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The aim of this study was to determine The role of Nigerian Mass media in the promoting free and fair elections (A study of heartland FM, IBC and Hot FM). The study adopted the survey design using the questionnaire as the research instrument. The study addressed three research questions. The findings revealed among others that mass mediahas a major role in mobilizing citizens for political elections. The study recommended that the masses should be much more involved in electoral processes to enhance good governance and a better democracy through network participation that is, through election call centers for complains.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
Election is one of the most important pillars of democracy. Indeed, it is a necessary condition for democracy because it provides the medium for the expression of the core principles and purposes of democracy such as the sovereignty of the citizens; freedom, choice and accountability of political leaders. In order to serve these purposes of democracy, elections must be free and fair. The notion of free and fair election expresses several conditions, including absence of manipulation, violence and fraud as well as impartiality of election management authority and effective participation by the electorate at all stages of the electoral process. An electoral process involves different stages at which decisions are made and activities are undertaken.
The stages include enactment of electoral laws; establishing electoral management authority and appointing its officials; constituency delineation; party formation and registration, voter registration; nomination of candidates and campaigns; procurement of relevant services and materials; determination of polling centres and provision of polling booths; polling, counting and declaration of results, and determination of election petitions. At all these levels, there must be transparency, fairness, and unhindered participation by every eligible person and group. Any government that emerges from any election that is not free and fair cannot be the true choices of the electorate and therefore represents the usurpation of the sovereignty of the citizens .
Successive elections in Nigeria since the colonial period lacked the essential ingredients of democratic electoral process: transparency, fairness and freeness. This failure is due to several factors: manipulation of the decisions and activities at the various stages of electoral process by the governments and politicians; corruption of officials and electorates, violence during campaigns, polling and collation; rigging through the stuffing, snatching and destruction of ballot boxes.
The general elections for electing the President, Vice-President, Senators and Representatives in the federal bicameral legislature; State Governors, and the legislators in the unicameral legislatures in the respective 36 states of the Federation, were scheduled and conducted on April 14 and 21, 2007. Due to the various adverse political conditions enumerated above, there were concerns and fear about the preparedness of the electoral body to conduct free and fair elections in 2007. Citizens were also concerned about the capacity of the security institutions to ensure peaceful atmosphere. The avalanche of litigations occasioned by the manipulations of the electoral rules and processes; electoral administration lapses, and election-related campaigns fuelled public apprehension and cynicism. A total of 7,160 candidates participated in the April elections. Out of this number, 628 were women. A breakdown of candidates is given below:
-Out of 25 candidates contested for president’s office, only one was a woman
-Five women contested for vice president’s office
-474 candidates contested for governorship in the thirty six states, including 14 women running for governor’s office and 21 women running for deputy governor’s office
-799 candidates contested for Senate, 59 were women
- 2,342 candidates contested for House of Representatives, 150 were women
- A total of 5,647 candidates contested for the positions in the assembly of which 358 were women. Ninety-four finally emerged as winners: 6 deputy governors, 9 senators, 27 national representatives, and 52 in various state Houses of Assembly. There were also notable increases in the number of women holding cabinet and ministerial positions. Although it failed to fulfill its promise of 30 percent of cabinet positions for women, the Yar’Adua government did place 7 women in these high offices (18 percent of the cabinet). The April 2007 elections also saw Nigeria receive its first female Speaker of the House, the Hon. Patricia OlubunmiEtteh (http://www.iri.org 2007). Mass media plays different roles in the lives of its audience, to many; it could be an educative, informative as well as an entertainment medium. Although the use of mass media alone may not create total awareness to individuals as a result of its restraining factor such as expensiveness, irregular power supply and so on. It is believed that the mass media will create more sensitized atmosphere for information on issues affecting the society at large, this is where Nigerian Mass media(heartland FM, IBC and Hot FM) comes in as a promoter of free and fair election in Imo State.
