REV. FR. P. O. J. UMECHUKWU
DEPARTMENT OF MASS COMMUNICATION, UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA, NSUKKA
It has been amply demonstrated that the press is a veritable tool for the sustenance of the Nigeria’s nascent democracy. In events of crises, the press could be used to generate opinions, galvanize opinions and even mould them to achieve the desired goal of the society at any point in time. The press provides a forum for the change of ideas, views and opinions on any given issue of public interest. The press makes government activities known to the people and people’s reactions to government actions reach the governments via the prevention of crises and in the management of crises. It is- the press that defines issues involved in crises. This is exactly what they (press) did in the political crises that engulfed Anambra state between May 29, 1999 and August 2003.
Anambra state since the enthronement of democracy May 29, 1999 has become a centre of political crises. The history of the state will remain incomplete without reference to the activities of some political gladiators in the state, which have jeopardized the corporate existence of the state.
The crises are unique and have assumed a uniform character from their inception to date. The crises are unique in the sense that, it is not the usual squabble between the ruling party and the opposition party but in this case an intra-party struggle threatening the very foundation of a state. The crises have been uniform in character in the sense that, they are rooted in the misunderstanding between the so-called Kingmakers or political godfathers and their beneficiaries or the godson’s, the governors.
Nnamani (2003) opines that godfather scenario must be viewed from the context of power struggle inherent in a third world political economy environment where access to the state authorities is assumed, even if wrongly, to translate into access to vast material for time.
In line with the position of Nnamani, Chris Uba, one of the political godfathers in Anambra State explained in interview with The News Magazine, August 4: “I did not spend for Ngige (the State Governor) or Senator Anosike (One of the senators he claimedto have sponsored their election) but for my party PDF. I am a businessman, and for me to corner juicy contracts at the federal level, I ‘ve got to deliver my state for PDF”.
Nnamani (2003) further explained that, godfather is viewed as the Supremely father figure, who, for the lack of completeness of the toddling upstart known as his godson, cuts the paths and upstages the system to prove the mastery of the terrain for the benefit of the neophyte. In line with the above positions of Nnamani, Chris Uba describes his godson(Ngige) thus: “N’gige is just starting afresh, he’s just bought a jeep, he’s started renovating his house in less than two months in office. You can imagine what the financial position of the state will look like by the time Nigige quits” (The News, August 4, 2003).
The reason for the crises could thus be located in the wrong perception of godfather and godson relationship by some Nigerians. According to Nnamani (2003): “By way of getting sucked into the American underworld stereotype, some Nigerians see the godfather scenario as the emergence of a looming and imperious guardian figure who provided the life line and direction for the godson perceived to live a life of total submission, subservience and protection of the Oracular personality located in the large, material frame of opulence, affluence and decisiveness; that is, if not ruthlessness”.
The above picture of the situation in Anambra State is just a repeat of what transpired in the state in the days of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju and his Political godfathers.
Mbadinuju, in an interview with Newswatch Magazine, July 2. 2001, admitted that Orjiakor, a wealthy man in the State initially funded his campaign while Emeka Offor later came to support too. Mbadinuju is believed to have fallen out of favour with Emeka Offor, Managing Director of Chrome Oil Limited and a King pin in PDF when he rejected Offer’s candidates for appointment into the state cabinet (Newswatch, April 16, 2001).
And this leads to the next state of the crises, which is manifested in accusations, and counter accusations between the governor and his political mentors turned opponents. Policies of the government are criticized and conscious efforts made to ensure the failure of the government. Newswatch, May 14, 2001, describing the situation in Anambra State writes: “Some powerful individuals and groups in the state, moneybags are accusing the governor of running fraudulent administration. Mbadinuju is also accused of hijacking the People’s Democratic Party, PDF, in the state as well as using the services of Anambra vigilante services, AVS, a.k.a Bakassi Boys to victimize and intimidate political opponents and critics of his administration. The voice of the opposition has been so loud in the past two months that no week passes without advertorials critical of the government appearing in Newspapers. The state has in fact, been turned into a battlefield of verbal war, power show, blackmail and campaign of calumny. The campaign is aimed at blocking Mbadinujure-election bid in 2003″
The present government in Anambra State is not spared of the godfatherism incursions in the statecraft. As such, the Press continued to play its various role in the political environment of the state.
The following headlines capture the role of the press in the abduction Saga. “Probe Ngige’s role in Anambra crisis ” Vanguard, August 5, 2003. “Ngige: I-ge ‘s retirement not final” Vanguard, August 9, 2003. “How to resolve Anambra Crisis ” Vanguard, August 9, 2003. “Handling of Anambra Crisis, a mockery of Democracy” Vanguard August 8.
