AUDIENCE ASSESSMENT OF AIT AND NTA’s REPORTAGE OF THE BOKO HARAM CRISIS
AUDIENCE ASSESSMENT OF AIT AND NTA’s REPORTAGE OF THE BOKO HARAM CRISIS
1.1 Background of the Study
One fundamental impediment to the advancement of any society is conflict. Conflict encourages stagnation as well as retrogression of the socio-economic constructions of any given society. It equally engenders acrimony and hatred amongst the inhabitants of such society. Scholars versed in Development Communication (Bright 2010, Charles 2009, Kane 2010) have contended that no development agenda (be it political, economic, social, etc) can thrive in the face of crisis. They further aver that crisis dethrones developmental quests, while further improvishing the people.
Several countries of the world have had various dosage of one form of crisis or the other. The Liberian war, Somalian crisis, Rwanda’s genocide, Sierra Leonean war, Libyan crisis, Bahrain unrest, clampdown on Yemen, and the Syrian conflict are stark reminders of the crisis-prone global world we have found ourselves. The outcomes of these conflicts have been very devastating in such individual environments.
This is the unfortunate and pitiable situation of Nigeria as of today. Boko Haram sect has not only waged war against the Nigerian State but has crippled the social, economic, religious and political blocks needed for development.
Crisis has become synonymous with the political entity called Nigeria. In fact, it has become integral part of her structure. Right from the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates by Lord Luggard in 1914, the country has known no peace. It has been one form of crisis in the North or the other in the South with many of them having ethno-religious colourations. These crises, no doubt, cannot be divorced from the multi-ethnic and religious nature of Nigeria.
In Nigeria, religion has become a bane of unity, peace and development. Religious crisis has become a reoccurring decimal, most especially in the fourth Republic of Nigeria. Religious related violence and killings to achieve some political or religious ends are certainly not a new phenomenon, especially in Northern part of the country. Right from the pre-colonial days of migration and Jihad by native Africans and Jihadists ( from Sudan), to the National Food Shortage Strike Violence in Plateau State between the Igbos and Hausas migrants in 1945, political and ethno-religious crises have remained part of the Nation’s history. These waves of violence which have usually had religious and ethnic motivations assumed prominence immediately after Nigeria gained independence in 1960. The lopsided colonial ethno-regional federal structure in particular, was heavily implicated in the first wave of violent ethno-religious and political discontent and conflict in the post-colonial era, as evidenced in the Tiv Riots of 1962 and 1964, and the secessionist campaign of Isaac Boro and Ijaw collaborators in 1966. (Osaghae & Suberu 2005, p.18).
The polarizing effects of ethno-regional federalism were more or less, directly expressed in several other political tribulations that assailed Nigeria in the 1960s, including the 1962 declaration of a state of emergency in the Western region; the bitter ethno-regional dispute over the 1962-63 Census; the 1964 Federal Election Crisis; the 1965 Western Election Debate; the eventual overthrow of the first Nigerian Democratic Republic in January 1966 following a bloody military coup; the complete fragmentation and politicization of the military establishment along ethno-religious and regional lines; the attempted secession of the Eastern region, under the leadership of its military Governor, Odumegwu Ojukwu, as the Independent Republic of Biafra; and the eventual outbreak of the 30-months civil war, which claimed an estimated one million lives, mainly in the ill-fated Biafra. A measure of peace was witnessed in Nigeria immediately the civil war ended (Osaghae & Suberu 2005, p.18).
However, two events in Kano in the early 1980s signalled the end of the post-civil war peace in Nigeria. The first involved the MAITATSINE (or “Yan Talsine”) riots of December 1980, which claimed thousands of lives and set the tone for subsequent riots involving the Maitatsine heretical Islamic sect in other northern cities like Bullunkutu, Yola, Jimeta and Gombe (Chistelow 1985: Lubeck 1985, 1986). The second was the destruction of churches and other properties belonging to Christians by Muslim mobs protesting the construction of a church in Kano in October 1982. But the turning point in Nigeria’s collapse into inter-group strife was the 1987 and 1999 Kafanchan-Kaduna ethno-religious riots, which revived age-long tensions between the Muslim Hausa-Fulani and non-Muslim communities throughout the north and beyond. Others conflicts, include the Zangon-kataf riots of 1992, the Kaduna Riots of 2000, the Jos Crisis of 2001etc, in which several hundreds of lives and properties were destroyed (international IDEA 2000, p.296). No doubt, the Jos Crisis has continued unabated to the present day and it has gone more sophisticated and deadlier.
