The Role Of Opinion Leaders In Development Communication (A Case Study Of Ugwuaji And Akpuoga Rural Communities In Imo State)

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

The Role Of Opinion Leaders In Development Communication (A Case Study Of Ugwuaji And Akpuoga Rural Communities In Imo State)


Abstract


The aim of this research was to ascertain the effectiveness of opinion leadership in bringing about development communication in the rural areas.

That is to say, effort was geared towards finding out how opinion leaders contributed in facilitating the achievement of development communication objectives of the rural people.

The researcher became interested in this area of study because of the perceived impact of opinion leaders on the rural populace who make up about 80 percent of Nigeria’s population.

In this regard, the following problems among others were tackled:

  1.  To ascertain the extent to which opinion leaders contribute to the achievement of development communication objectives in Nigeria.
  2. Determine whether community opinion leaders capitalized on their position to misinform the mass of rural dwellers.
  3. To determine whether the position of opinion leaders is central to the achievement of development communication objectives.
  4. To ascertain whether the opinion leaders have been haising with the designers of development communication messages in the packaging of such messages, in line with the concept of development communication.

Due to limitation of fund, time and other logistic, the research could not embark on a study that lovers the entire country, hence two communities were chosen, Akpuoga and Ugwuaji.

A total of 200 questionnaires were administered and 195 were returned. Simple random sampling was used in selecting the sample for this study.

Five median were raised for this study and all received empirical support.

In testing the median, chi-square statistical tool was used to determine if any significance differences exit between observed and expected frequency.

Four theories were used in explicating the median. These are development theory, selective perception, two step flow and diffusion of invocation. The result of this study were quite illuminating. The study confirmed that opinion leaders facilitate development communication messages in the rural communities in Nigeria .

Other findings are that opinion leaders hide some development communication messages and information from the rural people; that opinion leaders are not the only credible source of information in terms of development etc.

Based on the foregoing, therefore, they made recommendations relating to both policy and research. For policy, it is recommended, among others, that government should formulate and pursue policies that encourages the effective use of opinion leaders for rural development.

For research, it is recommended, among others, that further research could focus on the relevance of opinion leadership to the urbanities especially at this area of heavy reliance by urban audience on foreign media for information.


Table Of Contents


Preliminary Page(s)

  • Cover page
  • Title page
  • Approval page
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents

Chapter One

Introduction

  • 1.1 Background of study
  • 1.2 Statement of research problem
  • 1.3 Objectives of the study
  • 1.4 Significance of study
  • 1.5 Research questions
  • 1.6 Research hypothesis
  • 1.7 Definition of terms
  • 1.8 Assumptions
  • 1.9 Limitation of study

Chapter Two

Literature Review

  • 2.1 introduction
  • 2.2 the review
  • 2.3 summary of the review

Chapter Three

Methodology

  • 3.1 Research method
  • 3.2 Research design
  • 3.3 Area of Study
  • 3.4 Population of study
  • 3.5 Samples and Sampling procedure
  • 3.6 Measuring instrument
  • 3.7 Data collection
  • 3.8 Data analysis
  • 3.9 Expected results

Chapter Four

Data Analysis

  • 4.1 Overview
  • 4.2 Data analysis
  • 4.3 Discussion of findings

Chapter Five

Summary and Recommendation

  • 5.1 Summary
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.3 Recommendation
  • References
  • Questionnaire

Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background Of Study

The pattern of communication in the world over changes from time to time with special reference to salient function, as in education, information and entertainment, which the mass media of communication one to their wide and heterogeneous audience. This research work focuses on establishing the extent, if any, to which community opinion leaders are meaningful to development communication objectives.

In the first place, one may as well ask what is development all about? This all important question would have been answered before delving into the concept of development communication and its objectives. On the other hand, knowing what development is without being able to apply it to make the greatest meaning to the greatest number of people in Nigeria , would have become an effort in futility, (Okenwak 1997). This brings forth the issue of Rural Development, which has remained a thorn in the flesh of several governments in Nigeria, knowing very well that about 80 percent of Nigerians reside in rural areas.

Rogers (1976: 345) defined development as a widely participatory process of social change in a society intended to bring about both social and material advancement (including greater equality, freedom and other valued qualities) for the majority of the people through their gaining greater control over their environment.

The above definition depicts the fact that development as an all involving venture, hence the emphais by Rogers on wide participation, Weinjans (1975) says that “development ultimately is not a matter of technology or gross national product, but the attainment of new knowledge and skills, the growth of a new consciousness, the expansion of the human confidence”. Both definitions however, point to the “confidence of the greater number of people on themselves as a prerequisite to a developed environment.