Crises Points in Anambra Political Scene Since May 29,1999
- Governor Mbadinuju and his deputy Chinedu Emeka
- Governor Mbadinuju and the State House of Assembly
- Governor Mbadinuju and Onitsha traders
- Governor Mbadinuju and his godfathers with his cohorts
- Awkuzu massacre
- Governor Madinuju and Civil Servants/NLC
- Bakassi controversy – (accused of victimization of political opponents and innocent killing e.g. murder of. the Igwes, Pastor Eddy Nawgu, Eze odumegwu Oknokwo, etc)
- Governor Chris Ngige and his godfather.
Definition of Terms
The Press: According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, the press means newspapers and magazines. And this definition conveniently serves the purpose of this work. Although, in certain contexts, it will so used to refer to the journalists and photographers, who work for newspapers and magazines. Newspapers and magazines were used because of their permanence and in-depth analysis of issues and reports.
Political Crises: This compound word has two root words namely Politics and crises. As such, both words will be defined separately for deeper understanding. Thus, Politics, for the purpose of this work is defined according to Nnoli quoted in Umechukwu(2000:17) as “all those activities which are directly or indirectly associated with the seizure of state power, the consolidation of state power, and the use of state power”.
Crisis: According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary is “a time of great danger, difficulty or uncertainty when problems must be solved or important decisions must be made. In other words, Political crises could be defined as crises associated with politics.
In order to adequately tackle the problem under study, such communication theories as normative theories of the press, which looks at the relationship between the press and the government, will be employed. For instance, the libertarian theory re-labelled free press theory by (Me Quail, 1989) and Democratic Participant media theory. In laying the theoretical foundation for the study, a functional approach will equally be adopted with the use of such theories as Agenda setting, Gate keeping, and Uses and Gratification. Other relevant communication theories will be employed where necessary to put the study in proper perspective.
Libertarian Media Theory
Walter Lippman in Peterson et a/ (1971) writing on free press theory says, “the theory of a free press is that truth will emerge from free reporting and free discussion, not that it will be represented perfectly and instantly, in any one account”.
This is in line with Milton’s idea of the “self- writing process of the free market place of ideas” which according to Me Quail (2000) means that, truth triumph over error in the end and the theory seems to bless private ownership and free enterprise system.
Individuals, by the libertarian theory, are viewed as a rational being capable of independent thought. The above postulation shows that Nigeria is currently operating under the free press theory with growing number of private ownership of both broadcast and print media. People are allowed to express their opinion on virtually any issue through these media. For instance, the crises in Anambra State have been widely reported by the press with individuals expressing their opinions through the mass media, for instance through Letters-to-the Editor, Articles, Editorials and Features.
However, Umechukwu (2001:27) rightly observes that there should be no press immunity to the rule of law or freedom to violate social conduct. In the words of Kunezik(1988:79) “Nobody has ever said that the freedom should include freedom, to violate, to indulge in unbridled obscenity, to violate individual privacy or to commit sedition.
For instance, it is not justifiable to use the crises in Anambra to cause defamation or sedition. The press ought to bear in mind the caution by Johnson quoted in Siebert et al, (1956:36) that “restraint of opinion may be morally wrong, but politically right”.
Ojobor in Okunna (2002:10) observed that, the United States in other to forestall abuse of press freedom at the detriment of the state security, the Supreme Court defined the limits of discussion in a democracy by what is today called the “Clear and present danger test” that is, if there is a war and there is reasonable tendency for the discussion to distract the war effort, such discussion could be declared a crime and its participants punished.
The United States displayed this rule during the Gulf war, the British in the Falklands and Irish struggles; and Israel in its war with the Palestinians.
Democratic – Participant Media Theory
Commenting on Democratic – participant Media theory, Me Quail (1987:123) writes, “there is a mixture of Libertarianism, utopianism, socialism, egalitarianism, environmentalism and localism with the following principles: “Individual citizens and minority group have access to media (right to communicate), and rights to be served by media according to their own determination of need.
The organization and content of media should not be subject to centralized political or state bureaucratic control. Media should exist primarily for their audiences and not for media organizations professional or clients of the media. Small scale, interactive and participative media forms are better than large-scale, one-way, professionalized media. The licensing of individuals to establish mass media outfit in any part of the country by the Nigerian government is in agreement with the postulations of this theory.
Also, both private and government broadcasting stations have introduced interactive and audience participation programmes. For instance, “The president explains” “Media Link” among other phone-in-programmes encourage audience participation.
James Curran in Uka (1999:182) described a democratic media system thus: “A democratic media system is one that represents all significant interest in society. It should facilitate their participation in the public domain, enable them to contribute to policy debates and have an input in the framing of public policy. The media should also facilitate the functioning of representative organizations and expose their internal processes to public scrutiny and play of public opinion”.
