- Background to the Study
The press as a subset of the mass media plays a significant role in any nation’s polity. Their pivotal function of establishing agenda on political and public issue influence what the people learn about the society in which they live and those around them.
As early as the 1940s the renowned social science researcher and media scholar, Lazarsfeld, noted the power of the mass media to confer status on people and public issue merely by reporting them. This role is further buttressed in the ability of the press to mould public opinion by defining the boundaries within which people think about and discuss political issue. (McCombs & Shaw, 1972, pp. 176-187) and (Okunna, 1999, pp.211-212).
This assumption of media power was further emphasized by an American presidential observer, White (1973, p. 327) when he stated:
The power of the press in America is a primordial one. It sets the agenda of public discussion, and this sweeping political power is unrestrained by any law. It determines what people will talk and think about, an authority that in other nations is reserved for tyrants, priests, parties and mandarins.
The concerns on the roles of the press in reporting political issue have been a discourse that has received global attention. Certain instances revealed that, a particular media played key role in promoting a particular political party, some political parties in Nigeria are formed along ethnic lines. These parties so formed have championed closed-minded and ethnic interests at the expense of unity and stable government. From the AG and NPC of the pre-colonial days and the First Republic (1951-1966), through the NPN, NPP, GNPP, UMBC (1979-1993) of the Second and Third Republic to the NRC and SDP (1991-1993) of the botched Fourth Republic, some political party formations have been an ethnic affair.
The mass media became intimately entwined in this web of party foundational affiliations. Grant (1999) did a comprehensive study of the relationship between the press and the political system in Nigeria during the First Republic and found out, among other things, that the character of political reporting and commentary in the print media was entirely dependent on media ownership structure and the owner’s relationship with the political system. As a result, he concluded that most newspapers often speak for one political party or one region against another, which implies that the press acted not as an impartial estate, but as mouthpieces of the political division in Nigeria.
The ruling party, The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), since 1999 has been in the mainstream of most media coverage and it cannot be seen as a surprise since for these years, they have been victorious at each presidential election held in the country. After leading a military dictatorship in Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged in a democratic dispensation, over two decades after, as the president under the umbrellas of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Not much has changed from the status quo, as the ‘power of incumbency’ took control of the press making them dance to the tune of the president and his party.
With these facts, the study pick up the issue of the defection of five PDP Governors to the newly merged opposition party the All Progressive Congress (APC) which was formed 6th February 2013 by Bola Tinubu and Muhammadu Buhari to take on the People’s Democratic Party.
These Governors who agreed to leave the party on the 25th November 2013 were Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers). The five governors formed part of the G-7 governors, who engaged in open confrontation with the Bamanga Tukur-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party and President Goodluck Jonathan over the way the party is being run and the plan to hand the president an automatic return ticket for a second term in office during the 2015 General Elections.
The Governors claimed that they have been “thoroughly marginalized in PDP” and have lost confidence in the party’s Leadership, which they say has been totally “hijacked” by President Goodluck Jonathan and the Aso Rock political apparatchik.
This has been an issue of public interest which the Nigeria press will not overlook or will not give it a certain level of coverage, as such, since such power and influence can be employed by the press in the political landscape of a nation. It is paramount therefore to examine how the Nigerian Press discharged their expected duties in the coverage of the defection of the five Governors after the 2011 General elections in the country.
For this study reason this study sets out to assess the role of the press coverage on political issue. Can the coverage given to the political parties be assessed as combining the held belief that the agenda setting role of the press during this political election exercise had influence?
1.1.1 The Defection of Five People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors to All Progressive Change (APC)
There was pandemonium in the ruling party (People’s Democratic Party) when some PDP governors announced their defection from the party on Monday 25th November 2013 to the All Progressive Congress (APC). These Governors are Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers). The five governors formed part of the G-7 governors, who engaged in open confrontation with the Bamanga Tukur-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party and President Goodluck Jonathan over the way the party is being run and the plan to hand the president an automatic return ticket to vie for a second term in office during the 2015 General Elections.
The governors of Niger and Jigawa State – Babangida Aliyu and Sule Lamido respectively, however, decided to stay put in PDP and continue their fight from within.
Reasons according to THISDAY newspaper was that the governors are firmly resolved to work together politically, claiming that they have been “thoroughly marginalised in PDP” and have lost confidence in the party’s Leadership, which they say has been totally “commandeered” by President Goodluck Jonathan and the Aso Rock political apparatchik.
