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MEDIA REPORTING, VOTING BEHAVIOUR AND LEADERSHIP ASCENDANCY DURING 2011 AND 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background to the Study
Media reporting of events and issues in Nigeria has advanced significantly within the upsurges of the country’s politics, especially in her processes of elections. Yet, there seems to be a growing concern on the influence of media reporting in the past presidential elections and more critically in the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections. A cursory look at the influence exerted by media reporting around the world in presidential election processes, strains the importance of studying the influence of media reporting in aforementioned subject in Nigeria. Media refers to any means of transmitting information which is done through the various forms, devices, and systems that make up mass communications considered as a whole, including newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television channels, and the internet. Media reporting therefore is the use of these medium to present news or report events or issues (Danesi, 2009).
Media reporting is not done in a vacuum, it makes use of linguistic which makes reporting effective and significant (Allan, 2015) The phonology in writing or broadcasting an event or an issue has much to do with the understanding or misunderstanding of the event or issue being reported. Again, the approach or the attitude in which the written event or broadcast is being released to the masses affect their understanding of the information passed to them. This in turn brings to fore the intended goal of the media in their report of such events and issues under discussion. This can be summed up to be news framing. McQuail (2010) agrees that framing may activate certain inferences, ideas, judgments and contrast concerned issues, policies and politicians. The slant may dictate what readers may likely perceive and how voters may behave after such perception from the media towards making a political choice.
Voting behaviour therefore is a political behaviour of choice or preference based on the information available to the voter (Zahida & Younis, 2014). The plan of the media is always to sway the masses opinion on a particular issue to achieve a specific result. No difference is found when it comes to the matter of politics and the influence language of media reporting approach or attitude of report exert on voting behaviour. The influence of media on voters and their conviction towards any candidate as has been sold to them by the media produces leadership.
As a matter of fact, leadership has been a source of attraction, estimation, legend, and myth since the beginning of civilized societies. The Egyptians for instance had hieroglyphics for leadership, leader, and follower 5000 years ago. Both Plato and Aristotle were not exempted from this issue as they wrote about leadership, contemplating on the requirements of the ideal leader in an ideal state. Many Countries in the world and particularly in the continent of Africa have experienced leadership ascendency through elections and some through coup d’état, and the country Nigeria is not an exception in her developmental stages since October 1, 1960 when she gained her independence. However, democratically political development in Nigeria has taken a center phase in recent times, this is affixed on the fact that since May 29, 1999, the country seem to have maintained a stable democratic dispensation. Nevertheless, one common feature of recent wave is media reporting influence on voting behavior to leadership ascendancy. Countries like France, Britain, Sweden, and the USA as examples, make use of the mass media to educate voters (Udende, 2011). Hence the reason for their much dependence on the media for information.
Consequently, the influence of Media reporting on voting behavior to leadership ascendancy in Nigeria has attracted the interest of scholars, practitioners, political leaders and observers, Agba (2006); Antoci, Sabatini, and Mauro (2012); Durante, Brian, and Knight, (2012); Dyck David, and Luigi (2013) Egba, (2003); Egbuna (2011); Gabadebo (2010); Galadima (2012); Galadima & Enighe (2001); Sabatini (2012);and Sabatini and Sarracino (2014). The following scholars, Antoci, Sabatini, and Mauro (2012); Dyck, Moss, and Luigi (2013) Sabatini,(2012); and Sabatini, and Sarracino (2014) posit that the manner in which the media (radio, television, newspapers, magazines) report events, campaigns and information exert influence on voters in their choice of leadership selection. On the contrary, Alatobi, (2013), Didmus (2009) Okafor (2014), Zahida and Younis (2014) are of the opinion that other factors apart from reporting influence voting behavior to leadership ascendancy.
Therefore, leadership ascendancy is perceived as the action of leading or directing a group of people or an organization, or the ability to occupy a position of dominant power or influence or the state of being in the leading; governing or controlling influence; dominationWithin the last decade, a new surge of leader has risen to positions of official leadership in Nigeria. Official leadership positions, as defined by Robnett (1996), are those that are institutionally acknowledged positions inside an organization which involve essential control over assistants. Skilled political action within a party earns members the reputation required to raise themselves to positions of leadership which they do by effectively making use of the media to extend their influence.
Again, the media as an institution play a pivotal role in creating awareness and shaping attitudes in society. Also, the media constitute the real public space through which citizens understand politics. This role makes the media a veritable tool to either make or mar any aspirant from winning an election. The media at times use true facts to draw false conclusions and this is where the media saying, “if thoughts corrupt language, language can also corrupt thoughts”(Orwell,2011: 16). This is because different political groups with their jingles, agenda and public issues attract voters knowingly or unknowingly and the reporting of the media mold voting behaviour and their opinion. Strong democracy depends on information and knowledge. It is often said that information is power and that correct information is vital to clear thinking, just as clear thinking is vital to making sound judgment. Voters can be influenced ranging from ethnicity to religious, leading voters to making certain decisions as regards selection of candidates based on the information available to them and the manner in which it has been reported.