Pushing the above position further, Chude Okonkwor in Uka (1999:182) argues that the media should be part of a civil society that seeks people’s empowerment and organizes in many different ways the social, cultural and economic life in villages and towns; a civil society that enhances the common good of citizens and does not shy away from change.
From the foregoing it is interesting to note that, a group called Anambra State Democracy Initiative in Daily Champion, Thursday, August 7, 2003. And other dailies published a full-page compilation of different opinions of notable personalities and newspapers condemning the abduction of Governor Ngige.
Traditional Rulers, community leaders, Religious leaders and state governors made press statements condemning the actions and the actors involved as will be seen in subsequent part of this work. They even called for the prosecution of culprits no matter their socio-economic status.
In spite of the above developments, Okonkwor in Uka (1999:185) rightly observed that the privately owned media are run and controlled by those who are part of the elite mainstream and find themselves in the untenable position of critiquing the status quo they help to perpetuate. Pat. Utomi in Uka (1999:526) observed that,
“Government’s vast presence in industry and the economy is also a critical filter from the point of view of the fact that most private media owners have other business interests. Often the press is there to support those other interests or to project the power needs of the owners of the business. It is easy for government to threaten other business interest of media owner that may be involved with government contractors. This way they indirectly orient the sifting of meaning out of reality by the media organization”.
He added that: “few wealthy Nigerians made fortunes without government patronage.” Utomi in Uka (1999:529) further observed that”, in recent years, the spread of Cowboy Capitalism either through fraud “(419)” or through drug merchandising has produced a new moneyed class feed on -fee -need for some social acceptance. To acquire legitimacy they seek to be mentioned on newspapers” social and business pages. In this quest they corrupt the media directly and indirectly as they court the press through gifts and donations”.
Social Responsibility Theory
The essence of this theory is captured by Umechukwu (2001:26) when he maintains the press can be used by anyone who has an idea to express, but they’ are forbidden to invade private rights or disrupt vital social structures or interest. He stressed that, Journalists should abide by ethics and code of conducts by eschewing propaganda; not embellishing facts prescribing different sides to the issues to enable the reader or audience arrive at balanced conclusion and avoid being manipulated by politicians and policy makers.
The press had done this in the political reporting of politicians, by granting interview to.the parties involved in political crises or political campaigns.
Agenda Setting Theory
Little John (1992:360) asserts that, scholars have long known that media have the potential for structuring issues for the public. Agenda setting originated from Cohen’s assertion that the press may not be particularly successful in telling people what to think but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about, Okigbo, in Nwosu(1990:345)
Grabber (1984:150) writing on Agenda-setting posits that, media tell people in fairly uniform fashion which individual issues and activities are most significant and deserved to be rated highly on the public’s -agenda of concerns. Importance is indicated
through cues such as banner headlines or frontage placement- in Newspapers or first story placement on television. Frequency and ample coverage also, implies significance.
For instance, The Guardian Newspaper, for over two weeks, made the abduction of Anambra. governor its front-page story, with banner headlines; several pages of the paper were devoted to News’and issues related to’ the abduction. Within two weeks The Guardian ran two Editorials on the. issue, one on 17th July captioned “Treason in Anambra State, “exactly seven days after the incident. The second one on July 30, was captioned “The Coup in Anambra: Matters ‘arising”. Up till date- it is difficult to flip through any newspaper or magazine in the country without encountering an issue related to the Anambra political saga
The July 12; edition ‘of The Guardian, has a picture -of a man that filled almost the entire front page, with an inscription on the back of his vest: “Democracy must survive”. Sunday Guardian’ did’ two cover stories on the saga in its Sunday Magazine page. The 20th July edition ran from page Al to A7. Saturday Guardian, July 19, 2003 life page ran from page. B1 to B5. On July 23, 2003- The Guardian at the top right corner of its front ‘page boxed the constitutional position of the event in Anambra State. It described it as a
Agenda setting occurs because the press must be selective in. reporting the news. The news outlets as gatekeepers of information make choice about what to report and how to report it. Therefore, what “the public-knows about the state of affairs at any given time is largely a product of Gate keeping-.
Graber, (1984:150) further ‘opines that, when the media make events seem important, politicians are likely to comment about them and take action. This enhances widespread belief, in the importance-of these events and ensures even more public attention. The event in’ Anambra attracted -myriads of comment as a result of the media coverage.
She observed that, from comparisons of media agenda with public opinion polls and reports about political and. social conditions, media guideline is most important for new issues that have not been widely discussed and for issues beyond the realm of personal experience. In other words, media equip you with enough information to help in opinion formation on issues you cannot personally experience.
