Role Of The Press In The Political Polarisation Of The Nigerian National Development

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Role Of The Press In The Political Polarisation Of The Nigerian National Development


This study was designed to critically examine “the role of the press in Nigeria’s polarization and National Development”

The method of content analysis was adopted and also, three Nigerian daily newspaper were selected. This include, the New Nigeria Newspaper a federal Government owned newspaper published in Kaduna state,

The National concord and the champion, each being privately owned by differently individual (s) but published in Lagos.

Three publications were selected per week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays covering April, August and December between 1997 – 1993. Five years were analysed. These are 1981, 1984 1987, 1990 and 1993.

The result were then carefully analysed and interpreted. The analysis revealed that the Nigerian Press jettisoned the much-admired doctrine of fairness and impartiality and tend towards biasness and sycophancy.

At the end, it was recommended that in order to address the polarization of the press owners and operators of mass media, irrespective of their ethnic geographical and political difference must create an avenue where they could rub minds with one another so as to eradicate the misconception held against each other. And that the press and government relationship must improve hence seeing other as partners in progress.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of Study

Nigeria is one of the countries, which is “undergoing transition”.

This is because politically they are visibly undergoing rapid development or change, which may be positive or Negative.

It is true in line with this that since independence Nigeria has been under transition politically. It has witnessed many tailed politically transition programmes that have continue to hold political power through brute force or sheer power of the gun. These include the General Abacha political transition programme and the likes.

However, Nigeria has been described as being in a transitory situation which political culture is characterized by divergent and powerful interest groups with insatiable political and economic demands on the larger political entity.

To this end, the role of the press which is been as the fourth estate of the ream “ Cannot be overlooked. This was why Hohenberg (1978) submits that:

“When public trust in Government declines and deeply affects the Faith of millions of people is its principle and practice the press is the institution that is least likely to profit from the resultant disillusionment”

It is this veritable position of the press that explains the inextricable relationship between the institution (press) and politics.

Consequently, a duty is imposed on the press to ensure that the political objective of Nigeria as a country is accordance to its motto this that all of the function performed in the political aggregation, rule making rule application and rule adjudication are performed through communication.

Upholding the through importance of communication. The press in a given polity is the life line as communication is the oxygen of all political relationship.

The importance of communication may mass media has being further acknowledged while assessing the significance of the mass media in any political systems is that the mass media serves as a moderator of public opinion and watchdog of the people.

The media equally helps to spread ideas, knowledge and views.

Also the press in any country should be responsible in the performance of its functions. These functions includes

  1. Servicing the political system by providing information discussions and debate on public affairs.
  2. Enlightening the public so as to make it capable of self-government.
  3. Servicing the economic system, primarily by bringing together the buyers and sellers of good and services through the medium of advertising
  4. Safe – guarding the rights of the individuals by serving as a watchdog against government
  5. Providing entertainment
  6. Maintaining its own self – sufficiency as to be press from pressure of special interests.

During the Nigeria second Republic in 1979 to 1983, the mass media was extensively used by the government in power, while the private owned newspaper were all the services of their proprietors who were mostly members of one political partly or the other.

The Negative usage of the mass media by the contending forces has been examined by various scholars.
Thus the crux of this research therefore is to examine the role of the press in the political setting of the Nigeria state and how the role has affected National Development.

1.2 Research Problem

The problems now are: That the Nigerians press has been somehow accused by many of operating on the principle of the country’s political setting.

That the press has not been able to effectively work towards the unification of the country.

That the press further compounded the existing dichotomy among the various ethnic groups. Hence, the ethnic entities have always been suspicious of one another; since political tracheotomy is along regional lines.

Therefore, the press, which ought to unite the people through promotion of cultural, values and symbols essential to the (sanctity and continuity in the society, appeared to be deficient in meeting the people’s expectations.

As a student of mass communication, this then gave the researcher an impetus to investigate the issue in order to ascertain the ole of the press in the political polarization and its effects on National Development.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The primary aim of this project therefore is to examine if the role of the press reflects the political polarization of the Nigerian state.

The study will examine the role of the press between 1979 – 1983 – and 1985 – 1993.

Also, the consequences of the role of the press in the political shall be examined.

1.4 Significances of the Study

The relevance of this study will be to identify whether the Nigerian press is politically polarized and if yes, ascertain its effects on National Development. It shall also identify the role of the press in crises situation and how it has been able to positively or negatively manage the situation.

The study may be useful for media critics and media evaluators in the country. It may be also useful for students of mass communication may be interested in conducting further research into the issue for an in-depth understanding
Furthermore, it may help any interested member in identifying the positive and negative effects of the press in the over all development of the Nigeria state.

1.5 Scope and Limitation

The focus of this research shall be the role of the Nigerian press in the political polarization between 1979 – 1983 and 1985 – 1993.

It must be stated that there are few literatures on the topic of research. Also, the data that may be readily available for this project will be those of newspaper magazines, journals etc.

Factors such as finance and time may militate against this work, these are sine – qua – non-in contemporary issue as this and the researcher is not exempted.

1.6 The Research Questions

In this study, the research shall try to proffer answers to the following propositions:

  1. Does the Nigerian Press operate on political basis?
  2. If so, to what extent has this proactive been displayed?
  3. How has it affected National Development?