The governors, according to several sources, have come to the conclusion that their political fortunes can only dwindle in PDP and as such are weighing their strategic options and next political moves having reached some political “agreement-in-principle” with The Bola Tinubu and Muhammadu Buhari – led opposition merger group, All Progressives Congress (APC), after several meetings in Lagos and Abuja.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is a social-democratic political party in Nigeria, formed on 6 February 2013 in anticipation of the 2015 elections.
APC was formed on February 2013, as a result of an alliance of Nigeria’s three biggest opposition parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) – and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – merged to take on the People’s Democratic Party. The resolution was signed by Tom Ikimi, the current spokesman for the party, who represented the ACN; Senator Annie Okonkwo on behalf of the APGA; former governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, the Chairman of ANPP’s Merger Committee; and Garba Sadi, the Chairman of CPC’s Merger Committee.
The party received approval from the nation’s electoral umpire Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on 31 July 2013 to become a political party and subsequently withdrew the operating licenses of the three previous and merging parties (the ACN, CPC and ANPP). In March 2013, it was reported that two other associations – African People’s Congress and All Patriotic Citizens – also applied for INEC’s registration, adopting APC as an acronym as well, reportedly “a development interpreted to be a move to thwart the successful coalition of the opposition parties, ahead of the 2015 general elections.” It was reported in April 2013 that the party was considering changing their name to the All Progressive Congress of Nigeria (APCN) to avoid further complications.
The Nigerian middle class see the emerging APC as the alternative to the ruling PDP but the effect of the merger is yet to be felt on the political calculations of the 2015 elections. The ruling PDP has congratulated the APC for her registration as a political party but was quick to note that the APC is no threat to its electoral chances.
On 25 November, Five Governors in the existing ruling party announced their decision to join APC, as well as 49 legislators who will now join the rank of 137 legislators in the APC upon prior merger of the smaller opposition parties; giving it a slim majority of 186 legislators in the Lower House, with a defection of 11 legislators on 29 January 2014 it has gain the majority of legislators in the upper house with a number of 58. However, only 37 legislators have formally made the switch as at 18 December 2013, giving APC a nominal majority of 172 of 360 Legislators, as against PDP’s 171 as some PDP allied, smaller parties hold some other seats. This was further confirmed when the party seated 179 members on January 15, 2015 when the House resumed after a long recess to finally affirm its majority.
1.1.2 Daily Trust Newspaper
Daily Trust Newspaper is a news publication, published by Media Trust, a privately held Nigerian newspaper publishing company based in Abuja that publishes the English language Daily Trust, Weekly Trust, Sunday Trust and the Hausa-language Aminiya newspapers, as well as a new pan-African magazine, Kilimanjaro.
The paper started as The Weekly Trust established in March 1998 and later launched Daily Trust in January 2001 becoming the largest circulating newspaper in Northern Nigeria and also ranked among the top seven in Nigeria in advertising revenue.
Daily Trust Newspaper provides readers with a unique opportunity to reach the northern market in Nigeria. However, their Vision and Mission Statement were “To be a world class media company that earns public trust” and “To disseminate credible information for the good of all stakeholders”.
Publication of Daily Trust on Mondays – Fridays in each week publishing only one Run of Paper (ROP) per day. It is published in normal newspaper tabloid measuring 17 x 11.2cm in size. Volume of advertising procured dictates the relative amount of editorial space. However, a minimum of 40 pages is presently being published. Readership level between the north and southern parts of Nigeria is in the ratio of 70:30.
Daily Trust readers are the modern elite of Nigeria multi religious and multi ethnic society. Psycho graphically, the readers are successful, active, free thinking, independent, self-advancing and of critical minds. They constitute the main frame of the Nigerian’s Political and Economic class. They are politicians, businessmen, policy makers, academicians, religious leaders, diplomats, students etc.
The Daily Trust uniquely report the daily news in Northern Nigeria reaching out to all nooks and crannies of the vast market and also reports the capital city of Nigeria, Abuja in a comprehensive manner while other publications carry the previous day’s story.
The Daily Trust is well-focused, market-driven and a general interest newspaper. The publication, which made their debut in January 2001, crystallizes the revolutionary vision of an independent Board of Directors. The Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive officer is Kabiru Abdullahi Yusuf. He was a Senior Lecturer of the Department of Political Science, Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, and has worked as a columnist and commentator for companies that include the Daily Triumph, Citizen Magazine, News watch and BBC Africa Service.