Grabber however, did hot fail to note that prominent media coverage does ensure that an issue will be reported; but even if it does, it does not guarantee that the audience will assign it the same relative rank of importance that media play indicated. Information that is useful or gratifying to the audience will be -noted, even if it is on the back pages, receives minuscule headlines, or is briefly reported at the tail end of a newscast.
On the other hand, Mc Quail &Windahl (1981:62) posits that the basic idea of agenda setting is that,’ amongst a-, given range of issues or topics, those which get more media attention will -grow in their familiarity and perceived importance over a period of time and those which -.get less will ‘decline correspondingly.
McCombs and Shaw (1976) posits the Water-Gate affair as an illustration of itsagenda setting function. “There was nothing new in uncovering political corruption, but the intense press exposure and the televised U.S. Senate hearing that followed made it the topic of the year’-. This is comparable with the Buharigate in Nigeria where the pressure from the press led to the exit of Salisu Buhari as speaker House of Representatives for forgery and perjury in 1999. More so, the crises in Anambra would have “amounted to nothing if not for the intensity of the media coverage. At least, it is clear that the Federal Government kept what could be described as studied silence on the issue.
General Overview of the Functions of the Mass Media in a Society
Mc Quail (2000:79) opines that the main functions of communication in society, according to Lasswell (1984), are surveillance of the1 environment, correlation of the parts of the society in responding to its environment and the transmission of the cultural heritage. Wright (1960) developed this basic scheme to describe many of the effects of the media and added “entertainment” as a fourth key, media function. This may be part of the transmitted culture but it has another aspect, that of providing individual reward, relaxation and reduction of tension, which makes it easier for people to cope with real-life problems and for societies to avoid breakdown (Mende Isohn, 1966). “With the addition of a fifth item “mobilization” is designed to reflect the widespread application of mass communication to political and commercial propaganda.
McQuail named other basic-functions of the media embedded in the above key functions. The functions will thus be explained in detail.
- Information (SuN4illance).
- Providing information about events and conditions in society and the world
- Indicating relations of power
- Facilitating innovation, adaptation and progress.
Opubor in-Nwuneli, (1985:144) adds: “this is what the media do when they provide news”. Okunna (2002:274) describes surveillance as the provision of a constant stream of information about events in society arid about society itself. The mass media inform the public about local, state, national and international news. This emphasizes the fact that adequate information is a necessity to proper decision-making and opinion formation.
Succinctly, Okunna (2002:274) puts the above function thus:
“The information function of the mass media is all-embracing and indispensable for the meaningful existence of members of the society: Through their various contents, the mass media collect, store, process and disseminate data, pictures, facts messages, opinions and comments which members of the public required in order to react knowledgeably to personal, environmental, national and international conditions as well as to be in a position to take appropriate decisions”.
Opinions of scholars seem to be unanimous with respect to surveillance function. Opubor describing this function further writes: “It is the process of collecting and distributing factual information about the state of the world both within and outside the society in question.”
With respect to correlation function, McQuail, (2000:79) offered the following basic
functioning as follow:
- Explaining, interpreting and commenting on the meaning of events and informing;
- Providing support for established authority and norms,
- Co-ordinating separated activities
- Setting order of priority and signaling relative status.
Opubor in Nwuneli (1985:144)’also described correlation as “the interpretation of information about the environment and suggestion about appropriate responses to change. The media perform this function through Editorials and Commentaries. Vanguard Newspaper of July 15 ran a frontage page comment captioned “Treason in Anambra State”. The Guardian of July 17 ran an editorial entitled “Treason in Anambra State”.
On a closer look, Ebeze in Okunna (2002:274) describe; correlation as the function of appropriately interpreting news and information in such a way as to avoid over- sensitization and induce appropriate or necessary reaction. It includes prescribing what to do, how to do it and why it is necessary. Correlation helps limit some of the undesirable consequences of mass communication surveillance or information gathering and dissemination.
For instance, to report that Nigeria grants Charles Taylor of Liberia Asylum is surveillance while stating the circumstance of the asylum is correlation. Ebeze further explained that this is done through editorials, syndicated columns and feature articles, documentaries, talk shows drama and news analysis the mass media interpret the
Me Quail, (2000:80) gave the following as the basic ‘idea about continuity or the transmission of cultural heritage function of the media.
- Expressing the dominant culture and recognizing subcultures and new cultural developments.
- Forging and maintaining commodity of values.
Opubor in Nwuneli (1985:144) shares the views of Mcquail. He views the transmission of social-heritage from one generation-to the next as the communication of information about values, preferences and orientation of the society’.
Ebeze in Okunna (2002:275) describes this as socialization (education).
The mass media, he explained, help unify society and increase social cohesion, by upholding and teaching a broad base of common, social norms, values and collective experiences. Through this activity, the mass media kelp transmits culture and social norms from generation to generation. The mass media do this transmission mainly through informal education (unconscious learning) and non-formal education (conscious attempt to impart knowledge outside the formal school system). Education comprises intellectual development, acquisition of skill and capabilities, and the formation of character.
