The Politics of the Nigerian Media

It is amazing how powerful our electronic, print and social media can collectively be. Co-ordination is the key to coercion, and we witnessed this in full effect during the fuel subsidy stand-off at the beginning of 2012. Hours of protests turned to days, and days turned the government’s reassured position into a compromised one. The most-desired outcome of N65 per Litre may not have been attained, but with the help of the likes of Channels Television, blogs and local newspapers, the country as a whole moved one step closer to political utopia. Never before has the entire country been as hugely informed and involved as it was during those gloomy days that ushered in 2012.

The reason for this healthy political involvement is simple: the prevailing opinion across the country is that every Nigerian would be affected by the government’s policy pertaining to the removal of fuel subsidy. While this may be true, it is pertinent to note that EVERY government policy has the potential to affect each and every one of us. In the weeks leading up to the protests, fuel subsidy had become the focus of an animated national debate. The true question is: Why isn’t this spotlight beamed every time the government issues out a policy statement?

We need not look further than to big brother Western World to find the answers to this quagmire. American and British politics center on policy issues because of the role the media plays in shaping the rhetoric. The reason why the British argue about the Economy and the Americans debate over healthcare is because the western media prides itself in putting the politicians under the spotlight, forcing them to constantly take a position on the issues important to the everyday man.

In truth, politicians from Nebraska to Nassarawa, London to Lagos are actually all the same. For starters, there is a certain level of megalomania that drives anyone to think they are good enough to lead a hoard of people, or to believe they are ‘best suited for the job’. It is a character-trait thing, imbibed in the very innermost membrane and DNA of politicians across the globe, irrespective of race, creed, ethnicity or religion. However, the distinguishing features between a Kogi and a Kentucky Senator center around the rules of engagement and the umpires who moderate the polity. Unfortunately for us here in Nigeria, the western media has done a better job in consistently getting its politicians to focus on real-life issues than its counterparts in Nigeria.

A case-in-point is the British Petroleum (BP) oil spillage debacle in 2010, where the western media, in what appeared to be a carefully orchestrated and collaborative strategy, spectacularly catapulted the sins of BP to the forefront of the everyday debate, all in a matter of days. They spared nobody: heads rolled, dividends froze, and even President Obama could not escape completely unscathed. It’s a form of a pseudo-vicarious liability, cause-and-effect blame game that the western media tactfully moderates by roping all necessary, desiring and sometimes undeserving parties as unwilling objects [and consequentially subjects] of their reportership. The end result: every politician is on their tippy toes, on high alert, armored with sharp (albeit rehearsed) responses to all the major issues, for fear of being left behind or ridiculed by the media as a result of their naiveté. IT WORKS BAJE!

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as public opinion, only published opinion. If our media wants the discourse of the day to be about education, taxes, the economy and/or healthcare- issues that affect us on a daily basis by the way- then reporters, writers and columnists collectively need to step up to the plate and become bold enough to force politicians to supply answers to these demanding issues. After all, there’s always a camera and microphone within 5 yards of a politicking politician, whether in Asaba or Abuja. Shelve the zoning questions (and irritating words like stakeholders and godfathers), introduce relevant questions, and watch how ‘we the people’ and ‘they the politicians’ mature in the nature of our national debates.

The solution to this political dichotomy can be simplified thus: XYZ (media) feeds ABC (the people) with bukka-worthy gist relating to the economy and healthcare. XYZ (media) quizzes and grills Governor DEF (politician) on these issues. Governor DEF’s response is sensationalized by XYZ, and it becomes succulent fodder for ABC to nourish itself with back at the bukka table. And there you have it; a continuous spiral cycle of opinion-shaping that has the media at the forefront of the rhetoric, in the mould of a proverbial arbitrator and mediator.

We are still a long way from Jericho, but it does seem like the Nigerian media finally gets it.

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Biola Olayinka Pedro is a Lawyer based in Abuja, Nigeria. He can be reached on twitter via the handle @biolapedro

17 Comments on The Politics of the Nigerian Media
  • ruth January 30, 2012 at 11:34 am

    im here first !!!!