Of all the ethnic and religious related crises that have so far rocked Nigeria after the civil war, none has threatened the very foundation of the Nigerian State like the current onslaught by the Boko Haram sect. The Sect which is officially known as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-jihad (Arabic language) has orchestrated series of deadly attacks which have left hundreds of lives dead and properties destroyed. These attacks, which started in July 2009 when the Nigerian Police started investigating the sect following reports that it was arming itself, have gone sophisticated with bombs detonation every now and then and most of which have been suicide bombings. (www.wikipedia.com/bokoharm.origin).
The sect which opposes western education, culture, modern science and technology was formed in 2002 by late Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf in Maiduguri, Borno State. Boko Haram, which literally means western education (Boko) is sinful (Haram), is believed by many as a break-away from the deadly Maitatsine Group of 1980s. In fact, the history of Boko Haram is as elusive as the group itself, and the actual origin of the group has remained a subject of disputation. Some schools of thought (Hassan, 2010, Sani, 2010, and Ibrahim, 2011) opined that the group evolved from various efforts of extremist elements dating back to the 1940s through the end of the 1990s that sought to radicalize various segments of northern Nigeria. To some others (Adeyemi, 2010, Abubakar, 2011,Adekunle, 2011), Boko Haram started in 1995 as Sahaba and was initially led by one Lawan Abubakar, who later left for the University of Medina in Saudi Arabia for further studies. Late Yusuf Mohammed who was killed in a controversial circumstance in 2009 by men of the Nigerian Police Force was said to have taken over the leadership after the departure of Abubakar, and indoctrinated the sect with his own teachings which he claimed were based on purity and Sharia law (Suleiman, 2011, p21).
Shortly after his take over, Late Yusuf Mohammed commenced what many described as intensive membership recruitment and mobilization after his first release from police custody in November 2008 in Maiduguri. This intensive mobilization recorded huge success. He allegedly had over 500,000 members before his demise and usually taxed them one naira, which approximated to N500, 000 daily. The Almajiri system in the north made this mobilization exercise very easy (Madike, 2011).
To nip the festering Boko Haram crisis in the bud, the late president Umaru Yar’Adua ordered the deployment of the military to contain the dissidents. After initial resistance, Boko Haram fell to the superior fire power of the military, and Yusuf, its leader, was arrested and handed over to the police. Hours later, police executed Yusuf alongside his alleged sponsor, Alhaji Buji Foi, who was the Commissioner for Religious Affairs during the first term of former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno State (Ibrahim, 2011, p.11).
Despite the death of the once dreaded Yusuf, the group has continued its attacks unabated. In fact, the insurgence has gone more sophisticated and has indeed assumed a very dangerous dimension. From the time the group was formed to the present day, it has carried out series of well cordinated attacks, most of which were bomb blasts which have left hundreds of people dead and properties destroyed. Some of these deadly attacks were the August 26, 2011 bombing of the United Nation’s Building in Abuja which left over 25 persons dead, with several others seriously wounded. More deadlier was December 25, 2011 (Christmas day) bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, in Suleja Local Government Area of Niger State which left 43 people dead and several others injured. (Emewu, 2011, Suzan, 2012).
With all these attacks, Nigeria was recently ranked as the 19th “most at risk” country from terrorist attack in the world, according to a survey released in August 2011 by a UK-based Global Analysts, Maplecroft. With this ranking, the country is now among countries that are at an “extreme risk” from terrorist attacks. Nigeria’s current ranking according to Maplecroft is attributed mainly to the uprising by the militia sect (Bakare, August, 2011).
