The Effectiveness of the Print Media and Crisis Resolution in the Niger-Delta Region of Nigeria
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The Nigerian Niger Delta has drawn the attention of both domestic and international media due to the frequent and deadly violent crises that occur there, in addition to the high-profile industrial and economic activity that takes place there as well as the exploration and exploitation of its oil resources. Despite being native to the area that hosts Nigeria’s petroleum oil and gas industries, which account for more than 80% of the country’s Gross National Product, the people of the oil-producing Niger Delta have long felt marginalized, economically impoverished, and politically disenfranchised (Dode, 2011).
Print media coverage has frequently ignored the issues in the crisis and concentrated primarily on what Umaru Pate refers to as “crisis behaviors,” despite the fact that the agitation in the region has been founded on claims of injustice, inequity, neglect of the area, and exclusion from the benefits of oil wealth (Pate, 2002). These crisis behaviors include attacks on oil sites, including lockdowns and closures; bombings of drilling platforms and oil wells; kidnappings of oil workers or other types of abduction; the murder and maiming of security personnel and oil workers; and intra- and inter-community feuds. According to Levi Obijiofor (2008), the majority of print media coverage of the Niger Delta is “episodic” and “sporadic.” Astutely, he observes: “Journalists would most definitely stop covering the Niger Delta if there were no explosions, kidnappings, shootings, or murders in the cities. However, as soon as a schoolchild is abducted in Port Harcourt, Warri, or Yenagoa, the media surrounds the city and covers the incident until it loses credibility or until another incident occurs there or in another part of the region.”
According to this research, the Nigerian print media’s perception of news value, the drama’s peak, media ownership, and the logistical difficulties of reaching the swampy conflict sites in the Niger Delta all contribute to the crisis’ patchy coverage. As a result, there is an over-reliance on official government sources for news information. “The wake of partisan journalism, sponsored news programmes, commercialised media enterprise, political reporting, and propagandistic reportage” have created a grotesque picture of information dissemination in the Nigerian print media, particularly in its coverage of crisis, according to Nwagbara (2010, p. 19), who sketches the scenario. Because the government is always trying to control information flow for the benefit of the governing elites, the Nigerian print media thus plays the role of both chronicler of violent events and official source.
However, given the ongoing suppression of their views, dissident groups in the Niger Delta have managed to infiltrate the media. Violent crackdowns or nonviolent protests are used to achieve this. Men, women, and children are frequently seen carrying placards in government buildings, calling for a variety of changes, such as improved welfare programs to make up for the negative effects of oil exploration on their towns and way of life, or more environmentally friendly practices by oil firms. However, when young men with guns and masks raid oil installations, causing death, suffering, and ruin in their wake, these incidents are immediately publicized. It has been common for certain dissident organizations to take credit for these assaults whenever they happen and to use the incidents as justification for threatening other attacks in the event that the previous attack’s cause is not sufficiently addressed. This is clear from the allegations of accountability for the ongoing attacks on oil installations and the regular kidnapping of Niger Delta oil workers, particularly expatriates.
This study provides an illustration of a typical example, which is the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND): “We would like to reiterate our calls for oil firms that are still present in the Niger Delta to cease operations as soon as possible, and especially for their employees. Our attack pause was more akin to a tactical suspension that has now ended. We will pick a time to resume our attacks, wreaking havoc and showing no mercy to those who choose to ignore our warnings” (The Vanguard, April 20, 2010, pp. 1-2).
The fact that the majority of Nigeria’s mainstream media is based in Lagos, the country’s commercial hub in southwest Nigeria, may be the most important factor influencing crisis reporting in the Niger Delta. Effective crisis coverage is affected by this one component in particular. First, the city’s capitalist perspective permeates every action, with profit margins influencing all decisions, even those made by news organizations. Therefore, the owner of a newspaper in Lagos puts money before doing good deeds. As a result, the promise of financial gain ultimately forms the basis of news judgment. This also holds true for media companies run by Niger Delta-born media entrepreneurs. Second, as was already indicated, one logistical barrier to successful conflict coverage in the region is the distance between Lagos and the Niger Delta creeks.
As a result, journalists tend to take the simple route. They publish emails from militant commanders who try to infiltrate media outlets through the “back door” or use news releases from authorized government sources (Liebes and Kamp, 2004, p.79). The issues of ethnic and political division in Nigeria are closely related to those of newspaper ownership and geographic placement. Newspapers in the first republic were “fiercely partisan,” and they played “inciting and exacerbating” roles in the violent crisis that ended the republic, according to a Nigerian print media historian who has written an extensive work on the divisive role of the country’s print media in the country’s early democratic history (Ishola, 2008). It appears that contemporary reporting on the Niger Delta problem reflects the same conditions that existed in the first republic, since the mainstream media is sluggish to cover the region and only devotes a small portion of their resources to it. Therefore, political actors who “attempt to produce influence over the actions of others by controlling their access to and use of information relevant to those actions”—as described by Oscar Gandy (2007)—are the primary source of funding for the Nigerian media.
It is impossible to downplay the significance of the mass media. Through the spread of knowledge, it is essential to the development of any nation.
