The functions of politics, politicians, mass media and practitioners and the extent, to which they perform their functions in Nigeria, formed the main focus of this paper. The paper used the actualization of electoral campaign promises by politicians to base its discussion and evaluate how the mass media, politicians and politics have performed as functional units of the Nigerian society to achieve these promises.
The paper adopted the Pluralist Functionalist theory and the Agenda Setting theory to support its position and discussion. Findings revealed that politics and politicians to a large extent have failed in delivering their campaign promises to the electorate in Nigeria and the mass media and its practitioners who are meant to be the “watch dog” of the society and the government are not doing much, and has seemingly assumed the position of “dog watch”.
This according to the paper is mainly due to the culture of greed that has slowly crept into our society. The paper is however quick to add that the situation is not all negative, politics in Nigeria is improving and the mass media though not utilizing its full potentials has contributed to its growth and held the politicians accountable to some of their campaign promises to the masses but more still needs to be done on the part of all.
The paper concludes that our value culture in Nigeria needs proper re-orientation- people who have failed in government or politicians who have siphon public funds should not be celebrated and the freedom of information law recently passed by the National Assembly should be fully implemented to enable the mass media practitioners monitor the activities of politicians even better. INTRODUCTION: Society is a complex structure that is made up of different organs that work in unison to help it attains its goals and aspiration in an atmosphere of peace and unity.
The successes recorded in the cause of achieving societal goals translate in general into the developmental success of a nation. This common assumption can be observed in all societies of the world and Nigeria is by no means exempted from this assertion. Key element in the development of any nation is determined by how well the major players involve in the actualization of its policies perform their responsibilities. In Nigeria, one could easily identify these key elements to include: politics, politicians, mass media and practitioners. Though there are several others but these four shall be the focus of this paper.
The question that readily comes to mind is how well the four elements (politics, politician, mass media and practitioners) as vital elements in the development process perform their functions in Nigeria? What is the relationship between politics, politician, mass media and practitioners as it relates to their performing the functions the nation and society in particular expects of them? CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATION: For the purpose of understanding it is important to demystify the following concepts as it relates to their usage in this paper in other to place the reader on a better pedestal to follow this discourse.
Politics: can simply be describe as the market place or arena where ideas on public policies, societal goals and the best approaches to achieving those goals are ”bought”, ”sold”, discussed and debated in an organized forum. It is the blueprint machinery that shapes the development direction of a nation. The Greek philosopher Aristotle describes man as a “political animal”. This invariably means that man cannot separate himself from politics, the activities of politics will affect him one way or another.
Ekeanyanwu and Adekoya (2008) assert that the term politics originated from the greek word “polis” which refers to the political community and the debates on matters of public interest. Politicians: politician are the active players in politics, they include those in elected position of authority in the society or those seeking elective offices, active political parties card carrying member, those who possess political charisma and are involved in mass mobilization and demobilization for political office seekers or political parties.
Microsoft Encarta, (2009) defined a politician as somebody active in politics or somebody who actively or professionally engages in politics. Mass Media: they are the technological base use in disseminating mass mediated messages. They can be sub-divided into print (newspaper, magazine and books) and electronic media (radio and television). They provide a medium through which messages can be disseminated to a large audience with a high level of simultaneity.
Mass Media Practitioners: are those who are professionally trained to make use of the mass media in the process of gathering, processing and dissemination of information and ideas. Society, Nation and Nigeria shall be use inter-changeably in this paper. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: This paper is anchored on two theories that critically examined the functions of the mass media in society and the role the mass media should play in its relationship with other organs of society. The paper therefore, finds relevance in the Pluralist Functionalist Theory and the Agenda Setting Theory.
The pluralist functionalist theory otherwise known structural functionalism or social system theory, holds that a society is like a system which is made up of many parts with each of these parts contributing to the overall maintenance of the whole. As the part within the society interact, they inevitably affect one another, (light and keller 1998) in Iwokwagh (2005). The pluralist considers the society to be consisted of pluralist of interest values, views, opinions, institutions etc none of which is predominant over another.
In this concept therefore the mass media are seen as part of the social institutions competing with other institutions in the society basically functioning to maintain a stable ordered society. Under this theory the mass media serve society by creating public opinion that is favourable to the growth and development of society. The agenda setting theory according to McComb and Shaw (1974) posit that the emphasis the mass media places on an issue influences the audience to also view the issue as important.
