic media/ internet especially in the Fourth Republic;
  4. Make attempts to consider, through a policy prescription, a more plausible and objective way for the electronic media/ internet to assert its responsibility in the democratic process.

1.5 Hypotheses

  1. The activities of the electronic media/ internet have telling effects on the democratic consolidation process.
  2. The autonomy of the electronic media/ internet boosts democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
  3. The passage into law of the Freedom of Information Bill will enhance democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

1.6 Significance of the Study

It is anticipated that the analytical, conceptual and empirical studies will enhance the understanding of the link between electronic media/internet, democratic consolidation, political participation andpost-election violence in the 2011 general elections in Nigeria.

The study would be significant to policy makers and policy implementers such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that is saddled with the mandate of conducting free and fair election Nigeria; election monitoring bodies; security operatives and the various political partiesin Nigeria.

The outcomes of this study would be a tool of intellectual pride to the Lagos State University’s library, as students and future researchers will have access to the final outcomes of the study.


1.7 Scope of the Study

This wok extends its frontiers to the link between electronic media/internet and democratic consolidation, it equally covers political participation and post-election violence in the 2011 general elections in Nigeria.


1.8 Limitations of the Study

The researcher faces series of challenges while conducting this research study of which was lack of adequate fund, this points to the fact that the researcher is not yet earning money but rather depend on family supports.

Another factor that almost marred the success of the study was time factor. The researcher was needed to go to the field, libraries and write the report and submit at the required time which also constituted a major constraint to the researcher.

In a whole, academic stress added to the problems but the researcher made his best efforts in optimizing the available resources and information without allowing the limitations to make the researcher lose sight of the objectives of the study. In essence, these limitations do not impinge on the reliability of the findings of this research study.


1.9 Methodology

This study makes use of both the primary and secondary sources of data. The use of questionnaire is of utmost importance in the area of exploring the views of different stakeholders within the context of the title of this research. Since the focus is on Osun State, one hundred questionnaires were administered in each of the three senatorial districts that make up Osun State. Ilesa was selected in Osun East, Osogbo in Osun Central while Iwo was the town of choice in Osun West. The choice of these three major towns was based on their heterogeneous population, relatively vast size and the availability of media outfits. While Osogbo has both state government-owned television and radio stations, Federal Government owned television station as well as government and privately-owned print media outfits, Ilesa is home to both Federal Government-owned and privately-owned radio stations as well as a privately- owned print media outfit. Iwo on the other hand plays host to another stated-owned television station.

Also, interviews were conducted with relevant stakeholders. These included media executives, journalists and members of the public at large.

The secondary source of data is also optimally utilised in the areas of existing literature on the title, the internet, newspapers, magazines, official documents and journals.


Chapter Five


Summary Recommendations and Conclusion

This chapter discusses the findings of the research as analysed in the previous chapter. Also included in this chapter is a comparison of the result obtained with other empirical studies and the literature review. Other items highlighted are recommendation, summary and conclusion.


5.1 Summary of findings

The study revealed that the electronic media/ internet is an essential, indispensable part of democratic consolidation. It also revealed that democratic consolidation in Nigeria, generally has been rather slow compared with the expectations of the people, and among the factors that account for this is the less than conducive political climate under which the mass media have had to carry out their responsibilities.

The research equally brought to the fore the need for autonomy of the mass media as very instrumental to the stability of the democratic process. While it is admitted that 100% autonomy of the mass media may be utopian in actual sense, the situation where government at all levels gag the media through different censorship policies, intimidation and even physical assault on media workers are worrisome and should be condemned in strong terms. There is equally a need for state-owned mass media to be allowed to do their work without undue interference from their owners – the government as the research reveals that the public prefer the privately-owned electronic to the state-owned ones as a result of their near independence and critical appraisal of issues in some cases.

Attached to the need for greater autonomy for the mass media as revealed by the research is the need for increase in the level of access the media enjoys when it comes to information. The research revealed that most information that is crucial to the public and the policy process are forbidden from getting to the public through the media as they are clouded under official secrecy. Public officers and elected leaders of the people are made to swear to or sign secrecy oaths which forbid them from revealing information related to their work – issues of public concern in most cases – to the conveyers of information and prevent such information from getting to places where they may be of importance to the democratic process.