Development as Abott (1967:281) observes, “requires qualitative as well as quantitative change” Be it quantitative or qualitative change, development must have a human face in order to be meaningful. This means that developmental efforts must enhance the well-being of man in society. Walter Rocdney cited in Nwuneli (1986: 184) agrees to this view when the says “development in human society is a many-sided process. At the level of the individual, it implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being.

The achievement of any of those aspects of personal development is very much tied in with the state of the society as a whole. This is further reinforced by Nwanko (1988L19-20) cited in Ile (2001: 411) where he posits that development entails “Change that is continuously taking place in man and his physical, social, cultural and other environments”.

The bottom-line is that development as a concept is a continuous change that impacts meaningfully on all the ramifications of people’s lives.

Olisa, Obiukwu (1992:66) define rural development as a strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of the people in rural areas. Rural development from every indication is the most pragmatic and long overdue means of bringing government facilities and services to the door steps of the Nigerian teaming population in the rural areas. This is where development communication involves a participatory process and sharing of knowledge with the ultimate aim of airing at a consensus of all concerned.

The emphasis is that if development strategies are to be successful they must aim at engendering understanding and awareness of the problems and opportunities of rural people at all levels and at improving the interaction between development personnel and the masses through an efficient communication system (ASCON 1990). This therefore, underscores the fact that development is an all involving venture.

Meaning that development communication is all about communication efforts channeled towards development. Development communication is ideally, all embracing, since it affects all the aspect of human endeavour, education, economy, agriculture, politics, etc. It aims at providing the information needs to a people in line with development oriented message. It is a broad – based system for which the primary requirement is communication known – how. It covers a wide spectrum of factors involved in development situation analysis, the involvement of people in the planning and implementation of development activities, motivation, behavioural change and education and training.

In a very concise way, development communication is the application of the process of communication, to the development process. In other words, development communication is the use of the principles and practice exchange of ideas to fulfill development objectives. It calls for a point where we should stop thinking for the people in a patron client form but should start thinking with them to meet with their needs and wants if we want to succeed. (Nwosu, 1990: 68).

Development communication as a concept dates back to the 1950s. Among the leading studies in this era which is also referred to as the modernization ear, were the ones by Daniel Lerner in 1958, and Wilbur Schramn in 1964, which some people regarded then as the bible of development communication (Ibid, p. 68).

However, the attempt did not stop there. Several research efforts have been put in place in order to authenticate the application of the concept of development communication objectives in national development.

The idea of development communication is therefore, considered a wise option in the pursuit of national development, as against the centralized media system where only the interests of the urban minority are taken care of (Okenwa, 1997).

In this connection, communication channels are important tools in achieving this process but their use is not an aim in itself sine interpersonal communication too must play a fundamental role (ASCON, 1990). That is to say that communication alone cannot bring about rural development, but without provision of knowledge between people at all levels, the other inputs of development such as supplies and services will not be used to full advantages or even go wasted. In this dispensation opinion leadership as it concerns the rural settings in the realization of the concept of development communication becomes not only important, but also very necessary.

This is because, the rural dwellers thrive in an environment of interpersonal form of communication where opinion leadership assumes priority and importance. In this respect, village and community opinion leaders serve s linkage between their people and those that package development communication information and messages.

This linkage also assumes as indicated in Animation Rurale programmes of Senegal, Togo, Cote D’voire and Benin (Goussanit, 1968), that there is a crop of educated, intelligent and public – spirited leaders within the communities, which can motivate the masses to positive development directed endeavous. It therefore goes without saying that opinion leadership is a veritable tool for the generation of messages to the mass of rural dwellers through the process of interpersonal communication.

The point being made here is that for development communication to really forge ahead, there should be that communication and the modern means of communication all aimed at providing a platform for the overall participation of both the designers of the messages and those that the messages are meant for.

In this direction, development communication strategies, provide for decentralized media that will guarantee a situation where the rural masses will be carried along and not vice – versa. In this arrangement, the people are given the opportunity to think for by the designers of the communication messages.

Nwosu, (1987) rightly obverses that contemporary development communication practitioners and researcher should, for instance note that there seems to be some amount of consensus among experts on this subject that the early dominant theories and models of rural development paradigms that adopt multi-professional multi-disciplinary, multi-media (traditional and modern), holistic, self – reliance, mass participatory and beneficiaries and individual or people oriented approaches.

This position as posited above, is further buttressed by Nwosu, (1990:72). He writes that the situation should be guided by the down up or trickle-up pattern of rural development in the sense that development now should flow from the rural areas or the less developed or urban areas and with the realities participating fully at the conception, planning and execution of rural development efforts.