The newspaper is owned and funded by 19 shareholders of Media Trust Nigeria Limited who are mostly young and talented Nigerian Professionals in various fields. At inception and up to its first anniversary, Weekly Trust was published in black and white (with masthead in red colour) on off-white newsprint. However, since March 1999 the Weekly Trust has carried a unique identity that was shaped by its full colour prints on excellent white newsprint.
Having achieved considerable strides in the design and publication of Weekly Trust, the sister publication, Daily Trust, made its debut in full colour from day one in January 2001.
Thus, the publication’s refreshing editorial contents are spiced with bright colours and exquisite layout that are predicated on the visual principle of B-C-H-U-P-S (Balance, Contrast, Harmony, Unity, Proportion and Systemetry) in newspaper design. This is intended to justify the worth of the already subsidized cover price and give value to advertisers/buyer’s money.
The Daily Trust is now the largest circulating newspapers in Northern Nigeria. The only newspaper which print runs in five digits. They are in addition the pioneers in colours production in the North.
The sales copies are distributed in all towns and cities in the North; Lagos, Akure, Abeokuta and Ibadan in the South-West; Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Benin, Calabar in the South-South; Onitsha, Owerri and Enugu in the South-East; and in several outlets in London, England. Their website addresses: www.mtrustonline.com and www.mtrustonline.com/dailytrust is a regular spot of visits to numerous readers all over the world.
As general interest publications, the editorial contents of Daily Trust uphold the libertarian principle. Yet the publications display profound regard for social responsibility in their news coverage and editorial comments.
Being the first daily newspaper from the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Daily Trust usually devotes about Ninety six (96) pages to news coverage. This is aside special page for Crime stories, Art & Entertainment, Information Technology, Health, Inside Politics and the Parliament.
Also due to its closeness to the seat of government multilateral diplomacy, Daily Trust also devotes about four (4) pages to international events.
There is also the vital provision for communication feedback in form of letters to the Editor, which usually share the page with rib-cracking cartoons. Four of the powerful writers in the country have been brought into the Editorial Board as columnists. They are Mohammed Haruna, Professor Attahiru Jega, Sam Ida Isaiah and Ujudud Sheriff.
The Business & Economy pages are produced in full colour while a novel page for development news has been introduced to correct the tendency in newspaper to believe that it is only the bizarre event that makes news.
1.1.3 Leadership Newspaper
Leadership is a daily national newspaper published by Leadership Newspaper Group, based in Abuja, Nigeria. The paper is run by Abraham Nda-Isaiah, as its Group Executive Director.
Leadership was born on 1st October, 2004. On this particular day, the newspaper entered the Nigerian market as a weekly. The acceptance of Leadership by readers was almost instantaneous due to some factors: The Publisher, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, was already a best-selling author, having published and launched a compilation of his articles in Last Word, a column he wrote for the Daily Trust newspaper. The column, which sold Daily Trust newspaper, was reintroduced in Leadership. Naturally, curious readers, who wanted to follow the columnist and assess his newspaper, became buyers of Leadership. By the end of 2006, the newspaper had already become popular as a barometer for gauging public policy issue. The newspaper, which was initially stitched like a book, became a must-read for the intelligentsia in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, and indeed the entire nation.
On February 1, 2006, Leadership became a daily newspaper. As a daily, the newspaper has been publishing Leadership; Leadership Friday; Leadership Weekend; Leadership Sunday; Leadership Hausa – which came on stream much later; Cognoscenti – a 16-page magazine pull-out in Leadership Weekend, as well as CEO Confidential – a 12-page magazine pull-out in Leadership Sunday. Also in the company’s stable is government, a weekly newspaper on governance and Leadership patterned after Barrons.
The newspaper’s mission statement captures its philosophy and essence: “Leadership is not a regional or sectional paper. It is a national paper symbolically embedded in the nation’s capital. We shall stand up for good governance. We shall defend the interests of the Nigerian state even against its leaders and we shall raise our pen at all times in defense of what is right. These are the values by which we intend to be assessed. We shall never, ever, for any reason forget the noble reason of our coming into being: For God and Country!”
The target audience of Leadership includes all those interested in the political, cultural, business, religious, and other aspects of the nation’s life. It is a newspaper for Nigerians and all those interested in the affairs of Nigeria – especially those who would like the pursuit of truth.
On the new media front, Leadership has a very active news portal – www.Leadership.ng. Today, the news portal is ranked No 1 among Northern-based newspaper websites, and ranking No. 5 among top ten Nigerian newspaper websites (Source: Alexa).
