Assessing Media Performance In Consolidating Nigeria’s Democracy: Citizens’ Verdict And Outlining An Agenda For The Future Prof Kamilu Sani Fnge Department Of Political Science Bayero University, Kano

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1.0              Introduction

The Media Is A Very Important Factor In Modern Democracies. As The Fourth Estate Of The Realm, It Plays A Pivotal Role In Politics And Governance. For Instance, In Developing Countries Like Nigeria, The Media Was Not Only Active In The Decolonization Process But Is Also In The Forefront In Shaping Their Post-Colonial Politics And Governance. Thus, The Purpose Of My Paper Is To Highlight The Role Of The Media In Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria With A View To Proffering Suggestions For Future Agenda. To This End, My Discussion Will Be Divided Into Six Parts. The First Being An Introduction, The Second Deals With Conceptual Clarification, The Third Highlights The Role Of The Media In Democratic Consolidation. While The Fourth Examines Impediments To Effective Media Role, The Fifth Section Will Proffer Solutions And Finally, The Sixth Section Concludes The Discourse.

2.0              Conceptual Clarification

Before Delving Into The Details Of This Lecture, It Is Worthwhile To Offer A Working Conceptualization Of The Terms “Media” And “Democratic Consolidation”.  This Is Necessary Because The Theme Of The Lecture Revolves Around Them.

2.1     Media

Within The Context Of This Paper The Term “Media” Is Used To Mean “Mass Media”. According To Biaggy (1996: 16) Mass Media Are Defined As All Avenues Through Which Information Is Conveyed To Numerous, Scattered And Heterogeneous Audiences. They Are Channels Via Which Information, Ideas And Messages Are Conveyed To A Wide Audience. In Addition, Mass Media Can Be Referred To As The Devices Deployed To Move Messages Across Distance Or Time By Any Person Involved In A Mass Mediated Communicative Situation. These Include Electronic Media (Such As Radio, Television, Etc.), Print Media (Such As Newspapers, Magazines, Journals Etc.) And Social Media (Internet, Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook Etc.). The Mass Media Inform, Amuse, Startle, Anger, Entertain, Thrill But Very Seldom Leave Anyone Untouched.

The Social Responsibility Theory Which Emanates From The Hutchins Commission Of 1947 On The Commission Of Freedom Of The Press Postulates That Freedom Embodies A Concomitant Obligation – That The Press Must Be Responsible To The Society By Conducting Some Essential Functions Of Mass Communication. The Thrust Of The Theory Is The Need For Independent Media That Investigates Other Social Institutions And Provides Objective And Accurate News Reportage. The Theory Bestows On The Media The Onerous Responsibility To Hold Government Accountable For The People And Be Guided By The Principles Of Fairness, Objectivity And Accuracy To Ensure The Stability And Sustenance Of Democracy.

Also, The Agenda Setting Theory Reserves The Right For The Media To Serve As The Watchdog Of The Society. The Media Is Shouldered With The Responsibility To Raise Issues They Consider Vital, To The Platform Of Public Discourse And Draw The Attention Of The Public To These Issues.

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2.2 Democratic Consolidation

Democratic Consolidation Denotes A Condition In Which Democracy, Having Been Institutionalized, Is Actually At Work And The Tendency For Authoritarian Reversal Does Not Exist. As Bratton And Posner  (1999:378) Correctly Observe, Democratic Consolidation Includes The Building Of Institutions That Warrant Participation And Competition In The Politics Of A Society. Diamond Underscores The Centrality Of Institution–Building In A State In Its Quest To Consolidate Democracy When He Said That:

Democratic Consolidation Must Address The Challenge Of Strengthening Three Types Of Political Institutions: The State Administrative Apparatus (The Bureaucracy); The Institutions Of Democratic Representation And Governance (Political Parties, Legislatures, The Electoral System), And The Structures That Ensure Horizontal Accountability, Constitutionalism, And The Rule Of Law, Such As The Judicial System And Auditing And Oversight Agencies (Diamond, 1999:93).

Generally, In A Consolidated Democracy, There Must Be: Subordination Of The Military To Elected Government (Valenzuela, 1992:87); Combating Poverty, Inequality And Economic Instability (Lamounier, 1999:168); Functional And Vibrant Civil Society (Diamond, 1997:341); Performance Of A Civilian Government By Delivering Democratic Dividends (International Idea, 2000:15) And So On.

 3.0 Mass Media And The Consolidation Of Democracy In Nigeria

The Nigerian Media Has Come A Long Way In The Struggle For The Entrenchment Of Democracy In The Country. Right From The Inception Of The First Vernacular Newspaper, Iwe Irohin By Reverend Henry Townsend In 1859 In Abeokuta, Other Newspapers That Followed It Radically Fought Against The Subjugation Of Nigerians By The Colonial Government. The Founders Of The Newspapers Used Them As Vehicles For Political Agitations And Demands For Independence And Democracy For Nigerian People. Such Nationalists As Herbert Maculay Who Set Up The Lagos Daily News, Nnamdi Azikiwe Established The West African Pilot,  Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Founded The Nigerian Tribune, Kitoye Ajasa Owned The Nigerian Pioneer Among Others, Used Their Various Media To Agitate For An Independent Nigeria. Their Efforts Yielded Results As Nigeria Finally Became Independent On October 1, 1960.

