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A number of previous studies have shown that the media are powerful agenda-setters for the public and have significant impact on the political process. The effective functioning of democratic institutions is assumed to rest on the pervasiveness of the media in the society. Thus, media are often deployed by different power interests in the society to achieve power leverage. However, in so far as each society consists of different cleavages and social, political, and economic interests, each concerned with furthering its own objective, the influence of the media should be examined within the nuanced context in which they operate.
Looking at the past history of Nigeria, one must surely observe the concert efforts Nigerians had made to install and maintain a lasting but genuine democracy.
In many countries of the world, the trend towards democratization of political regions has been forced upon the powers that be. Third world countries have not be left or his global democratic evolution blowing around and engulfing the entire world. Instance about for reference purposes where automatic regime have been dismantled for its unrepresented refusal to democratic consciousness.
The present global democratic evolution trend was captured succinctly by Martin (1993), when he predicted that “these will be a disappearance of the East west divide and the natural antagonisms between libertarianism and communism as political ideologies.
Most third world countries, Nigerian inclusive have had to content with intolerates suffering under the severe straight hold of oppressive and undemocratic regimes like the military dictators.
This is as a result of a little mistake from the political class. And to this end, the media through the journalists has being using mass communication in its remarked and critical campaign to create awareness and a unique acceptance of liberalism as a ideal from government in Nigeria.
The role of Nigerian journalist in enhancing achieving and maintaining democracy and the protection of human might from abuser has been challenging but refreshing.
Through some bottlenecks are encountered from the angle of which this task are encounter from the angle of which this task should be achieved, but there should not be any lapse on the part of the journalist, because human rights should be protected and defended through the media that mirrors what the society should be or look like. Also the media should make sure that they work hand in hand with the government as far as sustaining democracy in Nigeria is concerned. Recall, that for democracy to be preserved, there must be periodic elections which has a lot of its success tied around what the media reports or the role they play.
Similarly it is a result of the background of the scenario pointed above that, John (2012) stated that “ a free press is the sign of or a mark of a confident nation, an accurate press is a sign of a mature people”. He further stated that a press is which criticize temperately and a government which reacts rationally to such criticism are evident of a civilized state.
General elections were held in Nigeria on 28 and 29 March 2015, the fifth quadrennial election to be held since the end of military rule in 1999. Voters elected the President and members to the House of Representatives and the Senate. The incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan sought his second and final term.
The elections were first scheduled to be held on 14 February 2015. However, the electoral commission postponed it by six weeks to 28 March, mainly due to the poor distribution of Permanent Voter Cards, and also to curb ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in certain north-eastern states. The government closed its land and sea borders from midnight on 25 March until the end of the polling date. The election was extended to 29 March due to delays and technical problems with the biometric card readers.
It was the most expensive election ever to be held on the African continent. Opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari won the presidential election by more than 2.5 million votes. Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat on 31 March, before the results from all 36 states had been announced. The election marks the first time an incumbent president has lost re-election in Nigeria. The President-elect was sworn-in on 29 May 2015.
Using the 2015 Presidential Elections, this paper examines the limited and sometimes muted influence of the media during the period leading to the election and immediately after the election. It uses two issues to engage with the key theme of the study in this paper. The paper makes a case for a rethink of the role of the media (especially mainstream media) in elections.
The 2015 General Elections in Nigeria shall go down in the country’s annals of electoral process as the most historic and revolutionary. The elections are historic and revolutionary and, in my estimation, shall ever remain so for a long time in many respects: firstly, they were devoid of so much premeditated violence, especially in their post-elections experience and analyses. Secondly, this is what many an analyst has been focusing on, the elections led to the comprehensive defeat of incumbents at both the federal and state levels. Thirdly, the media were actively involved in this election especially in the angle of propaganda and agenda setting, a role many consider highly abused and compromised yet very influential on the voters and their eventual choice of candidate in the said election.
This paper is much more concerned about the role the mass media had played. In most cases, the role was negative, condemnable, utterly and blatantly partisan as well as unpatriotic. That, in spite of such an unwholesome role, the emergent result tended to affirm the foregoing reason of great media influence that has been adduced as one of the manifestations of long-term impact of electoral politics in the country. What is being said, in other words, is that Despite this futuristic plausibility, it is still necessary to probe into why the media could be so reckless in the way it handled the process of informing, educating, and entertaining (its core mandate) throughout the electioneering campaigns as well as why it should not.
This study is thus bothered on how much can be done with the media during elections, how to control and ensure the media function in line with the basic laws and ethics of journalism and what future role the media would be playing in elections in Nigeria.