In order for any democratic system to flourish, political parties and candidates are to provide the electorate with satisfactory information on party policies, unambiguous vision as well as their political agenda to enable electorate dynamically choose their candidates founded on full evidence. To realize this, political parties use the media in campaigns. Curran (2005) states that the media assist voters to make knowledgeable choice at election time. This is done in form of social media campaigns, paid political advertisments, commentaries and news stories. For an election to be considered free and fair, electorate must have adequate knowledge of the candidates, political parties and election policies
Lately, political parties and their candidates have come to realize the effectiveness of advertisements and the role it plays in getting the electorate chose a particular candidate or party over the other by way of enlightening them. The manner in which mass media report things has become progressively popular and is significant to the electoral process and voting behavior because it bridges the communication gap between political parties, political candidates and electorate. Hence, political parties and candidates all around the world dedicate a lot of financial resources to patronize media houses to sell themselves as the preferred brand to the electorate. Interestingly, the most questions that come up in elections are concerned with voting behavior and why the electorate voted for a candidate over the other as well as the implication of their choice. Arguments have ensued among scholars and communication experts that when politicians crafts their campaign messages as possible solution to improve voters lives, or something similar and come with some perceived decent measure of integrity, voters are more likely to believe them (Feyipitan 2015). In other words, the electorate are most likely to trust candidates whose political campaigns offer to satisfy their basic needs as opposed to those who dwell on their personal achievements pending on the way it is communicated through the media.
Presidential elections of 2011 and 2015 in Nigeria, witnessed large patronage of various forms of mass media by political parties and candidates for the singular purpose of winning electorate votes. At the end, Goodluck Jonathan who was the candidate of the People Democratic Party (PDP) won in 2011 and Mohammad Buhari of All Progressive Congress (APC) emerged as the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2015 respectively. Before the elections, their campaigns filled media airwaves, social media and billboards with messages for every class of people who made up the electorate. Their jingles dominated radio and television stations, social media sites while their messages streamed the print and outdoor media with promises to deliver. However, the extent to which media reporting of their campaigns fostered their winning remains the task of this research. The starring role or sway exerted by the approach and modus in which the media report events and its weight on voters behavior has enticed or motivated the interest of many scholars, spectators and political cream of the crop in Nigeria more especially this research as it forms the thrust of the entire work.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The media, in all their manifestations, are instruments to make or mar the attainment to leadership positions, especially of political aspirants. The vibrant flow of information provided by the media seems to increase political knowledge, sharpen public debate and push candidates to make genuine political clichés, and arguably also, the availability of alternative sources of information gives life to political competition. The more sources of information available, the greater the public’s knowledge, and this role is performed by the media.
Akeke, Akeke and Awolusi (2015) observed that the purpose of the media is for political communication. Propaganda in politics was the problem that drew the researchers’ attention to this study, on how wrong or false information is disseminated by the media to make or mar a presidential candidate from attaining a leadership position. Irrespective of the fact that the media creates awareness, majority of the populace and even voters lack basic knowledge about the entire political process, and may take unreasonable decisions on election matters particularly. Slant, language, frequency, interest and bias of reportage which the media chooses may have negative or positive influence on voting behaviour and consequently on leadership ascendancy which in the negative leads to electoral violence. About 1000 people lost their lives in the 2011 Presidential elections (Olukotun 2014). Also Prior to the presidential election of March 28, 2015, there were a lot of trepidation about the elections turning violent because of previous experiences of some politicians seeing the election as a do-or-die issue, fighting dirty with half-truths, outright lies and bitter words.
Hence the two major contestants Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Muhammad Buhari along with other party leaders first signed what has now come to be known as the Abuja Accord on January 14, 2015. It was adopted first through acclamation and then signed by all candidates present.
For purpose of clarity, the Accord binds the candidates on covenants: To run issue-based campaigns at all level, shorn and devoid of religious incitement and ethnic or tribal profiting. To avoid making inflammatory or inciting statements and declarations capable of stoking the fire of violence and unrest before, during or after the election. To denounce publicly provocative utterances and oppose all acts of electoral violence whether perpetrated by supporters and/or opponents. To commit themselves and their parties to the monitoring of the adherence to the accord if necessary, by a national peace committee composed of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders. All the institutions of the government including INEC and security agencies must act and be seen to act with impartiality. They apparently agreed for themselves and on behalf of their supporters that there will be peace before, during and after the elections whether they win or lose. They agreed, among other thing, to run an issue-based campaign and vowed that their electoral campaigns will not involve any religious provocation, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by themselves and all agents acting on their behalf. It was again renewed on Thursday March, 26, 2015, 48 hours to the election. This dread may not be unconnected with the fact that in 2011, around 1000 people were killed in violence after President Goodluck defeated President Buhari (Olukotun 2014).
