TRADITIONAL MEDIA AND POLITICAL MOBILISATION DURING NIGERIA’S 2011 ELECTIONS IN BENUE STATE

TRADITIONAL MEDIA AND POLITICAL MOBILISATION DURING NIGERIA’S 2011 ELECTIONS IN BENUE STATE

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ABSTRACT

The study; “Traditional media and political mobilization During Nigeria’s 2011 Elections” concerned with the influence of traditional media on the behaviour of Benue electorates during Nigeria’s 2011 elections. The study used survey method of research with questionnaire, interview and Focus Group Discussion (FGD) as tools to elicit responses from the respondents. T-test was use to test the hypothesis. With a sample size of 594, the study found that traditional media influenced Benue people to a large extent during Nigeria’s 2011 elections by ways of making them participate massively in the voters’ card registration exercise, campaigns exercise, voting, knowledge of political parties and their candidates, avoid violence during and after elections and enable them know the voting time table. Finding shows that voters’ education, provision of information, promotion of political candidates, appeal for voter’s participation, encourage for free and fair elections, warn against political violence, advise for maximum performance, attacking of corrupt politicians and advocate for or against change of government were various purposes through which traditional media were employ to serve in Benue during Nigeria’s 2011 elections. Finding also reveals that opposition party utilizes traditional media in their political campaigns more than did the ruling political party. The study however shows that inadequate support, cultural variation, lack of government interest in the media, static nature of some folk media forms and attacks and intimidations were various challenges traditional media practitioners face in their practice during 2011 elections. The study concludes that in the Nigeria’s 2011 elections, traditional media were largely employed and they influenced the attitude/behaviour of Benue electorates towards participating in the elections but traditional media practitioners were face with challenges inadequate support, cultural variation, lack of government interest in the media, static nature of some folk forms, and attacks and intimidations. The study therefore recommends that being an influential media of communication, political and other development programmes should be largely integrated into traditional media to help the message to be effectively communicated to the people. Government should pay particular attention to this grassroots oriented media to make it more vibrant in communicating development oriented messages to the people of Benue. Also, efforts should be made to demystifying such traditional media forms that are so mysterious as well as make those that are too rigid flexible. Furthermore, adaptation of traditional to broadcast media should be enhanced to help empower the traditional media more which is limited in reach in reaching more people in Benue state.


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

            In each society of the world, participation of people who are involved into development programme is a key in achieving meaningful development. The most successful and well planned development programme will not see the light of the day if the people involved are not adequately mobilized. This is not different when it comes to issue of politics. Ucheanya (2003:70) in Nwosu (ed) acknowledges this fact when he says that through adequate mobilization and enlightenment, the people’s political participation becomes advanced to higher level that will pave way for a peaceful election. Ucheanya (2003:70) further maintains:

At this point of awareness, the people’s political culture becomes  shaped and redirected for better political participation which  involve those voluntary activities by which they share in the election of rulers and directly or indirectly, in the formation of public policy. These  activities typically include voting, seeking information, discussion and proselytizing, attending meetings, conventions, contributing financially, communicating with representatives, formal enrolment in a party, canvassing and registering voters, speech writing and speech making, working in campaigns, and competing for public and party offices.

            The idea drawn from the above is that non-participation of the people will mean a state of withdrawal from, or indifference to, such activity like having successful and peaceful elections. Participation is very important in any election so as to avoid any unhealthy action by the people. Participation is a source of vitality and creative energy, as a defense against tyranny, and as a means of enacting the collective wisdom. vitality and creative energy, as a defense against tyranny, and as a means of enacting the collective wisdom.

            With the realization of the fact that effective mobilization of people is very crucial for the success of any development programme including politics, a lot of efforts have been directed in the past to the use of mass media in mobilizing people for participation in the development activities including politics. This was due to some recognized influences of the mass media on their users. In recognition of this, Thomas Jefferson, the former American president, quoted by Konkwo (2003:87) was of the opinion that he would rather prefer living in a country with a newspaper but without a government, to living in a country with a government but without a newspaper. Ucheanya (2003:71) has averred that:

 The mass media are regarded as the guardian of the public that examine the political policies and programmes, educate the masses, motivate, mobilize and manipulate them into active participation.  He added that the mass media create forum for public debate, help in public opinion formation, and such other functions like mobilization, status conferral and agenda setting. Through daily provision of adequate political information, the mass media help to construct social reality for the people. They set the agenda for public discourse and hence opinions which can decisively affect what the people do in a campaign period before the election itself.