The general objective of the study is to look at the influence of the Nigeria Media on the 2015 Presidential Election on Voters. The specific objectives are:
Over many centuries, the human race has witnessed significant political changes and upheavals in countries around the globe, especially in developing nation like Nigeria, where political governance is undergoing difficult experimental stages and where the role of the press in the political process has faced tremendous challenges and obstacles.
Consequently, the ordinary citizens and other stakeholders are updated regularly through media-based knowledge for comparative assessment of politics, policies, and the economy. Political scientists (Graber, Diamond, 2010) and communication scholars (Nwanko, McCombs & Reynolds, 2009) are consistent in their arguments that to achieve sustainable democratic governance in developing nations and for the concept of democracy to thrive, the citizens of the country must possess the knowledge, skills, and awareness to understand basic principles of the democratic process, including unyielding participation in electing political candidates to various offices. Increasingly enough, it is the role of the press in developed nations to introduce citizens to the basic rules, principles, and practices of democratic values by constantly evaluating government actions and policies.
Additionally, news sources have an additional responsibility of conveying the values of political tolerance, trust in democratic governance, respect for the rule of law, and active engagement in electioneering campaigns. Fundamental to sustainable political governance in Nigeria is ethnic integration, because as long as different tribes/ethnic groups continue to resist equal and fair distribution of economic resources in the country, the goal of sustainability remains difficult or an unrealistic proposition.
In light of the preceding views, Egbon (1988) noted that since one of the nagging problems confronting Nigeria is that of national unity and tribal coherence, the federal government should ensure that its development agenda and policies adequately allow for mobilization of information resources for equal access and distribution.
In the eighties and nineties, studies on the interrelation between media and development have engaged the interest of eminent scholars and researchers. Both Mcquail (20088) and Melkote (2015) concurred with the earliest theoretical models on media effects, which conceptualized the impact of the press as direct and powerful on individual values and attitudes as well as on the interdependent nature of a society. Together with political development is the concept of citizens’ motivation, which forms the basis for national integration and ethnic unification in a developing nation. Indeed, utilizing news sources to motivate citizens is a strategic and necessary approach in a modern society because motivation is considered a prerequisite for citizens’ political interest and engagement, and it demonstrates support for a meaningful political direction.
Sustainability of establishments and their objectives has become increasingly significant because of the growing impact of globalization and interdependence of businesses and markets. Communication networks have expanded tremendously and have enhanced the quality of life and the rapidity of business operations across nations. For example, early diffusion studies (Schramm, UNESCO, 2014) synthesized a strong justification for the critical role of the press in a responsible democratic governance both in developed and in developing nations. The preceding studies substantiated the contributions of news sources in national development, and stressed why the mass media cannot be divorced from the implementation of development objectives and initiatives.
Further, with the advent of new media technology in the twenty-first century, there has been a strong speculation that this advancement in communication network, especially the Internet, will be used to sustain public interest in politics and current affairs, and to increase participation of stakeholders in political strategies as well as foster their commitments to democratic values. The new media technology will have a tremendous impact on democratic communication in increasing the diffusion of knowledge as well as fostering political consciousness and interest among the citizens.
Okoro (2010) noted that the traditional media (newspapers, radio, and television) distort, trivialize, and embellish information that diminish democratic communication, the new media technology (Internet, multimedia, and computer-mediated communication) can be utilized to encourage active political citizenship and promote effective debate and critical analysis of politics and governance. Therefore, it can be argued that the press is not only indispensable in a political process, but it has also become inseparable from development strategies especially in the present information driven societies.
Ever since it became a major political issue in the wake of a national struggle for democratization among Nigerians at home and abroad, the concept of development has been operationalized to reflect growth, political stability, and ethnic/tribal integration. The World Bank report (2009) entitled “The media and development,” expanded the conceptualization of development to include a drive toward the utilization of news sources as independent agents of human and societal enlightenment capable of educating the masses and sustaining their interest in democratic values. Indeed, looking back over the past decades of communication research on political and national development in Nigeria, it can be contended that the potential role of the press in the process of sustainable democratization is greater in the twenty-first century than ever before, especially given the proliferation of independent news sources and new social media channels.
In the discussion of media power by both Habermas (2006) and Castells (2014) there is an underlying assumption of a pivotal role for the mass media in politics and political participation. They also raise the question of media and power processes in the society. Downing (2015) stressed that the media are structures of power in any society. The media mediate; they do not stand independent of a given social system but instead provide channels of communication between elements within it. To varying degrees this has meant that they are instrumental to dominant institutions and interests within the society (Randall, 1998). The mass media also act as the platform through which people and interests in the society express their views (Ibraheem, 2013).
