THE MASS MEDIA AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA: THE JOURNEY SO FAR

MASS MEDIA AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA:

THE JOURNEY SO FAR

 

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Mass media are vehicles and instruments for socio-economic transformation and re-engineering of any modern society especially developing nations like ours. The most prominent and widely known media of mass communication in contemporary Nigeria are newspapers, magazines, radio, television, cinema until recently when digital communication came on board in communication flight.

These channels of mass communication have contributed and still contributing to national development in order to make the country a virile and egalitarian society like other developed nations like United States of America, Great Britain, France, etc. Without mincing words, the self-rule Nigerians enjoy today is widely believed to have been championed by nationalist press, a component of Nigerian mass media.

Among these vehicles of mass communication, newspaper was the first to be involved in the business of national development and transformation in Nigeria. The first among litany of newspapers then was the “Iwe Irohin” established in 1859 by Rev Henry Townsend at Egba Community in Yoruba land. This newspaper opened the floodgates of newspapers operations in this part of African continent with a special bias and flair for missionary activity (Daramola,2006 p.11)

Put differently, nationalist newspaper like West African Pilot established in 1937 by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, The Nigerian Tribune founded by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1949 and Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo vernacular newspaper, first published on January 1, 1939 and established by the colonial administration in the north and later managed by the Northern Literature Agency with Mallam Abubakar Imam, one of the few educated northern elite as the Editor of the newspaper in 1938 to oversee the operations of the newspaper house which featured prominently in the nationalist struggle among others (Daramola,2006 p.72, Okonu, 2006 p.51).

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These newspapers despite their political inclination and colouration had a common goal of resisting indirect rule in Nigeria, and as well educating, orientating and conscientising Nigerians on the evils of colonial rule in Nigeria on one hand, on the other hand, sensitizing Nigerians on the importance of self rule in the country. In the struggle against the misnomer of colonialism in Nigeria, West African Pilot and Nigerian Tribune played frontal role as unofficial opposition parties to the colonial government in spite of differences in their political ideologies.

These newspapers devoted their news contents, editorials, features and even cartoons to fight imperialism in Nigeria and other West African countries irrespective of their political jingoism built upon the surveillance of the country (Oyesanya, 1985).

According to Oyesanya, these newspapers were virtually political parties in disguise. In effect, they were organs of Nigerian Youth Movement, Northern People’s Congress, National Council for Nigerian and Cameroun, Action Group, etc with the ultimate desire of achieving self-governance in Nigerian polity.

Ultimately, their yearnings and aspirations came to fruition on October 1, 1960 when Nigerians were granted independence by the colonial masters, British government. This development with no iota of doubts, based on studies carried out was speedily facilitated through the nationalistic press and their operators like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Ernest S. Ikoli, Elder Statesman, Anthony Enahoro, etc.

But how far has post independence media and their practitioners sustain the clamour and quest for national development and cohesion? How far have the present journalists in Nigeria journeyed in the course of defending our hard earned self rule and democracy in this nation? To what degree would Nigerians subscribe to the fact that the media practitioners have achieved milestones in national development devoid of rancour, acrimony, tribalism, nepotism, corruption, apathy, selfishness? These are the core thrust of this paper which aims at examining the role of mass media in national development critically.

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AN OVERVIEW OF MASS MEDIA

In a decent and healthy democracy, mass media are regarded as the purveyors of public messages to the heterogeneous and scattered audiences through the channels of radio, television, newspapers, magazines, internet among others.

Mass media are also known as catalyst for national development. Development communication experts refer mass media as agent of development in society. Whereas, political communication scholars regard mass media as collective instrument for governance. Political communication scholars also address the media as the watchdog of the society and the advocate for good governance in a democratic dispensation. The media in every democratic state have the critical role of moulding the society and striving for a virile and egalitarian society.

In the view of Ekwelie (2006), mass media are strong pillars of democracy and human development. They hold the key to political and socio-economic development of a modern society. There is no substitute to the mass media in the effective dissemination of information meant for the transformation of the nation (Ekwelie, 2006).

Mass media are tools for mass education of the people for social transformation of the society because they have the power for promoting social cohesion and integration of the component units of a nation. Therefore, they are critical to national cohesion and development especially where language differences hold sway.

According to Oseni (1999,p.224) whether under totalitarian contraption, military aberration, civilian rule or participatory democracy, the role of the media as the conscience of the nation has never been controverted. What has rather been the issue is whether the media should abdicate their responsibilities in the face of mounting dangers, fear of the bullets and tyranny.

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Oseni further states that: “the duties of the mass media are legion. But their primary aim is to inform the people and urge the government to be accountable to the governed. As the fourth estate of the realm, the Nigerian media have been playing their watchdog role even under military dictatorship (Oseni, 1999).

Joseph Pulitzer cited in Oseni (1999, p.225) argues that the major role of the mass media are “to watch over the safety and welfare of the people who trust them”.

 

 

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