Development communication thereby assumes the brocade function of helping to restructure their mental framework in interpreting specific evens and phenomena and to relate to the broacher world beyond their immediate environment.

This system of communication requires the activities of the rural people as well as urban people in the government to establish new social relations with each other. This way, the objectives of development communication as in national development would have provided for a situation of rural development which is directed to the modernization of rural areas.

It involves a board spectrum of issues among which are problems of agricultural modernization, rural industrialization job creation, transport development and provision of adequate housing and shelter for rural inhabitants. It also includes education, health, recreational services, regional economic development and the composite problem of overall transformation of the rural milie in order to enhance the quality of rural life. (Akinbode, 1983: 39 – 42).

It is only through development communication that the above positions or situations as preferred by Akinbode can be realized. In such a setting as this, opinion leaders among the ruralities become the only credible sources from whom such development oriented communication messages can be elicited.


1.2 Statement Of Research Problem

In the traditional setting, like the ones that form the focus of this study, opinion leadership is since qua non to the daily survival of the people.

In this respect, there are people who by the virtue of personal dispositions have become accepted by a section of the people, or as in some cases the entire people, as credible sources from whom new knowledge can be acquired (Agbagha, 1995). The fact remains that these people are relational human beings and will always part with messages and information which they deem fit this is to say that it is not everything they hear in terms o development communication messages that they will be ready to part with.

This, therefore, underscores the point that opinion leadership has its negative and positive sides. Positive in the sense that they feed the rural people with development communication messages and information while carrying out a research their mediation role. On the other hand, they still deny the people access to some other vital development communication messages as they deem it. These implications, therefore, call for research as to find out what difficulties they pose in the realization of the objectives of development communication, hence this research work is carried out.


1.3 Objectives Of The Study

This study has the following goals to achieve.

  1. To find out how the opinion leaders contribute to the achievement of development communication objectives in Nigeria .
  2. To establish whether community opinion leaders capitalized on their position to misinform the mass of the rurl dwellers.
  3. To establish whether the opinion leaders are the only credible sources of information in terms of development communication messages to the rural communities in Nigeria .
  4. To find out the degree which opinion leadership has been able to influence the rural dwellers towards imbibing the concept of development communication.
  5. To determine whether the theory of selective perception has any effect on the community opinion leaders withy regards to the type of information they are exposed to which subsequently they Passover to their rural colleagues.
  6. To establish the extent to which the objectives of development communication have been imbibed by the rural dwellers and what impact it has made on them.
  7. To make recommendations for further studies, based on the findings.

1.4 Significance Of The Study

Most developing or less developed countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the middle East at present, have rural and overall national development as one of their foremost national priorities (Nwosu, 1990: 17). This assertion by a 21st century contemporary communicator, point to the fact rueful and national development is a central issue in Nigeria as in other developing countries.

This study will therefore, provide the needed platform on which the position of opinion leadership in the pursuit of the objectives of using communication to bring about development, will be appraised. It will also add to the stock of knowledge already existing in the area of opinion leadership and development communication. Students of development communication, invariably will stand to gain one or two things or more from the bulk of this study.


1.5 Research Questions

For the purpose of this study, the following questions were considered.

  1. Do opinion leaders facilitate the achievement of development communication objectives?
  2. Do opinion leaders as mediators hide some development communication messages and information from the rural populace?
  3. Are the opinion leaders the only credible sources of information in terms of development communication messages, open t the rural people?
  4. Is the position of the opinion leaders central to the achievement of development communication objectives?
    Have the opinion leaders been liaising with the designers of development communication messages in the packaging of such messages, in line with the concept of development communication?

1.6 Definition Of Terms

For the purpose of this study, some variables have been identified and defined both conceptually and operationally to suit the terms in which they have been used in the study.
In this dispensation, the following terms have been considered.

  1. Opinion leaders
  2. Development
  3. Development communication
  4. Rural people
  5. Mediator
  6. Role
1. Opinion Leaders

Conceptual: The imitators and leaders of though in any society, whose view act as influence on others.
Operational: Opinion leaders as used in this study include:

  • Village chiefs
  • Community leaders
  • Age grade leader
  • Women group leaders and
  • Other such influential person that are more exposed to the mass media in Akpuoga and Ugwuaji rural communities of Enugu state. unities of Enugu state.
2. Development:
Conceptual:

Development is a widely participatory process of social change in a society intended to bring about both social and material advanceman (including grater equality, freedom, and other valued qualities) for the majority of the people through their gaining control over their environment (Rogers, 1976).

