THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN ENTRENCHING DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTION IN NIGERIA
There is no doubt that the media is the moulder and purveyor of public opinion. According to Machinor W, “Public opinion is a sentiment expressed on any given subject by the best informed, most intelligent and most rational person in a given community, which is gradually spread and adopted by nearly all persons of any education in any civilized society.” Also, there is a communication theory called “Agenda Setting Theory”. The concept of this theory was derived from the work of Walter Lippmann and its major idea is that, the media decides what the public should think about.
However, it is an agreeable fact that the media has been in the forefront of any major event since our journey to nationhood began many years ago. From the establishment of “Iwe Irohin”, the first newspaper in an emerging nation-state by Rev. Henry Townsend in Abeokuta in 1854, to an article written by Flora Shaw suggesting the concept “Nigeria”, which later became the name of a sovereign nation following the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorate in 1914 by Sir Frederic Lord Lugard, the media has been the driver and purveyor of these processes! It is also an established fact that, because of the mobilizing and educating power of the media, Nigeria finally became an independent nation on 1st October 1960, after many years of struggle. In fact, there is no single event in the country without the fourth estate of the realm taking the driver's seat. Even when the nation moved from the parliamentary system of government to the presidential system with the election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the first executive president of Nigeria in 1979, the media has been the ring leader in the whole processes. When the khaki boys sneaked in to the realm of power through the back door, it was the media and other factors that chased them away until the unfortunate incidence of June 12, 1993. Even at that, the ever-courageous Nigerian media remained defiant to all forms of threats, embarrassments, intimidations and other unprintable crimes against them, until the return of our stolen democracy in 1999.
Having fought in alliance with other factors for the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the alliance must not stop there, the struggle must continue until democratic institutions like; the judiciary, legislature, INEC, police, civil society organizations, anti-corruption bodies, election tribunals, political parties, pressure groups, respect for human rights, rule of law, and independent media becomes entrenched in our democratic system and culture. This is what we need at the moment!
Since adult socialisation is difficult, the media been the magic bullet should consistently generate contents that will shape the political attitudes of our politicians, while at the same time strive to re-orientate the young people of Nigeria on the concepts and principles of democracy and the rule of law, because going by the perception of democracy by our youths, in different organizations like the Student Union Government (SUG), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS), among others, one will certainly agree with me that, the future of our hard-earned democracy is bleak! This is because, some of the young people neither see politics as a social contract between them and the people, nor democracy as the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but some of them often see it as power gotten from the barrel of gun, threats and intimidation of opponents among other incongruous and barbaric means of acquiring power which are antithetical to the principles and practice of democracy and the rule of law.
The media can create a powerful effect on the young people by educating them on how to exercise their democratic rights within the context of the law. The media should scrutinize every electoral process so as to ascertain and evaluate its fairness, credibility, probity and effectiveness. Also, the editorial contents of the various media should emphasize more on strong institutions as well as teaching the operators of such institution how to be independent. The media should equally come to the aid of any operator of any institution who may be victimized by any higher power for maintaining its independence. Use of words like "insubordination" should be thoroughly investigated to know or ascertain what it actually connotes in practical terms. With all these social responsibility functions of the media at work, our democracy will certainly be one of the best and referenced democracies in the world.
I am Edwin Ekene, National President of Young Nigerians for Change.
No. 29, Ben Mbamalu Crescent, Achara Layout, Enugu State.