It Is Noteworthy That     Even After Independence, The Nigerian Mass Media Continued To Play A Vital Role In The Entrenchment Of Democracy Despite Its Truncations By The Military. At Various Times, The Mass Media Did Not Deter In Their Responsibility Of Mobilizing The Nigeria Populace To Demand For A Return To Democracy. These Daunting Efforts Of The Nigerian Mass Media Eventually Succeeded In All The Four Instances Of Nigeria’s Democratic Experiments I.E., First Republic (1960 – 66), Second Republic (1979 – 83), Aborted Third Republic And The Current Fourth Republic (1999 To Date).

In All The Four Instances Of Nigeria’s Democratization, The Media Was (Still Is) On The Forefront In The Quest To Consolidate The Nigerian Democracy. It Played Variety Of Roles Which Include, (Though Not Limited To):

  • Championing The Course Of Good Governance

Good Governance Is The Achilles-Heel Of Democratic Governance In Nigeria. As Argued Elsewhere (Fage, K. S. 2021” 22) The Restoration Of ‘Democratic’ Rule In Nigeria On May 29, 1999, Has Not Translated Into Good Governance I.E., A Government That Is Responsive And Responsible To The Citizenry. On The Contrary, The Over Two Decades Of Civil Rule In Nigeria Seem To Leave Nigerians With Despondency And Frustration Occasioned By Bad Governance That Has Paid Lip Service To The Yearnings And Aspirations Of The People. The Failure Of Nigeria In Terms Of Delivering Good Governance Through A Democratic System That Is Anchored On Rule Of Law, Justice, Equity And Equality; Transparency; Accountablity; Responsive And Responsible; And Mobilization Of Human And Material Resources For Sustainable Development Is Largely Due To Leadership Failure (Achebe, 1984). Dividends Of Democracy Continue To Elude Large Segments Of The Nigerian Population Due To The Character Of The Political Elite Who Are Devoid Of Altruistic Aspiration And Who See The Occupation Of Public Office As An Investment To Uplift Self Rather Than An Avenue Of Public Upliftment.


For Instance, Since The Restoration Of Democratic Rule In 1999 Democracy Has Failed To Translate Into A Responsible And Responsive Government I.E, Government That Would:

  • Enhance The Rule Of Law, Justice, Equity And Equality Of All Before The Law;
  • Be Transparent;
  • Be Accountable To The People;
  • Guarantee The Security Of The Citizens;
  • Ensure Good Life For The People By Providing Basic Social Infrastructure In The Areas Of Health, Housing, Education, Electricity;
  • Provide Enabling Economic Environment In Which All Individuals And Groups Can Utilize Their Potentials In Achieving Whatever They Want To Achieve Etc.
    • Anti-Corruption Crusade

One Of The Greatest Threats To Nigerian Democracy Is Corruption. In Spite Of Several Legal And Constitutional Provisions, Commissions Of Enquiry As Well As The Efforts Of Anti-Graft Agencies Like The Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (Efcc), The Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission (Icpc), Corruption Is Not Only Prevalent And All Pervasive But Is Perpetrated With Impunity. Thankfully, The Nigerian Media Has Been On This Issue. Hardly A Day Passes By Without The Nigerian Media Exposing The Issue Of Corruption. Quite Apart From Drawing National And International Attention To The Menace Of Corruption, Such Relentless Reportage Also Serve As A Major Deterrent To Corruption In Nigeria. In Fact If Not For The Relentless Efforts Of The Media Most Corrupt Cases Could Have Been Silently Swept Under The Carpet.

  • Checking Authoritarian Tendencies

As Argued Elsewhere (Fage, K. S.2021), One Worrisome Feature Of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic Is The Gradual Re-Emergence Of The Ills That Led To The Collapse Of Its Predecessors, Prominent Among Which Is Insipient  Authoritarian Tendencies (Such As Attempted Tenure Elongation, Muscling Of Opposition, Disempowerment Of The Electorate Etc.). As A Watchdog Of The Society, Nigerian Media Was  And Still Is At The Forefront In Exposing Such Tendencies As Evidenced By Its Stance On Ibb’s Endless Transition Programs, Abacha’s Self-Succession Bid (Tazarce) And Former President Obasanjo’s Third Term Bid.

4.0     Impediments To Effective Media Role

Without A Doubt, Nigerian Press Is One Of The Freest In Africa. In Spite Of This However, The Nigerian Media Is Beset By Lots Of Challenges Which Seem To Impede Its Efficiency And Effectiveness As A Credible Watchdog Of The People. Some Of Such Impediments Include:

4.1 Ownership – This Seems To Compromise The Neutrality Of The Nigerian Media. As The Saying Goes. “He Who Pays The Piper Dictates The Tune”. This Is Particularly So With Government Own Media Which In Most Cases Seem To Be A Megaphone Of Their Owners. Even Private Owners Seem To Set Up Media To Serve Their Own Agenda. In Addition, There Is Undue Interference In The Editorial Policies Of The Media By Its Owners

4.2 Poor Condition Of Service – In Spite Of The Hazards Of  The Job, Nigerian Journalists Are Poorly Paid, Lack Job Security Etc. Consequence Of Which Draws Many To Collect “Brown Envelope” And Compromise The Principles Of The Profession.