Sambe (1998:91) in Akosu (ed) has agreed that the mass media have constantly drawn attention to areas of difficulty in pursuit of democracy; by providing detailed information on political parties, political candidates to all levels of elections, pointing out flaws and not hesitating to alert the public on irregularities. Okigbo (1991:9) has itemized some of the roles the mass media performed in the development process including politics thus(a) providing access to wide variety of the people; (b) determining the people’s need for development information; (c ) supporting horizontal and vertical flows of information; (d) supporting cultural communication; (e) raising the people’s awareness and promote development.

            However, in the developing nations of the world such as ours, the use of mass media to aid national development does not yield much fruitful result in the majority of our areas since these areas are rural, well isolated by illiteracy, poverty and lack of basic amenities. These areas that are majority hardly have access to mass media infrastructures for effective mobilization and development. This makes it difficult to attain national development through the use of mass media of communication since national development is meaningless when the rural majorities are not carried along. Nwabueze (2004:294), giving the case of Nigeria emphasizes that…if development is to be simply understood as the betterment of the lives of a people, then rural development to a large extent, would constitute the key to national development of a nation like Nigeria, since a greater majority of her people still live in rural areas. Mabogunje (1981:47) has agreed that rural development is the most effective means of improving the well being of the vast majority of a country’s population. Onabajo (2002:37-38), examining the nature of developing nations like Nigeria, provided the following as reasons for the inability of the mass media in attaining national development:

a.         Information officers, news producers and other government    and      private personnel responsible for information and     message design and packaging make themselves the sole             determinants of the needs of their audience without       resource to them.

b.         These information disseminators usually belong to a class        that      does not share the same frame of reference with the             majority of the target audience.

c.         Little or no inquiry is made into the nature of the audience       before messages are conceptualized, and they assure that if      the       messages sense to them, then it should achieve its             purpose.

d.         The message designers are under illusion that the rural people are ignorant of their needs and so other people should help in articulating them. As a result, such          designed messages look patronizing, thereby alienating the             audience and rendering the whole message ineffective.

e.         The non-participation of the message receive in the       information content is also a barrier to message         imbuement. This is because the urban population is       guided by generally different criteria for the rural people in         their selection of development messages.

f.          The urban crowd generates most of the news and           information passed to the rural population; hence, there is not attraction between the message and the receiver.

g.         A greater percentage of the country’s population live in            rural    areas and it is unfair to them to only receive            urbanized       messages. This          can make mobilization very             difficult;

h.         Government efforts in making information available in local   languages and dialects is a mere fallacy and of no       meaningful consequences.

            The implication is that this makes the mobilization of people for development purposes extremely difficult since majority of them (people) are been left untouched. The use of traditional media also known as folk indigenous media is proven to be more effective in mobilizing the general masses for participation in the development programmes of the society. This is in view of the fact that development must take a holistic approach, embracing all segments of the society, irrespective of the class, status, educational level and so on. Nwabueze (2004:295) has recognized that in Nigeria, communication for development purposes is done more through the print and electronic media with little seriousness paid to the use of traditional media to reach the masses. He maintains that though today, a good number of people, particularly those residing in the rural areas have access to radio and television; the traditional media remain the more familiar means of communication with/to them to achieve a purpose. They are familiar with and have easy access to the traditional media.