The media attach certain weight to news stories through placement, size and frequency of appearance of such stories. Agenda setting posit that audience learn these salient issues from the news media, thus incorporating a similar set of weights and important into their own personal agenda. (Ekeanyanwu, 2007). Kunczik, (1988) cited by Folarin, (1998, p. 67) points out that the opportunity for agenda-setting by the mass media becomes enhanced when the value structure of a society is in a state of flux.
The two theories found their relevance in this paper in the sense that the mass media as captured in the pluralist functionalist theory are organs that are part of the super-structure of society and are expected to perform their functions in a manner that will positively affect the other organs of society to achieve the general will being of society- by translation the nation. These functions can be efficiently and effectively performed using the agenda setting principle which raises areas of conflict or matters affect society to the plain of discussion for them to be addressed by the relevant stake holders in the society.
Issues bothering on politics, politicians, and even the mass media and its practitioners can be brought to the front burner for discussion and debate with society all the better for it. DISCUSSION OF THE PAPER: This paper shall be discussed using the delivery of campaign promises by politicians and the effort of the mass media in holding them to be accountable to such campaign promises and evaluate how politics, politician, mass media and practitioners have performed their functions in the Nigerian society using a holistic approach that is in line with the tenants of the two theories used in this paper.
THE ROLE OF THE MASS MEDIA AND ITS PRACTITIONERS IN SOCIETY. The mass media perform very vital role in society which serve both society and the various institution of government. These functions are presented by Dominic, (1994) he summits that for society to exist, certain communication needs must be met. These needs include: • surveillance • Interpretation function • Linkage • transmission of values • Entertainment Surveillance refers to news and information role of the media.
The media has taken the position of sentinel (people who scanned the environment and report danger in the primitive age) in modern society. The media gathers information about happenings in society and report to members of the society who may not have had the opportunity to get such information on their own. Recent happenings in Nigerian society such as bomb blast and kidnapping and most recently the flood disaster in Lagos, Kebbi, Sokoto and Bauchi are carefully followed by the media and society is kept abreast with latest development as they unfold.
Dominic, (1994) divide the surveillance function of the mass media into two: (a) warning or beware surveillance, this occurs when the media inform us about threat from hurricanes, erupting volcanoes, depressed economic conditions, increase in inflation or military attacks etc. (b) instrumental surveillance, this has to do with the transmission of information that is useful and helpful to ever one’s life. Examples, news about what films are playing in local theatres stock market prices, new product, fashion ideas etc.
This function of the mass media is very relevant in assess the extent the mass media have perform their functions in society especially as it relates to the activities of politics and politicians. This shall be fully discusses later in this paper has performed. Similarly, Sambe, (2005) commenting further on the surveillance function of mass media opines that the mass media are the eyes and ears of the public. News media provide information and alert us of the changes that take place around us.
He further allude that in performing its surveillance function, therefore, the mass media in Nigeria keep watch over the government, its three arms and the entire society, so as to keep their performance up to the standard that would encourage development of the country. Interpretation function- the mass media does not supply just fact and data. They also provide information on the meaning and significance of those events. The most obvious example of this function according to Dominic can be found on the editorial pages of newspapers.
Interpretation, comment, and opinion are provided for the readers so that he or she can gain added perspectives on the news stories carried on the other pages of the news paper. Analysis of the causes behind a particular event or discussion of implication of government policies are also examples of the interpretation functions of mass communication in society. Linkages- the mass are able to join together by interpersonal channels elements of society that are not directly connected.
For example mass advertising attempt to like the needs of buyers with the products of sellers. Another type of linkage occurs when geographically separated groups that share common interest are linked by the media. This was exemplified in the recent political happenings the Middle East where with the aid of the mass media and social network and community or citizen journalism, news about the Islamic revolution that started in Egypt was spread to other nation of the Arab world as a result of the linkage offered by mass media.
It has given members of the society with a common cause the ability to co-ordinate themselves and carryout action in unison. Transmission of values- this is also another important function of the mass media in society, by watching, listening and reading, we learn what values are important to emulate and the ones to abandon. The mass media in performing these functions also help building our political culture and political awareness. An Evaluation of how Politics, Politicians, Mass Media and Practitioners have performed Their Functions in Nigeria.
How the three element identified in the sub-head above perform their functions in Nigeria present a very unique scenario that leaves much room for complain in Nigeria. Politics in its ideal state is a platform that is used to discuss matters of public interest and where such matters are debated for a better public understanding to encourage effective participation. However, politics in Nigeria has been characterized by “godfatherism” violence, assassination and played by taking undue advantage of ethnic, religious regional and zonal dichotomy.