Development is also defined by Kleinjans (1975) in the following lines.

Development ultimately is not a matter of technology or gross national product, but the attainment of a new knowledge and skills, the growth of a new consciousness, the expansion of the human confidence.

Operational:

Development in the context of this study embraces.

  • Improved knowledge on farming skills
  • Knowledge of fertilizer application
  • Awareness of improved farm seedlings.
  • Preservation of framing outputs in Akpuoga and Ugwuaji rural communities.
3. Development Communication
Conceptual:

This involves the shaming of knowledge aimed at reaching a consensus for actions that takes into account the interest, needs and capacities of all concerned. It is also the application of the process of communication to the development process. It involves the use of the principles and practice of exchange of ideas to fulfill development objectives.

Operational:

In this context it means the agricultural development oriented news, messages and information broadcast of ESBS and FRCN broadcasting stations in Enugu, Enugu state.

4. Rural People:
Conceptual:

Those that reside (live) in non-urbanized areas.

Operational:

They include all able – bodied men and women that are actively engaged in farming in Akpuoga and Ugwuaji rural communities.

5. Mediators
Conceptual:

All those who act as link or go between in any group or society.

Operational:

The identified opinion leaders in the two rural communities under study, who pass on mass media messages and information with regard to agricultural broadcasting to the rural people through interpersonal communication process.

6. Role
Conceptual:

This means the responsibility that is expected on one in any venture or enterprise.

Operational:

This involves the mediating functions that are expected of the community development communication through the interpersonal process of communication.


1.7 Assumptions

In this study, the research has made a lot of assumption which helped to put the entire research work in shape. It is assumed that the rural people of Apuoga and Ugwuaji communities who form the focus of this study do not have and listen to raid sets. It is further assumed that those described as opinion leaders in these communities do own and listen to radio sets, with special emphasis on agricultural programmes, broadcast on ESBS and FRCN stations in Enugu, Enugu State. And that the village settings thrives mostly on the environment of interpersonal communication therefore making it ideal for everybody to share whatever information or messages that filter in the neghibourhood.


1.8 Limitation Of The Study

A study of this nature ought to have a very wide scope, but as a result of time. And financial constraints, this researcher has limited it to two rural communities in Enugu State; namely, Akpuoga community in Enugu East local Government council, and Ugwuaji community in Enugu South local government council. The essence of this is to provide for a situation of comparism.

Along this line of thinking too, the concept of development communication in its widest scope has been limited to agricultural development.

Programmes broadcast on ESBS and FRCN broadcasting station in Enugu, Enugu State.


Chapter Five


Summary And Recommendations

5.1 Summary

This study set out to examine the effectiveness of opinion leadership in bringing about development communication in the rural areas. That is to say to find out how opinion leaders contribute in facilitating the achievement of development communication objectives of the rural people.


5.2 Conclusion

The study tested five hypothesis all of which were statistically supported. The results of the hypothesis indicated that opinion leaders facilitate the achievement of development communication objectives. Their position here are not whole and entirely but actually giving out the correct information that would enhance the objectives. Equally, the study underscores the fact that opinion leaders as mediators still hide some development communication messages and information from the rural people.

Furthermore, the source credibility of opinion leaders does not rule out other possible credible sources of information in terms of development communication messages open to the rural dwellers.

Most importantly, the opinion leaders cannot work in isolation to bring about the desired development communication. They must liaise with relevant bodies to do an appreciable work in the rural areas as it relates to the development communication and rural transformation.


5.3 Recommendation

Based on the limitations and finding of the study, the following recommendations are made for policy and further researches in this area.

A. Policy Recommendation
  1. The government should formulate and pursue policies that would encourage opinion leadership to enhance acceptability and understanding of its programmes and policies to the rural people, that is , aimed in mobilizing them to support government programmes and policies they should be kept abreast to events of government.
  2. Those policies and programme should endeavour to arrest some cultural barriers that make sit extremely impossible to interact with people especially opposite sex, meeting those in the purdah in those Moslern enclaved areas.
  3. Opinion leaders should be accorded reorganization by every local council to enhance their effectiveness in the discharge of their duties.
  4. iv. Opinion leaders in the communities, should be made by law not to conceal any development communication messages and information from the rural dwellers.
B. Recommendation For Further Studies
  1. Further studies in this area should attempt to find out whether opinion leadership has any relevance on the urbanities especially at this era of heavy reliance on foreign media for information.
  2. How opinion leaders could be used as a public and international relations tools to fight against the negative image of the country emanating from the western media.
  3. Studies should be carried to ascertain what makes opinion leaders what they are.

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