For instance, Agba (2003) opines that, if not for the abduction, which is viewed as morally and socially unacceptable, the removal of Governor Ngige through any other socially acceptable means may not have generated much media Condemnation and public outcry,
All Progressives Grand Alliance-(APGA), on the other-hand, had justified the abduction on ethical and moral grounds as a, good price for their mandate robbed by Peoples Democratic Party (PDF). The APGA ‘Governorship candidate in the state compared the abduction saga to a robbery gang unable to share their loot amicably. In his words, “What we are seeing is a product of the brazen electoral fraud in Anambra by the POP on April 19, there will be no” peace in Anambra until that mandate that was freely given to APGA is restored”. M. C. K. Ajuluchukwu commenting on the use of juju in politics stated that, the element of juju politics did not start-today. He added, “I am not surprised that Ngige went to a shrine, in as much as he is a politician, but I find humour in the paradox that a man whose name is Christian is said to have taken another man also a. Christian by faith and in name for a heathen ritual. The whole drama shows the decadence that politicking has become. It is a pity that people of questionable integrity had held a state like Anambra hostage” (The Guardian 21 July,’2003).
Also to show that the abduction is not an acceptable democratic norm, some state governors paid solidarity visit to Governor Ngige, which received adequate media attention. In fact, The Guardian on July 26, carried a front page picture of Catholic bishops in Anambra State blessing Ngige during a courtesy call in Awka.
Me Quail (2000:80) has the following basic’ideason Entertainment function of
- Providing amusement, diversion and the means of relaxation;
- Reducing social tension
To Ebeze in Okunna (2002:275) entertainment is the mass media function that is geared primarily towards providing some diversion and’ amusement, relaxation and-respite. Okunna (1999) writes, the entertainment function of the media generally has the objectives of providing diversion and escape from the harsh realities of life: Offering relief from tedium of day-to-day existence and lessening the stress and strain emanating from rapid changing world through humour, comic strips, cartoons, drama, features, stories, puzzles, etc. the mass media offer temporary escape from fears, worries, depressing psychological conditions to mention just a few.
McQuail (2000:80) finally added Mobilization. He explained that his is designed to reflect the widespread application of mass communication to political and commercial propaganda. It has the following basic idea.
- Campaigning for societal objectives in the sphere of politics, wars
economic development, work and sometimes religion.
The Press in Anambra Political Crises since May 29,1999 (Mbadinuju/Ngige Era)
The roles played by the press in the crises will be located within the confines of the functions of the mass media in a society and the theoretical framework identified in the previous parts of the work. Generally, the press played the role of a watchdog, an informer, an analyzer, an interpreter, providing the necessary background for proper understanding of the political trend and issues in Anambra State.
To throw more light on the activities of the press in Anambra crises, it is pertinent to point out some of the functions of the political reporter/writer according to George S. Haze in Agba (unpublished lecture note). They are as follows:
- Reporting and interpreting events
- Defining issues
- Portraying personalities
- Investigating support
- Identifying trends
- Checking and analyzing public opinions
Agba emphasized that, the accuracy of the picture of political reality provided by the mass media depends upon the ability of the political reporter to comprehend, articulate and interpret all of the political processes and components.
The press performed the above function in Anambra State using such print media genre as editorials, news reports, advertorials, supplements, features, articles,- press interviews, pictures, letters to the editor.
From the early days of Mbadinuju political campaign the press gave background information of the people behind him. When Mbadinuju clinched power, the “press monitored his activities and relationship with his benefactors. As such, the public were informed up to the point of crises and issues leading to such development and to the eventual exit of Mbadinuju.
For instance, The. News, May 7, 2001, had an interview with Mbadinuju where he admitted receiving N14 million forms Emeka Offer whom he later described as insatiable. The press brought to the public, attention the crises points and issues between the: two actors with regard, to appointment and governmental policies such as the use of Bakassi Boys as the state security outfit instead of the police.
The News, August 6, reports how Emeka Offor fights back with the launching on July 21, 2001 of Anambra People’s Forum to scuttle Mbadinuju’s re-election bid and as a’ counter-force to the Odera Campaign Organization. EmekaOffor accused Mbadinuju of nepotism, non-payment of salaries and pension, assassination and killing of innocent citizens.