The violence that erupted in Kaduna, Bauchi, Niger and a few other Northern states in the aftermath of the 2011 president election which led to serious loss of lives especially those of Natinal Youth Service Corp member and the colossal destruction of parties is a clear example of how politics is played in our society. The assassination of Chief Bola Ige, Harry Marshall, Funsho Williams, Kudirat Abiola just to mention a few are those who have met their tragic end in the dangerous minefield of Nigerian politics.
Political discussion which is supposed to be a forum for the presentation of political policies and ideas to the public has become fatal ground for expression of bitterness, accusations and counter-accusations by politicians. Political rallies that is meant to be an opportunity for politicians to present their manifestoes and “sell” their ideas and intended policies to the electorate has become a ground for the abuse of philanthropy where rice, Maggie cubes, recharge card vouchers, money and under incentives are distributed.
Politicians make a lot of mouth watering promises to the people during electioneering campaigns but utterly forget such promises as soon as they get into power and little or no attention is given to the needs and yearnings of the society and the electorate that elected them. For instance former President Olusegun Obasanjo promised to solve the nagging issue of poor power supply in the country during the first tenure of his government but eight years later with millions of Naira supposedly spent on the power sector the problem remained the same.
Also the government of former Governor George Akume now Senator in Benue State claimed to have built a juice process factory and eight years after his government and almost five years in to the government of Governor Gabriel Suswam the factory still remain a mirage and the anticipated employment it would have generated for the teeming Benue indigenes has remained an elusive dream. Similarly, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan promised an eighteen per cent minimum wage for Nigeria workers and for well over one years the government has been unable to fulfill this promise even when abour decided to go on a three days warning strike but called it off as a result of interest in compliance shown by the government their subsequent meeting with the representative of the government still hit a deadlock. Lamenting on this situation, Nsikak, (2008) decries that: Governance in Nigeria is a monologue of the ruling class, by the ruling class and for the ruling class. He further added that the ruling class or political class as they are otherwise called has no sense of being beholden to the electorate, in fact, its legitimacy dos not emanate from the electorate.
It legitimacy as it were, derives from an intricate web of electoral subterfuge, ethno-political nepotism, and the brazen use of the apparatus of state for conquest and personal aggrandizement. This monolithic situation has left most Nigerians at the mercy of the elected politicians who occupy most of the “juicy” offices in our society. One might purse to ask. What is the role of the media in all of these?
Because it has been commonly observed that most politicians make promises during campaign that were never met and claim completion of project the non-existence. The mass media must and should go out to investigate in campaign promises are being made and if the promises time from has expired it should brought to the plain of discussion using the agenda setting mechanism to call the attention of such politician in government about such promises or policies to be implemented or further debated by the public.
Giving credence to this position, Budge-Reid, (1999) cited in Akpan, (2008) emphasizes that the importance of public policy discussion and alert o the dangers in the failure to debate publicly: “making sustainable policy that is not subjected to informed public debate is rarely sustainable. Media should be at the heart of policy making reflecting and communicating debate”. To further buttress this point, Grabber, (1995) further argues that through high quality, thoughtful comments and debate on public issues, the mass media play a key role in supporting good policies and building decent society.
To have a clear grasp of the contribution the mass media perform in the political setting of a nation, Gurevitch, and Blumler, (1977, p. 274) rightly comment that the structural root of the power of the mass media springs from their unique capacity to deliver to the politician an audience which, in size and composition, is unavailable to him by any other means. Indeed, the historical significance of the growing role of mass communication in politics lies, among other things, in the resulting enlargement of the receiver base to such an extent that previous barriers to audience involvement (e. . low level of education and weak political interest) have been largely over come and the audience for political communication has become virtually co-terminus with membership of society itself. Akpan, (2008) further added that the mass media are not expected, professionally to wait until the policy maker who may be uncomfortable that the mass media mass may rival him or become too critical of his proposals to inform them of issues.
This submission by Akpan makes investigative journalism a very important tool in the hands of the Nigerian mass media practitioners. Though the mass media are trying but more needs to be done in this area. A situation where a government or politicians forward news items or advertorials through their press secretary to the media on projects or policies that have been completed on implemented, the media must do follow-up to ensure that such news are truthful and not to simply collect the money and look the other way as it is commonly done.
