The Role Of The Media In The Political Development Of Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

The Role Of The Media In The Political Development Of Nigeria


The mass media an avenue for spurring the masses for political mobilization ensures the dissemination of political information to the masses and also ensures the free flow of information between the government and the electorate so as to create political awareness and participation.

This research work has gone a step further to examine the roles which the mass media has played towards the political progress of our country Nigeria, through the use of social scientific method of field survey the researcher was able to gather authentic information.

The findings after the research work indicate that the mass media have contributed tremendously to political participation of the masses towards the development of the country Nigeria.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

In a democratic set up of governance the role of the mass media can in no way be underestimated or undermined, this is largely due to the watchdog role performed by the media in shaping people’s believe and actions towards the activities of the government of the day. It is this huge role performed by the media as an agent and its human tools (i.e. journalists) that earned it the appellation fourth echelon of the realm. The first three are the legislature, executive and judiciary in no particular order of importance.

For any government polity to enjoy popularity in the minds of right thinking members of the public, such polity needs the unreserved assistance of the mass media to enlighten the masses, shape their opinion and create a favourable disposition from such members of the public. The media through its informative program showcases the polity of government and also reveal the benefits of such polity to the masses as a way of gaining acceptance from the public. There are policies which may look ambiguous to the public or sound weird to the masses, the media’s role is brought to bear under this circumstance as they beam the light on these policies and help the masses gain a better understanding.

The mass media consists of the radio, television and all printed means of acquiring information across to the public. The media is also a means through which the feelings, values and aspirations of the people are related to the government. The media also serves the purpose of entertainment to the public, this is done through dissemination of program that are meant to relax the mood of members of the public and to lighten the tensive atmosphere especially when the individual’s mind is occupied by stress.

The mass media serve as the mirror through which the public have a comprehensive view of activities of the government. The media also help set the agenda for the activities of the government, setting a platform for participation of the event of the government of the day being ignorant of the wishes of the populace the media creates a forum of unveiling even the hidden facts about issues like this. It is this checkmating role played by the media that earned it the acronym “watchdog”

In an effort to place facts right about the role of the media in the political process in Nigeria. It would be of great help to have a review of the electrons that had taken place in the country and the extent of involvement of the media in every of this occasion. But to have a better understanding of the issue at stake it will be illogical to focus on electrons that took place before the era of the first republic, this is because such electrons wee not general election in the real sense, cause Nigeria was still under the tutelage of the British empire, more so such elections were done in a representative manner which only created room for involvement of the la crime de la crime in the society to have stronger access to power than the ordinary man. Such were the days when only a few voted for only a few to represent the interest of the masses, as such elections of that era, that is pre first republic era is not included in this work.

During the first republic which had about five political parties which are the UPN, NPP and FRP. The press in Nigeria was deeply involved in the democratic process. The media highlighted the activities of the politicians especially the principal actors probing into their past and weighted the strength of their credibility to have a claim to office and thee after present these individuals to the public through the radio, television, newspaper and magazines. The politicians of this era also found the press a crackerjack to publicize their manifesto, so great was the influence of the media during this era that no political gathering was complete without the media.

During the 1983 general elections the press also played a significant role of watchdog of the society. This was made manifest through it’s incisive and critical reports of the performance of politicians after their first tenure. The press was hugely objective in unraveling basic hidden facts of the nefarious activities of politicians, this created a platform for the masses to understand the jakhill and Hyde nature of the men in power and created a hug crisis at the centre and the resultant effect of this is that the power that be, lost their authority to the army in a coup de’tact.

1993 election was dubbed and is still acknowledged as the freest and fairest election in the country. Though the powers that be denied this assertion, but experts through conscious topical debate accepted this election as the best so far. The extent of the success of this election would be largely incomplete without mentioning the role performed by the media. This is because this was the era in which the Nigeria media had created or attained a high standard and was critical of the involvement of the military in the ruler ship of the country as such the media beamed it’s searchlight on the credibility of the politicians and also created massive awareness amongst the populace, this gesture of the Nigeria media created a perfect platform for the success of the election which was subsequently denied the light of the day by the military.

The last general election and one before it, that is 2003 and 1999 were perhaps the elections that had the largest involvement of the media, this is because the media industry had received a boost with the introduction of modern day equipments for the broadcast medium and state of art printing machines to play a participatory role in the election process and also to get the masses involved in the proceedings. During the last election, a remarkable achievement was made for the first time in the history of the nation; results of election were relayed from the studio almost immediately after the election. Reporters were assigned beats at the polling centers and they were made to report events as they unfold. Also in the studio, there were experts who continuously access the situation base on their knowledge about the activities of electoral officers and the election itself.