The press thus gave actors in the political crises opportunities to express their grievances and- points-of view. The Newswatch, April 16, 2001, made reference to a petition sent to Barnabas Gemade, National Chairman of PDF, February. 27, titled: “Dr. Mbadinuju arid the emasculation of the PDF in Anambra State” by J. A. Okonkwo, a PDF chieftain in the state who lost Anambra central Senatorial election to Mike Ajegbo. J; A. Okonkwo on May 14, 2001 granted interview to NewswatchMagazine entitled: “Sins of mbadnuju”.By August 13, Mbadinuju in an interview with Newswatchrevealed that J. A. Okonkwo has retrieved the press statements alleging fraud and all sorts of terrible things against Mbadinuju’s government. Mbadinuju, subsequently appointed Okonkwo to reconcile aggrieved parties in the state.
The Press brought to the fore the tense political atmosphere in the state through reports of assassination, ritual killings, and murder that riddled the political landscape of the state. For instance, the July 17, 2001 massacre of about 25 persons in Awkuzu, leading to the arrest of the traditional ruler of the town, Igwe John Nebolisa by operatives, of the Anambra Vigilante Service (AVS), (a.k.a. Bakassi Boys) for aiding and abetting crime was reported by The News, 23 July, 2001. In an article entitled “Mbadinuju’s Many Troubles “-, the magazine also enumerated murder cases associated with Mbadinuju’s government. For instance, the murder of two prominent indigenes of Ekwuhimili Community in, April and – June 2001, Chief Ezeodumegwu Okonkwo and John Anyaso respectively. OkeyMuo-Arohand Barrister Anah, on 10 June, were attacked where his orderly James Agu, a- mobile police officer was killed.
The murder of Barnabas Igwe and his pregnant wife, Abigail on November 2002 was reported to have -been sponsored by Mbadinuju leading to the arrest of some government officials. The News, 27 January 2003 the magazine also carried an article entitled “Pensioners on Protest: Seven hundred pensioners owed for 15 months die in Anambra State following hunger and starvation”. With these reports the security situation in Anambra State became palpable to the public.
From the foregoing, it could equally be gathered that the Press not only performed its social responsibilities by exposing the underground activities of politicians, it all provided a forum for expression of views and opinions to #11 parties. During the Bakassi crises the press helped to generate opinions, direct “opinions, mould opinions, and guard opinions. Newswatch, September-18, 2000, in a cover story entitled “Bakassi Boys: Terror against Terror,” gave all the divergent views of individuals on the Bakassi Boys” Controversy. The issue has a picture of the Governor addressing a visibly jubilant crowd chorusing the caption of the picture: “On Bakassi we stand”, traders tell Governor Mbadinuju. By way of interpretation the article expressed its opinion on “Bakassi” issue thus:
In spite of cases of innocent victims, the Bakassi Boys are enjoying state-wide popularity for their successful operation against armed robbers “Operation kill the rubbers” is believed to be successful because the Vigilante Group does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, men or women. The boys have also not been associated with bribe taking.
The press followed the events in Anambra State, analyzed, and interpreted them
from the beginning of the crises to the eventual exit of Mbadinuju as the governor of the State. The following screamers in some of the National Magazines and Newspapers attest to this assertion: The Guardian, July 19, 1999: “In Anambra State, it is business unusual” here Mbadinuju makes clear, the policy thrust of the new civilian government. Newswatch, July 2, 20001: “Mbadinuju the Crime Buster” This supplement narrates the governor’s crimes fighting exploits. The Week August 20,.2001 “Massacre in Anambra” This is a supplement of a cold blood massacre of about 22 persons in Awkuzu. The Week, October 29, 2001: “Mbadinuju– Nebolisa Crossfire”. A story of the crises between the governor and traditional ruler of Awkuzu.Newswatch, September 18, 2000: “Bakassi Boys Terror against Terror” An in-depth report on Bakassi Boys.
The godfather/godson crises also featured extensively in the press in the following titles:
Newswatch May 1.4, 2001, “Godfathers battle Mbadinuju”
The News, July 23, 2001, “EmekaOffor unsettles Mbadinuju” The Week, June 17, 20Q2, “Mbadinuju’s unending troubles” Newswatch, February 3, 2003 “Many problems of Mbadinuju” Newswatch, August 13, “I will flush Mbadinuju out, EmekaOffor” The News, April 23, 2001 “EmekaOffor: Story of a New Power Baron “
This particular edition generated a lot-of opinions that Newswatchon 13, 2001 in playing the press role of aggregating opinions reprinted “Letters-of-the-week” from The News Magazine on EmekaOffor story. Over 80 percent of the letters were against EmekaOffor and his Cohorts. EmekaOffor, in that story gave his view of’ Mbadinuju’sgovernment thus: “If I spent my money to install a government, I have an obligation to ensure that it serves the people. Mbadinuju is serving himself. I want to devote my life to change that. We are now enemies.”