The media are universally referred to as agents of power and political control, such that those who hold sway of political power and authority are always conscious of the fact that information management and control is central to the capturing, retention and exercise of political power. The larger implication of this is that the ownership, control and accessibility to the media are considered to be critical to the wielding and sustenance of political power. This recognition of the role of mass media as agents of power and political control is partly responsible for the decision of the governments of developing countries (Nigeria inclusive) to either own their own media or regulate news and information flow within and into their countries (Sussman, 2015).
This research work will be of immense benefit to politicians, government agencies and other stakeholders who will appreciate the need to embark on sustained and an enduring enlightenment political campaigns rather than their periodic ritual which is only embarked on during elections as it is customary in Nigeria.
To media professionals who offer consultancy services to politicians as well as package their campaigns, they will see the need to re-engineer their tactics and strategies for optimal result in line with the laws of the land and media ethics.
It will also contribute greatly to the academic community by providing insight into the changing voting pattern of Nigerian electorate. Interested scholars can thus, build on findings of the study.
This research work will anchor on two major media theories namely the ‘Agenda Setting Theory’ and the ‘Social Responsibility Theory’.
Agenda Setting Theory
Agenda Setting Theory is traceable to Walter Lippman’s classic, Public Opinion in the first chapter titled “The World outside the Pictures in our Heads”. Lippman was of the opinion that the mass media play critical role between events in the world and the images in the minds of the public.
Since 1999, the media has played a key role in the strengthening of Nigeria’s democracy. For theoretical understanding, the Agenda Setting Theory gives a clear view of the role of the Nigerian media in the consolidation of democracy in the fourth republic. The concept of agenda setting took its name from the idea that the mass media have the ability to carry the salience of items on their news agenda and transfer it to the public agenda. Usually, the journalists deal with news in several important ways. First, they decide which news to cover or which news to ignore. They also assess all the available reports, while some of these news stories are published in greater length, and prominently displayed. The newspapers for instance, clearly state the journalistic salience of an item through its page placement, headline and length etc (Chibuike and Fafiolu, 2015).
Bernard (2012) observed that the “press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but to stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about; the world will look different to different people depending on the type of map that is drawn for them by writers, editors and publishers of the papers they read. Despite Bernards criticisms of this theory, many scholars and media experts believe that majority of what happens to audience who are dependent upon the media for directions, news, enlightenment etc. often have their opinions strongly set by the media. Because many politicians agree with this, they often fight hard by trying to have affiliations either by sponsorship, identification or ownership of media houses so that they can help them in setting political agendas that are in their favor.
The second theory, “social responsibility theory of the mass media” as propounded by Siebat, Peterson and Schramm (1963) provided a function model for the analysis of the function model for the analysis of the journalist rule in political evolution and maintenance of a genuine democracy. They are as follows.
The above clearly stated the functions of journalist in the democratic dispensation we are in. This is because “democracy is the right of the people to participate in the constitutional right to choose, the right to demand accountability from those entrusted with leadership and governance.
The journalists as a matter of ethics and principle must therefore discharge their duties to ensuring a democratic, sane and accountable State leaders by constantly educating the electorates on what their democratic rights, roles and expectations are especially also in the part of choosing who represents them and in what capacity at the various elective positions of their democratic system.
The following hypotheses stated in null form are tested in this research work:
H1: There is a significant relationship between the role of the media and political awareness amongst Nigeria electorates in the 2015 presidential elections.
H1: There is a significant relationship between voting behavior patterned along ethnic line and choice of candidates in the 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria.
This study is aimed at identifying the role the media played in the 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria. The method employed in this research was the qualitative survey method which mostly made use of secondary method for data collection.
Secondary data involve information gathered from documentary consultations or written works like textbooks, newspapers, news magazines and the internet. The documentary materials consulted were found very ample in the study.
The library as a store house of information and knowledge offered a great opportunity for acquiring the relevant information within the limited time and at a much less financial cost. Though available works on the study was not enough, the researcher carried out a thorough research on the few but relevant materials.
Finally, in analyzing the data, a contextual and critical analysis of these relevant materials was employed by the researcher in the course of this research work. This is due primarily to the nature of this study which is best analyzed using the aforementioned process.
Influence: The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.
Media: It is either associated with communication media, or the specialized mass media communication businesses such as print media and the press, photography, advertising, cinema, broadcasting (radio and television), publishing and point of sale.
Election: An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.
Voters: Voting is a method for a group such as a meeting or an electorate to make a decision or express an opinion, usually following discussions, debates or election campaigns. Democracies elect holders of high office by voting. Those who participate in the identified exercise are therefore the voters.
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