Prior to the election proper the critical stance of the media on topical election issues gave clarity to the masses on such issues. It is such stance on issues like number of political parties and credibility of the electoral commission that led to the registration of thirty political parties, the highest ever recorded in the history of the country. Not worthy id the fact that during these elections there was prevalent political apathy on the part of the masses. The people had a negative notion about politicians, politics and elections. It was no longer a hidden development that politicians continue to make ridiculous desire for power as they struggle for the soul of the polity, and yet they remain impervious that democracy in Nigeria was on the clay soil edged by crisis of confidence from the people to he ruler as such members of the public were indifferent on the political dispensation. The media on account of this made conscious efforts to involve the people in the election. Government itself carried out campaign to create awareness and acceptance by the people. All these were carried out by the media, in order to restore the eroded democratic spirit in minds the populace.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Based on the background of the study which suggests that results of elections in Nigeria have never enjoined the wide acceptance from the populace, this is because more often than not results of election have concomitant comply by the losers and the followers. It becomes a matter of necessity to do a study on the actions and reactions of masses to electoral process in the country.

It should be stated clearly that the press or media as an agent through it watchdog role unveils the negative and positive sides of electoral process and also serves the duty of being the voice of the people in an effort to air opinion about election and electoral process.

As such this study is focused on knowing the reasons behind political apathy on the side of some masses that may have chosen to adopt an indifferent role and to willfully disenfranchise themselves in a system that demands their utmost commitment.

This study also aims at revealing the divergent roles played by the media during elections especially the mobilizing aspect of the role. This also concerns how the media create awareness among the people, this also will not leave out extent of information the media disseminate during election to guide them from making wrong choices during elections.

Also this study will look at the influence of the political campaigns carried by the media during elections on the populace. The study will also look at how fair the press has been in carrying out political campaigns of various political parties during elections and will compare via a vis the outcome of such campaign, that is the result of the elections.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

Practically the media fundamentally is not unaware of it’s important role during elections. Every media practitioner who has even only a vague idea of history of elections in the country knows the onus task of the fourth realm of the echelon in building up a positive participatory role of the masses during elections.

In the light of the above stated view part of the objectives of this study lies in the effort of unraveling the reasons behind the sinister feelings of the masses which culminates into political apathy by a large majority.

Another objective inherent in this study is evident in the background which reveals how the presses open-up the shady deals of elections and paints the true pictures of how events occur during elections. This is because when election are close by the public depend so topical issues in the country and this will go a long way in helping the polity makers know how best to carry out its polices to suit the masses.

Lastly the objective of this study is to have a practical view of why there’s a reduction in number of those who vote as against the ever rising population of the country.

1.4 Significance of the Study

In line with the above elucidated points on the objectives of this study, it is note worthy that this research will help electoral. This is because electoral officers have in the past undermined the efforts of media during elections. The media can be used to educate the masses on the importance of their roles during elections and it can be used to sensitize them on the need for their involvement to allow for a popular choice during elections.

The study will also create room for a better way of handling elections. Beside the above listed point, is the fact that this study will create room for students of mass communication to understand the role they stand to play during elections when they graduate. The intending media practitioner will find the finding of this study valuable cause it will help him/her not only to get rid of indifferent attitude towards election and also to educate the unaware or ignorant masses. This will go a long way in helping the society in general.

1.5 Research Questions

Some questions were outlined for the purpose of this study and such question was accorded answers in line with the focus of this study, the following are some of the research questions:

  1. To what extent do media influence the disposition of masses towards election?
  2. Does the medium help to set agenda for elections, during electoral proceeding?
  3. To what extent do the media help to create awareness during election?
  4. How far do the media help to reduce political apathy during elections?
  5. Which of the elections were generally adjudged the freest and fairest in the country.

1.6 Research Hypothesis

  1. H1 The media help to create awareness among the masses during elections.
    H0 Media hardly create awareness among masses in the course of elections.
  2. H2 The media help to reduce political apathy among electorates.
    H0 The media does not reduce political apathy during elections.
  3. H3 The media helps to set agenda during elections.
    H0 There is hardly any agenda set by media during elections.
  4. H4 The media help mobilize electorate during election.
    H0 The media hardly mobilize electorate during elections.