According to Towolawi (2015), ‘nothing fuels electoral violence as base, sentimental campaign dimensioned on primitive and primordial inclinations with no bearing on agenda, ideology, peoples’ welfare, governance, and development. Our politicians must shun puerile mudslinging and needless character assassination to further political agenda’. The influence of media on Nigerians especially during the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections sequel to voting behaviour is worthy of study. Television broadcasts and newspaper stories are the important source of information about the conduct of government and politicians, clearly indicating how important it is to study media influence. George and Waldfogel (2006), Della, Vigna and Kaplan (2007) assert that media sources may influence the public not only by choosing the slant of a particular report, but also merely by choosing what to report. This study therefore examined the influence of media reporting on voting behavior and leadership ascendancy during the 2011, and 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The main objective of this study was to examine the influence of media reporting on voting behaviour and leadership ascendancy, using the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria as a case in point. The specific objectives are to:
- Investigate the influence of media reporting on voting behaviour in Nigeria during the presidential elections of 2011 and 2015;
- Determine the influence of media reporting on leadership ascendancy in Nigeria in the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections;
- Appraise the nature of the influence exerted by the media on leadership ascendancy in Nigeria during the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections;
- Examine the composite influence of media reporting and voting behaviour on leadership ascendancy during 2011 and 2015 presidential electons;
- Examine the manner, trend and language of the frequency of newspaper and television reporting of Presidential elections of the period under study 2011 and 2015,
- Evaluate the influence of media Ownership on media reporting of presidential elections in Nigeria in 2011 and 2015.
1.4 Research Questions
In giving direction to this work, the following research questions were asked.
- How did media reporting influence voting behaviour in Nigeria during the presidential elections conducted in 2011 and 2015?
- How did media reporting influence leadership ascendancy in Nigeria during the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections?
- What is the nature of the influence exerted by the media on leadership ascendancy in Nigeria during the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections?
- What was the composite influence of media reporting to voting behaviour on leadership ascendancy in the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections?
- What was the manner, trend and language of the frequency of newspaper and television reporting of Presidential elections of the period under study 2011 and 2015?
- How did media ownership influence media reporting of the presidential elections in Nigeria in 2011 and 2015?
The following hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance:
H01: Media reporting has no influence on voting behaviour.
H02: Media reporting has no influence on leadership ascendancy.
H03: There is no significant relationship between voting behaviour and leadership ascendancy.
H04: There is no composite influence of media reporting and voting behaviour on leadership ascendancy.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study would enlighten relevant stakeholders such as, political parties, candidates and civic society organization, on the influence of reporting on political awareness and campaign opportunity. The study would guide the thought of the electorate not to believe everything they hear from the media. It will also add to the body of existing knowledge on the type of influence exerted by media reporting on voting behaviour.
This research would inform government and other electoral management body that media reporting will continue to set agenda for political discussion and voting behavior for people during elections, consequently impacting leadership ascendancy.
This study would ignite or kindle voters’ verification of information reported by the media before taking a decision on which candidate to vote for. It would create the consciousness on voters on the need to rely on credible alternate sources of information before making their decision.
Finally, this study would establish empirically the extent of media reporting influence on voting behaviour towards the choice of candidates in 2011 and 2015 presidential elections.
1.7 Scope of the Study
There is no doubt that media reporting and its influence on voting behavior to leadership ascendancy cuts across every level of election in different times ranging from 2011 and 2015 presidential elections. The study examined the impact of media reporting limited to radio, television and newspaper reporting and its influence on voting behavior to leadership ascendancy. This study is set to determine the type of influence, the factors determining the behaviour and attitude that voters adopt based on information available to them from the media and how it is reported in six states purposively selected from each geopolitical zone in Nigeria with a focus on presidential elections of 2011 and 2015. The focus is chosen because of its currency and the peculiarities of both presidential candidates, Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan contesting in 2011 and 2015 concurrently. This work shall be limited to the reporting of the following television channels: Channels television, African Independent Television, Nigerian Television Authority. This is on the basis that they are widely watched television stations, and covers all the states in Nigeria. And the following newspapers: The Guardian, Vanguard, The Nation, Daily Sun, Leadership and The Punch. This is also selected on their rating as the most widely read newspapers in Nigeria.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
The following are terms which occur in the research study which need to be defined to enable the reader understand the appropriate context in which they have been used.
Media Reporting: is the recounting of news worthy events by television, print media, and radio, to inform or educate as comprehensively and accurately as possible, to the public who are expected to be guided by facts, accuracy and objectivity.
Voting Behaviour: is a form of political behaviour exhibited by electorate. The systematic study of the voting patterns of the electorate of a given constituency in an election which provides insight into the sociology of the voters, factors that influence their voting patterns and the direction of their votes.
Election: involves the choice of persons who are to exercise authority on behalf of the people. It is a democratic means by which people choose their representatives or rulers. It allows the people to choose between two or more alternatives. Elections are held in every sphere of life where all the people cannot be directly involved such as clubs, churches, schools, professional associations etc.
Leadership Ascendancy: is the action of leading or directing a group of people or an organization, or the ability to occupy a position of dominant power or influence or the state of being in the leading; governing or controlling influence; domination. Leadership is developed through social influences. On one end of the range a leader is defined by a set of recommended behaviors which separates them from followers. On the other end, leadership is a temporary role that can be filled by anyone who has displayed intelligence, dominance, self-confidence, level of energy and activity, and task-relevant knowledge.