Mbadinuju, on the other hand says this about Emeka Offor, “Between Emeka Offor and I, we have quarreled more than 15 times and we have settled/Even if we settle this one, tomorrow you will hear another one. Emeka Offor is insatiable”. (The News. May 7, 2001) Mbadinuju in another interview with The News, August 6, 2001 said this about Emeka Offor; “Emeka Offor is not an elephant. We have fought many times and reconciled. I don’t think this one can be reconciled”.
From the foregoing, the press enables the public to know that an unending war has been declared by the two political actors and even tells the reader their personality make-up this is also in consonance with Umechukwu’s (2001:26) observation about the press in a democracy “You can use the media to attack, you can also use the media to defend yourself. Similarly, The Guardian, July 28, 2003 published a Press Release by the Inspector General of Police entitled “Rejoinder to The News Magazine cover story” captioned “THE GREEDY POLICE BOSS’ of 28th July, 2003′”.
It is also understandable at this point why Graber (1984:4) observed that, the fear of publicity could be as powerful a force in s shaping action as actual exposure. Nothing could be hidden from a hawk eyed vibrant press such as exists in Nigeria under the present democratic dispensation.
On January 27, 2003 The News, in a story entitled “Dumped in the Cold”, narrated how Governor Mbadinuju’s re-election clearance was upturned by the People’s Democratic Patrol PDF. Mbadinuju contested and lost the governorship election under the Alliance’ for Democracy (AD).
Ngige Era May 29, 2003 to Date
The role of the Press in this era will be identified by some print media genres such as straight News, Features, News-pictures, Editorials, Opinion, Articles, Editorial Cartoons letters-to-the-editor, Adverts, Advertorials. This part of the work will lay most emphasis on the major crises in this era, which is between Ngige and his godfather Chris Uba.
The press performed its surveillance role by informing the people of the latest development in Anambra State in form of straight news with the following headlines. There was an abduction attempt on the governor of Anambra State on July 10, 2003. On July J1, The Guardian carried a front page headline: “Political Crisis rocks Anambra – IG orders Police to maintain status quo in, Awka.” As the days went by, the Press continued to inform the public about developments in Anambra with news reports. Some of the following headlines were used for updates.
The Guardian, July 12: “Ngige returns to Government House” “Ngige wants abductors
tried for treason”
The Guardian, July: “PDF to challenge order on Ngige today” The Guardian, July 2: “No plan to arrest Uba, says Justices Minister “The press continued to report events about the abduction from different angle with each passing day.
The interpretative role of the press and the opinion moulding function of the press was largely performed through editorials and comments by newspapers. For instance, Vanguard, July 15 on its front-page comment entitled “Treason in Anambra” defined the issues involved in the abduction, its legal and political perspectives and implications. The Guardian, in two editorials entitled “Treason in Anambra” and “Treason” in Anambra, matters arising” on 17th and 30th July respectively condemned the abduction and called on the government to react appropriately to avoid future occurrence. Ossai in Okunna(2002:222) observed that the editorial could be used to teach, defend and praise. Okunna et al in Okunna (2002:243) opines that the opinion moulding function of the newspaper largely revolves on the editorial.
In its role of aggregating public opinion, the press published opinions of individuals, corporate bodies, traditional rulers and communities. Jason also wrote an article entitled “Anambra: Calm before next storm”- Vanguard, July 15. Also, a group known as Anambra State Democracy Initiative sponsored a serialized views of Nigerians in different Newspapers condemning the abduction attempt. It is entitled “Anambra Coup Saga: Nigerians Demand Justice” It was published in Daily Champion August 7, 2003 and other dailies such as Vanguard and Sun August 10, 2003.
The press to demand for justice also used cartoons/Advertorials. For instance,Constitutional Rights Project with support from NOKAN (Norway.) in ‘The Guardian July 31, 2003 published a full-page cartoon/Advertorial with a Headline “There shall be no Sacred Cows” “Four years ago we were given this promise”.
The sub-headline reads:
“Is it another “Paper promise” or Lip Service? Should some people be “Untouchables”
while the rest 0f us ere “touchable”
Traditional Rulers, NBA, NLC, Other State governors, through the press, pledge their support for Governor Ngige. The traditional ruler of Awka Dr. (Sir) Gibson Nwosu asked Ngige to seek maximum justice. He added “We are ready to swim or sink with him (Ngige). We are doing this because of posterity, for our children, hot because of Christian “Ngige or anybody else. We are doing this because we want to maintain the integrity of this state”. The Guardian July 31, 2993 (page 8),
The above statement by the Press brings to mind the two-step flow theory and its role in opinion formation. The primary hypothesis, of this theory remains that much of the information disseminated by mass media comes to the individual’s attention secondhand from people who relay their interpretation of it’ (Bitter, 1989:375). Traditional rulers, Religious leaders, among others, are opinion leaders in their own right. They are capable of influencing public opinion and the press gives vent to such opinion through the mass media. For instance, The Guardian July 24, reported the opinions of clerics in the saga thus: “Clerics list danger of Anambra affairs”. Bishop Obiefuna leading other Catholic Bishops condemn Ngige’s abduction with the president of.the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Rivers State Chapter, Apostle Eugene Ogu. The Guardian, July 26, 2003 also- shows a front-page picture of Catholic Bishops in Anambra State blessing Ngige, these media, activities are capable of swaying public opinion in favour of Ngige since the followers of these religious leaders are most likely to be influenced by the opinion of their leaders.