According to Alexa.com, 4.1,076 other sites are linked and derive content from Leadership. The news portal appeals to users with postgraduate education, working class who earn $30,000 (N4.8m) and $100,000 (N16m) per annum.
Leadership group comprises a number of subsidiaries, including Allan Woods (www.allanwoods.com.ng); Leadership newspapers, Leadership Holdings, Oak House Forte, Free Press, Leadership Editors Limited and Leadership Conferences.
- Statement of the Research Problem
There has been the challenge of imbalance when it comes to press coverage on political issue or political parties, this can be seen in the view point of Grant (1999) “that most newspapers often spoke for one political party or one region against another, which meant that the press acted not as an impartial estate, but as mouthpieces of the political divisions in Nigeria”.
In the same vein, Galadima and Enighe (2001) study, particularly observed that the Nigerian press are always used by their owners-private party or government for the propagation of the interests of such owners especially in the struggle to gain power or economic interest and that the principle of objectivity is always abandoned in their supporting of the causes of their masters political struggles. Also, many studies like Kayode and Raheemat (2012), Okorie and Oyedepo (2010), Herbert (2012), Oguchi (2014), Oyewole, Oloyede, and Meludu (2014), Ifenkwe (2008), Jimoh (2011) were done toward examining how press covers one particular issue of public interest or the other, but no particular study was done towards examining the how Nigerian press covers the issue of the defection of five PDP Governors to APC.
However, based on the established problems stated above, this study using the agenda setting role of the press seeks to compare the level of coverage the two Nigerian National Dailies The Leadership and Daily Trust newspapers cover the issue of the Defection of the five PDP Governors to APC (and in terms prominence and the direction of coverage given to the issue).
- Research Questions
Specifically, the study will find answers to the following research question:
- Which of Leadership and Daily Trust newspapers cover issue of defection of five PDP Governors to APC in Nigeria more than the other?
- What is the direction of coverage of the defection of the five PDP Governors to APC by Leadership and Daily Trust newspaper?
- Which of Leadership and Daily Trust newspaper accords more prominence to the reports on issue of the defection of the five PDP Governors to APC?
- Research Objectives
The major aim of the study is to compare the level of the Nigerian Press in the coverage of the defection of five PDP Governors to APC in Nigeria. In addition, the study equally aimed:
- To determine which of Leadership and Daily Trust newspapers cover issue of defection of five PDP Governors to APC in Nigeria more than the other.
- To know the direction of coverage of the defection of the five PDP Governors to APC by Leadership and Daily Trust
- To compare which of Leadership and Daily Trust newspaper accords more prominence to the reports on issue of the defection of the five PDP Governors to APC.
- Significance of the Study
As it was established in the research problem, many studies like Galadima and Enighe (2001) and Ekeanyanwu and Olaniya (2010) were done towards examining how print media covers different issues of public interest showing clearly that the press played a significant role in promoting and setting the agenda for different issues. Also from the studies reviewed, no study was carried out in this topic.
Thus, the outcome of this study will clearly show whether the print media play their agenda setting role in promoting the issue of political parties in Nigeria given prominence to the issues of public interest.
Furthermore, the result will be useful to all including the media bodies, professionals, scholars, NGOs, government at all levels in knowing the power and effect of the media, and to make the general public aware of the relevance of the print media as agent of wider publicity to the electorate and major stakeholders during political landscape in Nigeria.
In addition, the findings from the study will help to further sensitize the press towards their expected roles and function.
- Scope of the Study
This study shall cover only the issue of the defection of the five PDP Governors to APC in the selected newspapers which are Leadership and Daily Trust newspapers respectively, as such; the study is mainly determined by its set objectives. Therefore any matter that has no direct bearing to the attainment of the set objectives will not be considered. In the same vain all matters relevant to the attainment of the objectives would be covered.
The study however, will focus on comparing the prominence given by the two newspapers on the issue of the defection of the five PDP Governor to APC using the content of the two newspapers as the population of the study.
- Operational Definition of Key Terms
Press: In the context of this study, Press means the print media which is a subset of the media that contained printed or written form of messages which is transmitted to a large heterogeneous audience. This printed form of media includes Newspapers, magazines, journals, books, bill boards etc.
Press Coverage: This involves the attention which the Press gave to the reportage of a particular issue whether of public interest or not.
Defection Issue: These relate to the press coverage of the defection of the five PDP Governors to APC, which involves articles, news reports; features stories, cartoons and pictures that appeared in the selected Newspapers for the study.
PDP: People’s Democratic Party
APC: All Progressive Congress