The mass media to a large extent may have allowed itself to be internalized into projecting the views of what Karl Marx refers to as the dominant class (those who control economic and political power) at the expense of the masses by not adequately holding politicians to their campaign promises. Though argument have been put forward that the mass media and its practitioners has not been given the adequate freedom and enabling environment to function but in contrast to this arguments is the way the mass media come together to fight the military junta to a standstill and were able to do so under dictatorial tendencies in the past.
Why is it difficult to achieve such height under a democratic regime? It is the submission of this paper that the failure of politics, politicians, mass media and practitioners in the performance of their functions in Nigeria owes to a large extent to the culture of greed which has slowly but largely finds its way into the fabric of the Nigerian society. It is due to share greed and the crude and ridiculous accumulation of wealth that will drive a politician to siphon funds that is meant for the provision of public infrastructures in the manner in which they do.
Even the mass media is not speared in this negative crave for wealth, issues of brown envelop has been a cause of concern for media practitioners and stake holders in the industry. The picture though seems negative, but the performance of politics, politicians, mass media and practitioners is not all negative. Politics despite its short comings in Nigeria seem to have remained stable since its inception in 1999, the politician both in the military and democratic era have succeeded in maintaining the unity of Nigeria and assert her position of influence in Africa.
We have witness crisis that could have led to war or total anarchy in other smaller nations but the country has managed to stay together even in the wake of religious crisis, tribal war, militancy and Boko Haram, however, many Nigerians have continue to question the high price this togetherness is costing the Nigerian society. The government has been able to reduce our foreign debt by persuasively getting the Paris Club to cancel some of our debt; this has given the Nigerian economy some sigh of relief.
We have also witness some level of improvement in the polity, the 2011 election has been adjudged by both local and international observers as largely free and fair unlike the previous two in the last twelve years (2003 and 2007) that were describe as monumental failure, characterized by rigging and intimidations and a clear use of state apparatus and naked power. The mass media have also tried despite its shortcomings and the difficult terrain it has been forced to operate to promote and entrench the value of democracy in the society.
One cannot be too quick to forget the role the mass media played in the coming of the democracy we are enjoying in the nation today. Many media organizations were shot down, proscribe with so many editors and reporters forced to go into hiding but yet the media never give up until democratic rule was returned in the country. The mass media and its practitioners have also tried in the area of exposing corruption and fraud in the country.
The News Watch magazine exposure of the certificate forgery of the then speaker of the Federal House of Representative Salisu Buhari, which eventually led to his removal from office and the age controversy scandal of the former Senate President Evans Ewerem are all credited to the investigative activities of the mass media. CONCLUSION: The Nigeria society as it relates to the activities of politics, politicians, mass media and practitioners is indeed improving though it may not be at the pace most Nigerians want but there is visible improvement in the polity.
The 2011 elections were done in a much more transparent atmosphere with people more willing to vote and stay back to witness their being counted. This was a as a result of the improvement in the political structure, the political awareness created by the mass media and the return of the peoples confident in their ballot and if this situation is maintained and improved upon the politicians will equally change the way they play politics.
Similar view is also shared by Ari-Veikko (1997) when he concludes that the field of relevant agents with their power and exchange relations is becoming increasingly diffuse. This is due to the wide range of contextual changes. Politicians are not immune to them. On the contrary, they are at the very core of this transformational process. Politicians’ relations to citizens (and voters), business communities and the representatives of interest groups form as such an instance of mediated and aggregated modes of societal interaction.
Mass communication, political marketing, electronic democracy and related means of communication are changing politicians’ roles. They are to serve as visionary representatives of people and of ‘mediators’ of people and legitimate policy interventions in conditions of uncertainty and disorganized social relations. Moreover, the changing internal structure of the political sphere has its impact on politicians’ interrelatedness at different levels of government.
We also see the relative freedom being enjoyed by the mass media, being used to give the Nigerians masses a platform to express their views on political event and also giving more access to political analylist to comment on happenings in the country which will help to increase the awareness level of the citizenries and keep government on its toe. RECOMMENDATIONS: 1.
There is need for the politics of money that is played in Nigeria to be de-emphasized to encourage those who might want to participate actively in politics to do so without having to depend on “money bags” or having to take huge loans from banks or even going to the extent of selling their personal assets, a situation that only encourages corruption when they get into office because they must recover the money spent. It is needless to mention this scenario also discourage well meaning individual to participate in politics because of the cost implications. . The mass media should be allowed to perform it functions without fear or intimidation. The freedom of information law recently passed must be fully enforced to enable the mass media perform more efficiently and effectively. 3. People who have stolen public funds through their position of authority should be made to face the full wroth of the law. The society and indeed the mass media should not celebrate such person.