The media also performed their agenda-setting role in the Anambra crises by virtue of the overage and emphasis laid on the issue for a long time. KodilinyeObiagwu in The Guardian, July 31, 2003 expressed the agenda-setting role of the media in the crises thus:’ “So far, the Federal government is still playing the ostrich. It has avoided dealing with .theissue as pragmatically and firmly as it should. However, a section of the media-has. succeeded in keeping the abduction of Ngige on the front burner endeavouring not to let it go the same way of June 12 presidential election, which has remained a dark spot on the nations’ political landscape”. Rev. Bernard Chukwujekwu, in Sun August 7, 2003 had this to say about the press in Anambra Crises, in an article entitled: “On Anambra Liberation “.
“…The federal government and the ruling People’s Democratic Party have been attempting to whitewash this grave matter as “a family issue” of title public interest, a “flesh in the pan”. But for the heroic determination of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, this issues would have been swept under the carpet.
So even when the Federal government was playing a varying game by not prosecuting those implicated in the Saga, the press continued to pound the issue from all angles exposing all those involved in the matter by omission or commission such as the A.G. Raphael Ige, Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, Justice Egbo-Egbo, the Deputy Governor, Speaker of the State House of Assembly. The News magazine of 22nd July and 29th July 2003 did an in-depth report on these. Also, the Guardian July 24th, 2003. In view of the foregoing, the submissions of Nzimiro in Akinfeleye (1988:147) on the press become relevant. Said he, “the press is one avenue by which, the regime limits itself with the students, the workers, the youths, women, the peasants, the intelligentsia, that is the press becomes not only the conscience of the government but the window through which the government sees and weighs its actions meant to serve the generality of the public”.
Nzimiro went further to point out that “By publishing essays which are critical and objective and written in the spirit of patriotism, the journalists become the conscience of the government as well as the people. Government, by studying the editorials and leading articles in the daily press will be able to have a sense of feeling of the people. By this way, government gets closer to the people, government understands the aspirations of the people, government crosschecks its own errors, tests the cases presented to it by its advisers, and the government becomes wiser”.
Nzirimo rightly opines that when government fails to develop this good relationship with the press, it commits the most grievous error which history proves to be disastrous to any regime; that is, the error of isolating itself from the popular masses.
The press used Photojournalism to bring the crises in Anambra to reality to the members of the public. July 27 Sunday Guardian published half page picture of Dr. Ngige displaying the originals of all the documents he was forced to sign at the Senate hearing. Chris Uba on the other hand, was shown in one-quarter page with his Lawyer at the Abuja Federal High Court. Saturday Guardian of July 26 had full-page picture of the actors in the crises with the text of their interview with the Press. Some of the actors include, Okey Ude, Ben Obi, Governor Ngige, Peter Obi; Anosike, Balonwu among others. As earlier pointed out there was also a front-page picture of Catholic Bishops blessing Dr. Ngige, Peter Obi, Anosike, Balonwu among others. As earlier pointed out there was also a front-page picture of Catholic Bishops blessing Dr. Ngige. The Press gave the public the opportunity, of having firsthand knowledge of the events in Anambra through News Interviews.
So far, it has been amply demonstrated that the Press is a veritable tool for the sustenance of the nascent democracy given the roles they play in political crises.In moments of crises the press could be used to generate opinions, galvanize opinions and even mould opinions to achieve the desired goal of the society at any point in time.The Press provides a forum for the exchange of ideas, views, and opinions on any given issue of public interest. It also serves as a window to the outside world, to the public issue of governmental actions reach the governments through the Press.The Press therefore, is an indispensable tool for prevention of crises and in the management of crises. The Press defines issues involved in crises.
In as much as the Press is expected to report political issues in all ramifications and perspectives, it should not be partisan and should avoid dinning and wining with politicians at the detriment of the masses and National Interest.
The Press should be aware and conscious of its capacity to make or mar a government or even a nation. As such, the Press should not engage in activities capable of jeopardizing the corporate existence of the country.
A content analysis of the Press coverage of the Crises in Anambra State is also recommended using private owned Newspapers and government owned Newspaper for empirical comparative analysis.
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