The hypotheses tested (hypothesis 1), further buttresses the fact that there is a significant relationship between the activities of the mass media and democratic consolidation. In other words, the activities of the mass media have telling effects on the democratic consolidation process. The extent to which the mass media live up to their responsibilities impacts on the democratic process as a whole. Equally observed from the hypotheses (two) is that greater autonomy for the mass media enhances the democratic consolidation process while hypothesis three reveals that the passage into law of the Freedom of Information Bill portends good tidings for democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

The introductory aspect of the research laid the foundation for the work by expatiating on the statement of the research problem, the methodology, the research objectives, questions, hypotheses, outline of chapters and other critical features important to the work. We were able to examine and scrutinize works of different scholars from different countries, across different continents as it relates to the research topic and related terms and concepts.

The scholars generally discussed the roles the media are expected to play in the democratic process while also dwelling on what democratic consolidation itself entails and why democracy in its ideal form, represents the best form of administering the people.

We also traced the historical evolution of the global mass media and then to the emergence of the Nigerian media. The exposition on the mass media in Nigeria accounts for how the mass media evolved, pre-amalgamation to the nationalist struggles of the 20th century and then to independence and the post-independence era, examining the various challenges and contributions of the media in these periods.

Mass media and the democratic process in the Fourth Republic in Nigeria was also examined thoroughly being the core of this research through the use of and administering of questionnaires to get and gather the opinion of people in relation to the mass media and its impact on democratic consolidation.

We argued that the mass media have played remarkable roles in the democratic process in Nigeria. From 1859 when the first newspaper came into being, the media contributed in campaigning against slave trade, battle for ‗autonomy‘ when Lagos was initially administered by the colonial lords from Freetown in Sierra Leone and later Accra in Ghana until Lagos became an administrative headquarter, down to the use of the mass media in the intense nationalist struggles of the 20th century. The nationalist of the time, found in the media a perfect medium to highlight their views and argue their points, all in the process of the intellectual battle against colonialism. The mass media was used in educating the growing literate population of the time of the importance of self-government. The intense sensitization embarked among the populace practically turned the people against colonial domination and set the stage for political sovereignty of the country.

Post-independence, as divided as the media was along ethnic lines, it still played the role of providing an ‗easy landing‘ for self government and when the military struck in 1966 following a spate of crisis that ravaged the political landscape in the country, the mass media played the role of salvaging the situation and campaigning for the return of the ‗usurpers‘ to the barracks. This is one role the mass media played continuously in the successive military regimes that held sway in the country in the latter half of the 20th century.

During the democratic era, the mass media has sensitized the people, provide education and have risen up against whatever they consider as portending danger to the polity. Public outcry occasioned by media campaigns have resulted in cases such as the impeachment of senate presidents, speakers of the House of Representatives and uncovering of serious instances of corruption and abuse of office. The media have thus succeeded in putting public leaders on their toes and held them to account for their deeds.

In the course of carrying out their responsibilities in the polity since the mid-19th century, the mass media have had to confront a lot of challenges. The colonial government set the tone for such through enactment of legislation meant to curtail media freedom and when the battle for independence was eventually won, the self-inflicted problem of ethnicity crept into the media and the different leaders in the regional structure that operated at the time saw the media as a potent weapon in canvassing personal views and promoting selfish personal interests. The mass media was thus dislodged from carrying out its noble roles in the newly found independence to such devious tasks as personality attack and regional interests. The activities of the mass media contributed in exacerbating almost all the major crises of the First Republic which culminated in the military takeover of 1966. The successive military regimes then embarked on various means of ‗putting the media‘ in its rightful place, such as promulgation of decrees, intimidation, physical assault and even imprisonment of media workers. Some lost their jobs while the unlucky ones had to pay with their lives in the course of the struggle. Media houses were closed down and some media outfits had to operate underground in a period where unmitigated cases of human right abuses in the history of the country were committed.

And even in the democratic era when the media are supposed to be heaving a sigh of relief and working selflessly in consolidating the process, cases of intimidation, harassment, assault and assassination of media workers recorded during the dark days of the military are still commonplace. The media are still being tactically manoeuvred and influenced and have thus not been able to live up to what ought to be their responsibility. Some of the laws inherited from the repressive military era are still in operation and the Freedom of Information Bill which would have no doubt increased the media‘s access to information and eased their operations as well as provide a platform to hold public officers more accountable to the people have been in the National Assembly for a decade now. When the two chambers of the legislature manage to pass it, it meets with a brick wall when it comes to presidential assent. Under the excuse of having the tendency to allow foreigners access to matters of national security, the media – and the public – have been schemed time and again, in issues relating to the FOI Bill.

