NIGERIAN TELEVISION AUTHORITY AND POLITICAL STABILITY IN THE FOURTH REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION

Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, which has witnessed four general elections (1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011), is yet to show profound evidence of a growing democracy. All of these elections were marked with controversies, just as their processes and end products encountered credibility and legitimacy crises. Obviously, all of these account for the lack of appropriate policy formulation and effective implementation that are needed for the improvement of the standard of living of the people and development of the country as a whole. The net effect is that the ordinary citizens seem to have gradually lost hope in the system that replaced the military regime, while the rulers and supposed representatives of the people who live in opulence that does not conform to the current economic realities in the country—seem less bothered. Apparently, itmay take some time to feel the full impact of the slight improvement recorded in the conduct of the 2011 general elections.

That the mass media plays a pivotal role in the development process of a country is not a saying. The mass media is generally regarded as channels of communication that are capable of reaching heterogeneous audience simultaneously with uniform message. They regularly cover all sorts of issues economy among others (Meyer 2002, Soola 2004). The mass media transmits ideas and new information to target audience in the society. Tosanisunm, (2004) has observed that the mass media educate, inform and entertain beyond these functions as they also persuade and catalyze for social mobilization. In other words, the mass media can be regarded as powerful service of information because they have the capability for penetrating every segment of the society. They have the ability to disseminate messages about issue ideas and products. The electronic media which is the focus this study comprises the radio and television. The sophistication of these media of communication distinguished them as the wonders of modern communication. Just as the twentieth century dawned, a system was perfected which electromagnetic impulse could be sent through the air without wires carrying voice transmission over long distance.

Electronic media are the machinery or an institution used for simultaneous transmission of information to a wide and divergent audience. Although the electronic media are channel for which information is transmitted to the audience through the different types of media yet they represent the attempt or man to relate to and interact with other men. It is clear to note the communication has been enhanced nationally and internationally with the use of technology. 13 Aniabona (2007) in his contribution to the impact of broadcasting in a developing context, noted that electronic media are powerful and effective. Instruments for achieving national goals such as widespread education for both children and adults in other to realize the set down objective in economic growth, healthcare, political and social awareness, political stability, self-reliance and national identity among other things. Basically, the media are described as performing three functions 18 roles of information, education and entertainment. These are the conventional social functions the media render to the public, but which is equality applicable in broader sense in economy development pursuit. It could be said that through educating, informing and entertaining, the media thereby make the society, society members or the nation as well as the leadership of the very society aware of the importance and need to undertake certain progress or processes of economy development. Also attached to these three basic roles of media is another role of persuasion, where media are seen as virile tools of applying persuasive efforts to influence people’s actions towards a particular direction. The mass media are therefore seen for their role in furnishing the public with necessary information to achieve development or change goals.

2.2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

The Nigerian State and its Politics

The roots of Nigeria’s politics are well entrenched in its colonial history. The main elements in the country’s socio-economic and political fortune and misfortune, as argued in several scholarly works, have helped to establish that the probability of Nigeria’s existence, in its present form, is quite low if not for the superior fire power and diplomacy of the colonialists. This, they attributed to the existence of diverse ethnic nationalities, which were forcefully amalgamated in 1914. In essence, the colonial state and its successor had no legitimating ideals. It was, therefore, not surprising that authoritarianism became its major defining character. On the other hand, it also helped in raising ethnic consciousness and the salience of the ethnic factor, but mostly in negative perspectives. Scholarly works that have sufficiently discussed all of these include Coleman (1958), Crowder (1962), Schwarz (1965), Lewis (1965), Sklar (1966), and Dudley (1973) among others. Similarly, Ekeh (1975), in his seminal essay on the concept of the two publics, crystallized the negative effects of colonialism and primordialism on the sociopolitical development of Nigeria. Weber (1948) had much earlier adopted patrimonialism for the explanation of similar challenges, albeit on a lager scale. The patrimonial perspective has also been adopted variously as decentralized patrimonialism, neo-patrimonialism, and the patrimonial administrative state by such scholars as Theobold (1982), Callaghy (1987) and Ikpe (2000) for explanations on Nigeria’s predicament. In another vein, Joseph (1991) also adapted the prebendalist perspective to further explain the dynamics of socio-political behaviour in Nigeria’s public life. In all, the dangers associated with the political tendencies that these scholars highlighted include clientelism, godfatherism, nepotism, administrative inefficiently, political corruption, poverty, and political instability. Hope was once again raised with the euphoric reintroduction of civilian rule in 1999. This was expected to serve as a new beginning and as an end to the long period of military rule and its characteristics such as intimidation, personalization, egoism, debauchery, sycophancy, and poverty. Amazingly, the situation has not significantly changed. In our own opinion, this can partly be linked to the “pacted nature of the process which mid-wived the present democratization in the country.” 4 Invariably, most of the conceptualizations by these scholars point to the incapacitation of the state in Nigeria by the officials in charge of various public institutions and their sponsors, the godfathers. For a better understanding, we may situate allthese explanations within the context of such relatively more recent conceptualizations as the social closure and state capture. According to Parkin, social closure is: The process by which social collective seeks to maximize rewards by restricting access to resources and opportunities to a limited circle of eligibles. This entails the singling out of certain physical attributes as the justificatory basis of exclusion. Virtually, all group attributes – race, language, social origin, religion – may be seized upon provided it can be used for the monopolization of specific, usually economic, opportunities…. Its purpose is always the closure of social and economic opportunities to outsiders.5 In contemporary Nigeria, this practice of social closure is carried on with little or no restriction because the actors have, more than ever before, seized the machinery of the state for their own interest. It is in this sense that the explanations in the concept of state capture can be adopted. According to the World Bank, state capture stands for: The actions of individuals, groups or firms both in public and private sectors to influence the formation of laws, regulations, decrees and other government policies to their own advantage as a result of the illicit and non-transparent provision of private benefits to public officials.6 While such institutions as the legislature, executive, judiciary, and regulatory agencies represent the structures that are seized or captured, the captors are private firms, political leaders, political parties, and other narrow interest groups. The main thesis in the foregoing explanations on the nature of the Nigerian state and its politics can be summarized in two parts. First, “ethnic consciousness and, by extension, ethnic politics is mostly exploited by the modern day Nigerian political class for its own selfish interest.” 7 In the second place, these activities of transactional and predatory political and economic leaders are possible largely because of the weak nature of the state, especially exemplified by its rapidly eroded autonomy and functionality. Furthermore, the second point explains why the “beneficiaries of the state’s loss of its moderating role” may never willingly work for its restoration, as the weakening effects of their activities on the democratization process clearly show.