BRIEF HISTORY OF NIGERIAN MASS MEDIA
Historically, Nigeria has boasted the most free and outspoken press of any African country, but also one which has consistently been the target of harassment by the past military dictatorships and now under the governance of Nigeria's former civilian president, GoodluckEbele Jonathan. Many agents of Nigeria's press have been imprisoned, exiled, tortured, or murdered as a result, among them being Ogoni activist and television producer Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed for treason by order of the SaniAbacha dictatorship in 1995 (resulting in the expulsion of Nigeria from the Commonwealth of Nations and sanctions from abroad).
Even under the somewhat less-oppressive current civilian government, journalists have continued to come under fire, be it from the government (as with the June 2006 arrest of GbengaAruleba and RotimiDurojaiye of African Independent Television under charges of sedition) or from other popular establishments (such as the self-imposed exile of Thisday'sIsioma Daniel following the riots in Northern Nigeria over "sensitive comments" which she had made in an article regarding Muhammad and the 2002 Miss World pageant.
A fatwa calling for her beheading was issued by the mullahs of northern Nigeria, but was declared null and void by the relevant religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, and the Obasanjo faced an international public relations smearing [especially within journalistic circles) in the aftermath, which was not helped by the AminaLawal controversy which had occurred prior to the riots, which had seen over 200 dead). However, as with most other countries, blogging has increasingly become a much safer, and much easier, conduit for Nigeria's growing Internet-enabled minority to express their dissatisfactions with the current state of affairs in Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The incessant problem of electoral malpractices associated with godfatherism, for instance snatching of ballot boxes, political thuggery, rigging and so on was often caused by little or no enlightenment on the choices we make as electorates. Poor political education of the procedures involved in the election such as the process of registering, obtaining a voters card, accreditation, the right pattern of voting have constituted serious problems in our voting activities. The Mass Media as the voice of the people play important roles in the entire political activities.it is part of the duty of the Media to sufficiently mobilize the electorate for the electoral activities the question this research seeks to answer is: how has the Mass media effectively mobilized the electorate for successful electoral activities during elections in Imo State.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objectives of the study were as follows:
1. To find out whether Mass media was a choice of medium for the people of Imo State.
2.To find out if Mass media political messages satisfied the people's political desires.
3. To determine the extent Mass media effectively mobilized the people's participation in the electoral process election.
3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. To what extent was Mass media a choice medium for the people of Imo State?
2. How did Mass media political messages satisfy the people's political desires?
3. To what extent did Mass media effectively mobilize the people's participation in the electoral process?
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study focused on Imo State and the electorate of local Government. Although the study is limited to the electorate in Imo State, it is assumed that in Nigeria generally, the electorate has similar characteristics. Based on this assumption, the result of the findings could be generalized.
1.6SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The findings of the study would be significant in several ways.
1. It would serve as a reference material both for students and other researchers, who may have need for information and documentations on this area of academic study.
2. The findings would also be helpful to other media organizations in their planning and execution of electoral programs
3. The findings would also offer the electorate the opportunity to air their views on the way and manner media organizations handle election programs.
1.7 OPERATIONAL DEFINATIONOF SIGNIFICAL TERMS
Broadcast: this involves sending out programs, information, ideas to the public through the mass media for instance; mass media, radio, internet etc.
Conflict: it is a situation of disagreement occurring between entities, people, group or organization.
Elections: this is a system of choosing a person or group of people for positions in the society by a legal way of voting.
Enfranchise: this is the right given to an individual to participate in elections.Electorate: these are the people in a given area or country who have the right to vote. Malpractise: a system of ill behavior that does not foster positive responsiveness.
Media: It is the vehicle through which messages, information, ideas, demands and so on are passed across to the masses.
Mobilization: an act of organizing a group of people to partake in a task or incident in other to achieve a desired goal or objective.
Politics: these are activities connected with the state government or general affairs. It usually involves competition between different parties on leadership positions based on election.
Region: a large area of land usually without exact boarders that a country is usually divided into comprising of its own customs and government. For example in Nigeria we have the northern region.
Stigmatization: a feeling of unimportance, un-acceptance usually caused by the treatment that people give to you.
Mass media: it is an essential part of mass media which transmit pictures and sound signals over long distance through electromagnetic radiation. It is a medium of communication that enhances believability through its sight and sound appeal.
Democracy: a political system in which the people of the country rule through any form of government they choose to establish.
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