    • Moi January 30, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Congrats, Ruth!!!….your gift will be mailed to u b4 d close of biz 2moro………hahahahahahahaha

  • Ester January 30, 2012 at 11:38 am

    i love ur website please visit

    http://www.mrs-ca.blogspot.com

  • Omolola January 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Ehen!! So @Ruth and Ester, out of all this tory, you people no get any constructive thing to say apart from “I’m here first” and “I love ur website”…….smh at una

  • Teris January 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    yes. thank u for this write-up.
    more so, i’m glad BN is taking a moment off more regularly from the glitzy to publish editorials on some serious social issues. as you in turn quoted:
    “…there is no such thing as public opinion, only published opinion… If our media wants the discourse of the day to be about education, taxes, the economy and/or healthcare- issues that affect us on a daily basis by the way- then reporters, writers and columnists collectively need to step up to the plate and become bold enough to force politicians to supply answers to these demanding issues.”

    however, that’s not to say BN shud turn to a “newspaper” newspaper. i love to hang out here and catch up on the striving “naija identity”, but the media (BN inclusive) in all its forms – and the folks hacking away at keyboards behind the scenes&screens have at their disposal a lot of clout that ought to be used responsibly.

  • RACHELLE January 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    well written!when the nation’s editors were arrested and other press people did nothing i lost all hope. its worse when i get a more comprehensive report from Aljazeera than i get from our local media’s.

  • tatafo January 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I think the Nigerian media differs from the west in a unique way. Thinking back to Dele Giwa, I wonder if journalists are afraid to publish the real stories? And even when they do is the public desensitized? It’s not like the newspapers don’t publish stories of corrupt government officials who steal and how much. The question remains if we the public are waking up and realizing we have more power to be change agents than we actually realize.

  • Cledy February 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I’m actually researching on Nigerian media and dis info is quite useful. Tnx a big deal. Wil mk reference 2 it

  • WILLIAMS OKIEMUTE(CALEB UNIVERSITY, IMOTA LAGOS) May 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I LIKE THIS ARTICLE AND IT IS USEFUL FOR MY ASSIGNMENT.

  • alaine elizabeth (caleb university, lagos) January 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    this write up has truly exposed the flaws of the media. the media all over the world do what they feel is fit to be right even when they know it’s wrong. it is only an individual that can stand up and speak the truth on his or her own directly to the people not via the media, but today, the people, on the other hand, have great reliance on the media as they count anything that does not come from the media as false. though the media has led to great changes in our society socially, economically and politically but whatever is been released to the masses is half truth due to “news filters”. i believe the Nigerian media is still on it’s way to reality.

  • ogbewe osato donia (brand caleb)……..caleb university lagos January 11, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    first of all i like the article,because it is about the Nigeria media and the information is quite useful to the society and also for students {especially for mass communication students}. I want to no if the journalists are afraid to publish the real stories? because most of the media or medium is own by politicians today, that why the real stories is been released to the public is half truth to due to news filters.

  • Bello Osariemen(Caleb University Imota Lagos State). January 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    The truth of the matter is that most people in the Nigeria mass media are afraid to publish the true story in any news, mostly if the news is concerning politics, that will only talk little about that news. You will only get to find the truth of any news that is if you have a brother or sister in the media to tell you the real news. Nigeria mass media really have to learn how to be truthful not minding the bribes that some politicians will give them to keep sealed lips.

  • SANDRA UDEH, CALEB UNIVERSITY. January 15, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Malaria is a very dangerous and deadly disease and i think its very disappointing that the global funding for the fight against malaria has stalled in the past two years allowing more people to die from this disease.

  • SANDRA UDEH, CALEB UNIVERSITY. January 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    This article has shown that the press if united can achieve a particular goal, and the people have come to greatly rely on the media for their information lets take the 2012 fuel subsidy removal, the people made their opinions and views made known to the government through the media.

  • AKANDE TITILAYO CALEB UNIVERSITY January 16, 2013 at 3:02 am

    The media is supposed to be ethical and therefore publish nothing but the truth and they should as well be credible.The public relies on the media for information that would contribute to their everyday life. The government influences the media greatly and government policies affects each and every one of us

  • MAMILOR ANN CALEB UNIVERSITY January 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    What ever information the media passes across to the public must be truthfull. The public depends on the news or information the media passes across to them.

  • Okiemute WILLIAMS (CALEB UNIVERSITY IMOTA) January 16, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    There is no doubt that media and politics has a strong relationship, because through the media we get information on what is happening in the political sector in Nigeria. The media is a power tool in such a way that it can easily manupulate the minds and also infleunce the audience. but the truth still remains that facts are suppressed, some of the content of news is partially true. the Nigerian news has be full of integrity. the Nigeria media have to break out from corruption, inorder to come out unique and with high standard.

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