4.3 Lack Of Professionalism – Many Media Organizations Hardly Conduct Or Sponsor Their Staff For Training And Re-Training In Order To Keep Abreast With The Global Best Practices. In Contrast To Their Predecessors, Contemporary Journalists Seem To Have Little Or No Interest In Investigative Journalism. Instead, They Seem To Rely On Instant News Reportage. As A Result, Nigerians Rely More On Foreign Media (Bbc, Dw, Rfi, Voa Etc.).

5.0 Future Agenda

For Nigerian Media To Be An Efficient And Effective Watchdog Of The Society, A Lot Needs To Be Done. The Media Must Not Only Live Up To Its Social Responsibilities (To Inform, Educate And Entertain) But Also Be The People’s Watchdog. In Other Words, The Media Should Raise Issues They Consider Vital, To The Platform Of Public Discourse And Draw The Attention Of The Public To These Issues. To This End, The Media Should Relentlessly Embark On Various Activities Such As:

5.1 Civic/Political Education

It Is Glaring That The Continuous Over Two Decades Of Democratic Rule In Nigeria Seem To Leave Many Nigerians With A Mixed Sense Of Despondency, Frustration And Indignation Arising From The Citizens’ Dissatisfaction With The Operations Of The Country’s Democratic Experiment And The Attitude Of Its Operators. By Their Attitude And Actions, Nigerian Leaders Seem To Create The Impression That Nigerian Democracy Serves Only Leaders’ Personal Interests Rather Than Nigerians And Nigeria. Hence With The 2023 Elections Fast Approaching, The Nigerian Media Owe It A Duty To Effectively Educate And Mobilize Nigerians. The Electorate, For Instance Should Be Educated To Understand Their Rights And Be Made To Know The Power Of Their Votes And When To Apply It If Any Of Their Representatives At Any Level Reneges From Serving Their Interests.

5.2 Revive The Culture Of Investigative Journalism

In The Face Of The Mounting Socio-Economic And Political Problems Bedeviling Nigeria Today, The Media Must Revive The Now Comatose Culture Of Investigative Journalism. The Media Owe It A Duty To Conduct In-Depth But Objective Investigative Reports On Issues Of Public Interest. It Is Quite Unfortunate That Nigerians Have Had To Rely On Foreign Media Or Academics In Order To Get The True Picture Of Issues Such Arms Deal, Boko Haram, Banditry, Mambila Hydro-Electricity Scandal. In Addition, The Nigerian Media Must Take Advantage Of The Freedom Of Information Act (2011) To Refocus Public Discourse On Substantive Issues Rather Than Trivialities And Divisive Tendencies (Such As Ethnicity, Religion Etc.).

5.3 Training And Development In Contemporary Globalized World, Media Organizations Should Provide The Opportunities To Their Employees To Attend Training Workshops, Courses, Seminars, Etc. Geared Towards Sharpening Their Research Skills In The Science And Art Of Modern Mass Communicative Skills, Application Of Information And Communications Technology (Ict) Etc.

6.0 Concluding Remarks

The Role Of The Media As The Fourth Estate Of The Realm, Requires A New Thinking, In View Of The Rapidly Changing Nature Of The Socio-Economic And Political Challenges They Have To Grapple With. The Media Must Take Advantage Of The New Ict Innovations To Make Its Tasks Easier And Efficient. While Formal Training Can Be Adopted As A Measure, Constant Re-Training Is Equally Required To Keep The Professionals Abreast Of Modern Methods. In This Way, The Tools Of And Strategies Of Mass Communication Can Be Sufficiently Enhanced And Strengthened To Make The Media More Responsive To The Constantly Changing Aspirations Of The Citizenry.



Biaggy (1996) Cited In Kamilu, H. M. (2019), The Clause As Message: A Comparative Study Of Theme And Thematic Progression In Selected Nigerian Newspapers, Phd Thesis, Department Of English, Bayero University Kano

Amin, S. (1991). “The Democratic Questions In The Third World” African World Review, 1991.

Diamond, L. (1997). Promoting Democracy In The 1990s: Actors, Instruments And Issues. In Hadenius, A. (Ed.), Democracy’s Victory And Crisis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

______ (1999). Developing Democracy Toward Consolidation. Baltimore:   Johns Hopkins University Press.

Fage, K. S. And Alabi D. O. (2017). Nigerian Government And Politics. Abuja: Basfaj Global Concepts Ltd.

Fage K. S. (2021), From Dividends’ Optimism To Dashed Hopes: The Imperatives Of Leadership Re-Engineering In Nigeria, Kano: Bayero University Press


Author: Imoh Robert

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