In a sense, information is just as vital as air. For the average guy, the “gospel truth” is everything that comes from the mass media.This implies that the mass media can, in fact, provide real and correct information when it comes to the maintenance of a country’s democracy or the settlement of disputes.
According to Akpopveta and Ogbemi (2005) mass media means the totality of the institution such as newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television, motion pictures and others used for mass communication without this, the message(s) cannot be transmitted simultaneously far and wide.
In the same vein, the word search site Wikipedia defines the mass media as media technologies, including the internet, television, newspapers, films and radio, which are used for mass communication.
More also, Nickolas Luhman (2000) elaborates on the concept mass media as those institutions which make use of copying technologies to disseminates communication, provided that they generate large qualities of products whose targets groups are yet undermined.
In a similar vein, the mass media can help effectively in the resolution of conflicts. Wright (1990) stated that the word conflict is derived from the Latin word configure meaning to strike together. It was anticipated that conflict may occurred in a physical sense when two or more different things moves to occupy the same space at the same time which there is logical inconsistency and the process of solution are identical. While Akpoveta and Ohewere (2005), citing Walton (1969) sees conflict from two perspectives to include:
- Interpersonal disagreement over substantive issues, such as differences over organizational structures, policies and practices and;
- Interpersonal antagonism, that is the more personal and emotional difference which arises between interdependent human beings.
Laue (1990) expressed that conflict my rise when wants, needs and belief between two or more parties struggle to agree.
Conflict may arise as a result of differences in race, religion, political affiliation, sex etc. every conflict has its own peculiarity. The nature of the conflict determines to a large extent the type of mass medium to employ in managing it.
On the other hand, conflict resolution is a wide range of methods of addressing sources of conflict, whether at the interpersonal level or of continuing it in less destructive forms than say, armed conflict resolution.
The mass media in Nigeria have in their own way tried in the area of conflict resolution. The mass media has a duty to integrate diverse group whose interest may be in variance.
Iredia (2010), in his book “A gift to Nigeria at 50” says that in Nigeria’s short history as a nation, it has experienced enough conflicts that could ordinarily leads to its disintegration but the mass media as earlier mentioned played a pivotal role in Nigeria being one entity today. According to him, some conflicts in Nigeria that the mass media had successfully helped in its resolution; most of them are election-based.
Moreover, others which include the youth restiveness in the Niger Delta which culminated in kidnapping, destruction of lives and properties etc. the mass media in collaboration with the Federal Government led to the disbarment of the militant and the introduction of the amnesty programme that is still ongoing in the region.
Conversely, the focus of this study is the huge threat by the Boko Haram sect. the existence of this sect is a dent to the image of Nigeria and her existence. The most talked about conflict today in the country is that posed by the Boko Haram sect. how can the mass media assist in sustaining Nigeria in the face of threat posed by this sect? This will be discussed in the course of this study, but first the Boko Haram sect will be placed in perspective.
The term Boko Haram comes from the Hausa word Boko meaning Animist, Western or otherwise non-Islamic education and the Arabic word Haram figuratively meaning “SIN” (literally, forbidden)
The sect who is officially known as “Jama’atu Ahli-SunnahLidda’awatiWal-Jihad”,based in North-eastern Nigeria had orchestrated series of deadly attacks which have left hundreds of lives dead and property destroyed. These attacks which started in July, 2009 when the Nigerian Police started investigating the sect, following reports that it was arming itself, have gone sophisticated with bomb detonation every now and then. The sect which opposes Western education, culture, Modern science and democracy was formed in 2002 by late Ustaz Muhammad Yusuf in Maiduguri.
However, the group itself and studies on the group remained inconclusive about its origin. According to some sources, the group have evolved from various efforts by extremist’s elements dating back to the 1940s through the end of the 1990s that sought to radicalize various segments of northern Nigeria, especially the North-East. To some other sources, the group started in 1995 as “Sahaba” and was initially led by Lawan Abubakar who later left for the University of Medina in Saudi Arabia for further studies. The late Muhammad Yusuf was said to have taken over the leadership after the departure of Abubakar and indoctrinated the sect with his own teaching which he claimed were based on purity and Sharia’s Law.
Shortly after his takeover, he commenced what many described as “Intensive Membership Mobilization” after his first release from police custody in November, 2008 in Maiduguri. This intensive mobilization recorded a huge success. He allegedly had over 500 members before his demise and usually taxed them one Naira, which approximated to 500 Naira daily (Madike, 2011). The Almajiri system made this mobilization easy to nip the festering crises in the bud, the late President Umaru Musa ‘Yar’aduwa ordered the deployment of the military to contain those government described as dissidents. After initial resistance, the sect fell to the superior fire power of the military, and Yusuf, the leader was arrested and handed over to the police. Hours later, the police executed Yusuf alongside sponsor Alhaji BujiFoi, who was the Commissioner for Religious Affairs during the first term of former governor Ali Modu Sharif of Borno State.
After the death of Yusuf, the group has continued its attacks; in fact the insurgence has gone critical and indeed assumed a very dangerous dimension. From the time the group was formed to the present day, it has carried lots of successful attacks most of which were bomb blasts which have left lots of people dead and property destroyed.
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