One of the aspects in the democratic process where the media are expected to play key roles is the electoral process. And although the Electoral Act spells out guidelines for the use of the media by all electoral competitors in a way that would mean fairness to all parties involved, most of the laws have existed only on paper as politicians, governments and other privileged members of the society continually abuse the use of the media during the electioneering period. Opposition political parties and figures are denied access to the media in most cases by the ruling party most especially at the state government level thus turning the mass media into a tool for personal use.


5.2 Recommendations

The nexus between the mass media and the democratic process with particular emphasis on the roles the media are expected to play in the polity has attracted and is still attracting increasing attention from the media practitioners, advocates, researchers and other concerned scholars. The mass media have been recognized as fulcrum of any democratic experiment. To further smoothen the mass media – democratic consolidation interplay in Nigeria however, some policy measures are suggested as follows.

  1. It should be recognized by policy makers, public officers and indeed the media practitioners themselves that democratic consolidation faces a huge challenge if the mass media institutions malfunction or are malfunctioning in any way. In other words, democracy cannot work well without an effective mass media. Therefore, all laws that impede the media from effectively playing their roles without fear or favour should be abrogated. There should be a great deal of support for policy-legal reform processes, in order to ensure a healthy, fair environment in which media sectors can prosper. Also some existing laws that has to do with the media needs to be enforced and not made to exist on paper only as has been the case in Nigeria overtime.
  2. All impediments to the passage into law of the Freedom of Information Bill should be dealt with forthwith and the Bill made to become part of the nation‘s governing laws. This will increase the level of access the media has to information and will go a long way in restoring sanity into the democratic process as public officers would be held more accountable to the public as media workers and the public would have enhanced access to government information and computerized records and documents.
  3. Training, re-training and support for journalism and other media institutions should be priority areas to develop the media in Nigeria for the future. However, training without requisite infrastructure – that is, facilities and equipment – cannot lead to the desired stage of media development in Nigeria. Structures should be put in place to provide good training avenues for journalists and other media workers. Proprietors of media organizations should devote considerable attention and resources towards the training and re-training of media staff. This will improve their knowledge of the profession and the new trends as they emerge on continuous basis and they will be able to live up to the billing as their colleagues in other liberal democracies of the world. Also media workers should be sufficiently equipped to be able to carry out their work effectively so that they will not continually lag behind their counterparts in advanced countries of the world.
  4. A situation where government-owned, especially state government-owned media organisations are used as instruments of propaganda and the opposition are tactically prevented from accessing such media organisations to make their voices heard is condemnable in strong terms. All political parties should be guaranteed equal access to all government-owned media. The role of government-owned electronic media organisations as public service broadcasters should be emphasised and such media organisations should operate with the fundamental tenet of putting public interest first in their operations. The overbearing influence of the state in terms of regulation and control of national broadcasting should be reduced drastically and a level playing field for the state-controlled media and the private media should be provided.
  5. A high level of corruption that has eaten deep into the media industry is ludicrous. It should be strongly campaigned against. All cases of ―brown envelopes‖ and ―Ghana must go bags‖ that characterise the media resulting in the commercialisation of news and promotion of parochial interests for monetary gains should be completely eradicated. Professional bodies such as the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors and similar bodies should make such acts a serious offence amongst its members.
  6. The remuneration and other welfare packages of media workers should be enhanced. A situation where media workers are grossly unpaid and some even going unpaid for months is an aberration that should be done away it. This has become a ‗motivation‘ for media workers to engage in illicit acts to meet up with their daily needs and that of their families.
  7. All cases of harassment, intimidation and assault on media workers should be outlawed forthwith in Nigeria. The safety of media workers should become paramount as they occupy very sensitive positions in the scheme of things. Anyone who willingly commits such crimes against media workers should be made to face the full wrath of the law no matter how highly placed such person is.
  8. There is a need to intensify the professionalization of the media so that only those who have what it takes can work in media establishments. All forms of quackery and impersonation should be treated as serious crimes against the state and defaulters should be made to lick their wounds.
  9. All cases where the mass media are politically influenced and denied the autonomy to carry out their roles from a neutral perspective should be done away with. Regulatory agencies such as the National Broadcasting Commission and the Nigerian Press Council should respect the need to allow the media to do their work without undue interference. The agencies should however make sure that the media do their work in accordance with stated rules as contained in documents such as National Broadcasting Code for the electronic media.

5.3 Conclusion

In view of the identified and hugely conspicuous reasons for an effective Electronic media/ internet as a driving force of a virile democracy, it is important that all stakeholders rise up to the tasks in raising the standard and potency of the mass media in Nigeria. Policies in this area, no doubt, portend good tidings, pluralism and enhancement of democratic consolidation in Nigeria.


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