1.7 Hypothesis

The Nigerian press has not been objective enough in reporting issues across the nooks and crannies of the country.

The Nigeria press is in concert with the political division of the country in its reporting of events.

1.8 Definition of Terms


According to the Advance learners Dictionary of Current English, polarization means to divide into groups based on two or more opposite principle, political opinions.

In the course of writing this project the term polarization will be taken to mean division within the body of the press in the country.

The Press:

The Advance Learners Dictionary defines it as an organisation for collecting News and supplying it to newspaper. The term PRESS will be used to mean various newspaper organizations in the country.


Radom House Dictionary of English Language defines it as an act or process of developing similarly, the oxford universal Dictionary / illustrated, Defines it as a growth from within.

According to Advanced learners Dictionary of current English Development means process of development or being developed or a new stage, which is the result of development. However in this project, development would betaken to mean all spheres of human development vis: political economic, social and physical economic, social and physical infrastructure that would enhance the well – being of the people or as one time secrfary General of united National Boutrous Ghali puts if “development is economic growth plus social changes”.

National Development:

This according to Jere Turnstall (1971) “is development that is peculiar or common or affecting the whole fact of a country be it economic political social and physical infrastructure.

Therefore the term “National Development” will be used to mean upliftment of the nations economic political and physical infrastructure conditions.

Chapter Five

Summary, Recommendation and Conclusion

5.1 Summary

With the increasing sophistication of Nigeria economic, socio – political systems, there is the need for the press to change and improve their mode of operation if the nation is to move forward. The task is even more demanding as we are approaching the next millennium.

It has therefore become highly imperative for the press to break the cacoon, which is restricting them from their traditional role of information, enterment and education. The time is now to take more to developmental role. The press occupy a crucial position in the development of a nation. This is why it is certainly difficult if not impossible for the people and government to take rational decision without presentation and articulation of options available through the mass media (press).

5.2 Recommendation

In the course of this research, from what has been observed, iwish to make the following recommendation, which might be useful to towards improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the press in National development.

  1. For the press to be effectively used to achieve national unity, honesty and sincerity of purpose should be their guide this will go a long way in deter mining the effectiveness of the message being disseminated
  2. National development as noted either is affected by numbers of factors like political instability, social relation among the nationality making up the nation. The press as a mater of fact should be able to crcate the enableing environment by reporting events without bias and political rancor.
  3. The Nigeria press should collectively develop a reliable means of efficient communication based on population, co-operation, industrialization, education and skills, needed in modern industrial society instead of engaging in the practice of witch hunting journalism.
  4. The government and press relationship must be improved, hence, seeing each other as partners in progress. Therefore, in terms of the battle against, illiteracy and divisiveness in particular, the press is to join hands with governments in advancing or bringing about the successes. In many instances, this unity between the government and the press has been advocated by some media executives. Aihaji Babatunde Jose once said, a journalism has additional responsibilities to help in multicultural societies in countries whore economic resources, are inadequate to meet expectations of the people
  5. There should be proper use of editorial judgments to promote economic socio political enliancing news while those that can attenuate it should be down played.
  6. In order to address the political polarisal tendency of the press, owners and operators of mass media (press) should create avenue through which they can rub minds with all political affiliations. This would ensure the eradication of the misconception held against each other.

5.3 Conclusion

It is an established fact that no nation can develop in an at mosphone of political instability and cha. 5. Therefore the primary role and responsibility of press is to report what is going on as honestly and as accurately as possible.

To inform the public of the good, the bad interesting as well as the not too interesting and so doing to play a definite and constructure role in bringing about a better informed and more alert citizenry.

The media stand out to be the agent of social change even know to man.

The press is more or less the sole determinate of the levels of national unity, social justice, economic development especially in this age of globaliscition, when the media is used to project internal situations so as to influence foreign investments.

With increasing complexities, the press make news by investigating and pexposing corrupt Fraudulent and other undersirable practis as well as well as exclusive stories.

The press serves asan in built cresible check against the excesses of any argan or system of a given society. This ismore desirable whore the ruling party has domineering presence in a state and control bi=oth houses offen found in meritocracy whore is complete fussion of power.

Ideally, the press should act as a barometer that interlinks between rulers and subjects on one hand, informing the rulers about the policies and actions of the ruling group, while on the other it provides a medium through which the masses of the people reach state official to apaise their conduct and proffer alternatives or options for their society.

However, this research shows that inspite of the appreciation of the inevitability of good policies to the development of a society the press were busy clamouring for other things at the expense of shaping opinions, moulding behaviour, mobilizing and stimulating socio economics and political change in development the nation.

It is also clear from the research that the press Jettisoned fair play and objectivity for partisanship. This could be seen in the inaccurate report and analysis of events.

There was also undesirable relationship between the press and political parties. This height not be divorced from the fact that those who were injured by unbalanced reporting would spare nothing to ensure that such an organization is brought to disrepute.

The research also shows that despite the inadequacies of the press the fatal government deserves greater blame for the catalogue of woe the nation has experience in the time past.

Nevertheless, the press need to see itself as being the guardian of interest of majority rater being and mere megaphone to the power that be.

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