            The traditional media are those means of communication that are peculiar to typical African societies. They refer to those modes of communication still used today by rural dwellers and are often used also in urban areas. According to Nwabueze (2004), these traditional media forms include folk theatre, traveling story tellers, poets, talking drums, flute, traditional dances, metal or wooden gong, town crier, village squares, market, streams, churches mosques, masquerades, songs, extra-Mundane modes, e.g. spirits and gods etc. Ekwelie and Okonkwo (1983:69) acknowledge that these media have survived from the earliest of times and made an adjusted transition into the electronic age. Aima (2003:52-53) adds that folk media forms include festival forums, music, folktales, songs, rituals, clothes and other sartorial constructs, architectural designs, markets, town criers, social gatherings like funerals, wedding, theatre/drama, social institutions, like the extended family and other rallying points provided by the kings, village leaders and herbalists, etc.

            Traditional media are effective in mobilizing the masses for development including political development because they are embedded with the culture of the people thereby making them more credible and reliable. Jefkins and Ogboajah (1985:175) have agreed that traditional also called folk media or a media have free, or a media have credibility and prestige. They inject stability into Africa’s social systems and are the real media at the grassroots level. Wilson (1987:88) notes that traditional communication remains what essentially sustains the information needs of the rural dwellers that represent over 70% of the national population of most Third World States. Dissanake in Lent (1978) takes a critical look at the following as numerous advantages accrued from the use of traditional media as against mass media in mobilizing the teaming masses for development purposes

-           Traditional media are more credible, having existed among      the rural folk for a long time, expressing their deeply felt             and communal          joys and sorrows, triumph and debate.

-           The peasants consider mass media to be elitist and alien           and identified with centers of power.

-           Traditional media employ the idiom of the people and the        symbols, which are readily intelligible to them reach a part of the population that is impervious to the influence of      mass media and demand active participation in the process   of communication.

-           Demand active participation in the process of     communication.

            Gumucio in Murray (2007) also captures the relevance of traditional media in the development process thus:

Folk communication is so relevant in development, because it interacts with local culture, in the language and themes that are important to the communities. While mass media campaigns are aiming larger publics with very general messages, folk and community based is addressing issues in specific ways and is doing it through local engagement and participation.

Mondy and Compton (1995) in Akinleye (2003:61), making a comparism of the two media  (folk and mass media) of communication for development purposes have realized that indigenous communication channels are more effective for development purposes because;

a.         They have value in their own right.

b.         The contemporary media have limited range.

c.         Indigenous channels have high credibility.

d.         They are important conduct of change.

e.         They offer opportunities for participation by the local   people.

They are democratic in nature. They are not necessarily top-down.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

The mobilization of people into political activities is necessary in accelerating political participation and development. Ucheanya (2003:69) affirms that through adequate mobilization and enlightenment, the people’s political participation becomes advanced to higher level that will pave way for a peaceful election. Ucheanya (2003) maintains that at this point of awareness, the people’s political culture becomes shaped and redirected for better political participation which involve voluntary activities by which they share in the selection of rulers and directly or indirectly, in the formation of public policy.

For effective mobilization of people into political activities comes the use of traditional folk media. This form of media is said to be ideal in accelerating political development in countries such as ours. According to Rogers and Shoemaker (1971), research evidence on the diffusion of innovations in less developed countries generally indicates that interpersonal channels are of greater importance than mass media channels. Nwuneli (1985) also notes that face-to-face communication is consistently more effective as a persuasive device than any mass medium. Melkote (1991) in Soola (2002), Jefkins and Ogboajah (1985), Wilson (1987), Dissanake, cited in lent (1978), Gumucio, quoted in Murray (2007) and Monday and Compton (1995), cited in Akinleye (2003), were among the scholars who gave credence to traditional media as credible, reliable and most effective media of communication for mass mobilization for participation in the development purposes such as politics. However, what prompted the researcher’s curiosity into this study is that are traditional media effectively mobilized the people of Benue for participation in 2011 elections? To what extent were they influential to the electorates? What was the purpose for their utilization? What were the challenges posed to practitioners in the use of the media?           

It is by finding solution to the above pertinent issues that this study investigates the extent traditional media were employed to mobilize Benue electorates during 2011 elections; the extent of traditional media influence to electorates in 2011 elections, the purpose for their (traditional media) utilization, and the challenges posed to practitioners in political mobilization during 2011 elections in Benue State.

1.3       Objectives of the Study

            The broad objective of this study is to examine the influence of traditional media on Benue





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