1.7 Definition of Terms

As a way of giving a better understanding this study will give definitions to some related to the study which are: electorate, elections, Gerry mender, political apathy, franchise. These terms will be explained and defined conception ally and operationally.

  • Conceptional – It means a segment of people in a country who are qualified to vote during elections.
  • Operationally – It connotes those who are eighteen years and above in Nigeria who are qualified to vote.
  • Conceptional – Election means the process of selecting individuals who are qualified to take up elective post.
  • Operationally – Election means the various times Nigerians have gone to the post to select their democratically leaders.
Gerry Mander
  • Conceptional – This means the act of changing size of border of an area for voting in order to give undue advantage to one party.
  • Operationally – This term looks into the various antics by the powers that be to unfavourably delineate the country politically to give their party an edge over others.
Political Apathy
  • Conceptional –The attitude of feeling indifferent to political activities by an individual who is supposed to be concerned.
  • Operational – This entails the altitude of electorates during elections by verse majority being unconcerned about elections.
  • Conceptional – It means those who have the right to vote during elections.
  • Operationally – It includes various individuals in Nigeria who are interested in Nigeria or who are yet to realize their rights.

1.8 Assumptions

There is the assumption that the media hardly have any influence on the elections. This believe stem out of the fact that government feel it is the face to face contact they make with the populace that really influences the disposition of the masses during elections.

Another assumption that is related to this study is the feeling that there’s no relationship between the political apathy and the extent change in mental disposition towards election as a result of the influence of the media.

Lastly there’s the assumption that media exist only to entertain and inform the public on the happenings in the country, which is of little or no effect on the outcome of election.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the role of the media in political development in Nigeria.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of the media in developing Nigerian politics.

5.2 Summary

There is no doubt that sustainable political governance in Nigeria can be achieved, but the strategies for executing it should include the contributions of independent, robust, and free news sources capable of informing the citizens and challenging their political thoughts to participate in democratizing their political system. Nigeria is a dynamic and heterogeneous nation; therefore, it requires a vibrant and vigorous press that can effectively address and evaluate the nation’s complex political, tribal, and leadership issues. As the country prepares to elect new political leaders in 2015, a fundamental focus in the nation’s development scheme should be to improve and empower communication channels and to establish a credible and responsible relationship between news sources and political leaders. Evidently, Nigeria’s most critical need, as a pluralistic nation, is the promotion of political sophistication and socio-political integration that will unite all ethnic/tribal groups. Unfortunately, recent political and tribal issues in some parts of the country over several months indicate that the country still faces disturbing situations reminiscent of the past three decades. Prominent among these problems are institutionalized ethnicity, internecine class/elite interest, tribal disunity and warfare, unequal treatment of citizens in political appointments, and the devastating absence of dedicated political leadership. More than anything else, political governance urgently needs the cultivation of a national awareness that transcends parochialism and selfish ethnic considerations. To establish a responsible governance structure, elected leaders cannot divorce the press from its constructive role in the quest for a long-term development agenda. Therefore, the press participation-based integrative model is a significant value proposition because it provides a balanced approach needed for national and political development to exist.

5.3 Conclusion

This study has focuses on to the role of the media in political development with emphasis in Nigeria. In doing so it has examined the various obstacles that have affected the performance of the media in Nigeria’s electoral process. While in a sense it can be said that some improvements have been recorded by Nigerian media in the critical area of electioneering campaign since 1993, however, from what we have said, the Nigerian media may need to improve their coverage of politics and elections. But any assessment of the media must take into consideration the legal, normative and economic factors which constrain their performance. We need to note that although media functions are the same everywhere, they are not and cannot be performed the same way in every society. Indeed the performance of each nation’s institutions is contingent upon the nation’s level of development, its literacy rate, its culture and general disposition. To this extent, every nation gets the media it deserves. It therefore, implies that the media in any country are propelled not only by news content but more by societal values. The Nigerian Constitution does not empower the media.

5.4 Recommendations

Haven completed the study, the following recommendations were put forward by the researcher; Political parties in Nigeria should give due attention to the use of new media for the dissemination of political activities. The new media should be regularly used to carry out political activities. Communication is more effective when it is done on a regular basis. There is the need to combine the new media with other means of communication, especially interpersonal communication. This is because, interpersonal communication brings the communicator and the audience together, in a face to face communication, thereby making the communication to be more effective. There is the need for political parties in Nigeria to always combine different advertising strategies when carrying out political advertising. Testimonials and sloganeering may be combined to make an advert to be more effective.

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