Several attempts made by the government to stop this group from carrying out deadly attacks on the Nigerian nation have not yielded much result. The deployment of military personnel and police officers to flash points of Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Niger States and Abuja the nation’s capital city, have only worsened matters as the group has become more sophisticated. Unarguably, the group has defied all strategies of the security agencies of government. Nigerian security community has remained quite helpless having been stretched too thin. The 16th June 2011 bombing of the Police Headquarters in Abuja, is a pointer to this fact. Some have even argued that the political and financial supports the group receives from some northern politicians and Al Qaeda has made it impossible for the federal government to curtail it insurgencies.
Several panels set up by the government have not equally helped matters. In the face of these attacks, efforts to tame this deadly sect have brought to mind the place of the mass media in crisis situations.
The mass media have been adjudged by conflict resolution experts as indispensable tools for the management of crisis. Nwosu, (2004, p.15) affirms that;
the mass media are considered to be very important in conflict management because they are information merchants, conduits or carriers of various shades and colours of information. And in times of conflicts, or even wars, adequate or inadequate management of information is considered to be a critical factor in the emergence, escalation or reduction of tension points at various levels, tensions which depending on how they are managed, can determine the end or continuation of conflicts.
Giving support to Nwosu’s view, Obot (2004, p.103) opines that;
Conflict, being a communicative behaviour, can only be resolved through a communication process, often made easier or more effective through the utilization of the mass media….. When used with a high sense of social responsibility, the mass media can be indispensable in conflict resolution.
Furthermore, Obot (p.107) asserts that;
In resolving conflict in modern societies, the mass media to a great extent provide a rendezvous for all the interest groups or aggrieved parties to ‘sit’ and express their minds on issues in contention. This will be possible by providing and guaranteeing every citizens easy access to media facilities. All the groups in a conflict have to be represented in news and other programmes in which issues in conflict are discussed. The fact that divergent views are represented in the news or discussion programmes usually goes a long way to calm frayed nerves.
Moreover, like in the village square where there is always an arbitrator, persons who are neutral to the conflict, but who are held in high esteem by aggrieved parties and whose opinions are generally respected should be selected to comment on or participate in news and other programmes which feature the conflict. Through this agenda-setting approach, the aggrieved parties would be slowly driven to a point of reconciliation. In democratic society, the mass media are indispensable in conflict management and resolution. (Obot, p.108).
Writing also on the power of the media to manage crisis, Anyanwu, (2004, p.113) asserts that “there is no conflict so great that it dominates the freedom of a nation and its people which cannot be settled by the media”. McBride et al (1981, p.188) as cited in Anyanwu (p.113) opines that “the media have the power to promote awareness of the culture, the social habits and traditions, the attitudes and hopes and also the grievances of each diverse group in the population”.
More so, Nwosu, (p.15) affirms that “the overwhelming influence of the mass media is felt most in those conflicts that get to the level of wars, ethnic, sectional or communal and religious conflicts or crises that result in blood-letting”. The numerous conflicts and or crises to which our nation (Nigeria) is prone have to a very large and admirable extent been solved through media attentiveness and alertness. The Ife-Moda-Keke and, Umeleri-Aguleri Wars, the Warri riots, the Kano uprisings etc have all been settled one way or the other through the mass media effort. (Anyanwu, p.114).
Much as the media is said to wheel the power of managing/resolving conflicts, conflict resolution experts have however contended that the mass media can as well trigger or escalate conflicts. Anyanwu (p.114) opines that “the mass media are double-edged swords. In the wrong hands, they can cause more havoc either by paying too much attention or simple inattention”. Edmund Burke, paraphrased in Anyanwa (p. 114) asserts that the latter is all that is required for the triumph of conflict. Obot (p.103) confirms the above views by stating that “the mass media are by themselves social structures and can either serve as tool for conflict exacerbation or vehicle for conflict resolution”.
The mass media could be perceived as an institution of society that contribute to peaceful resolution of crisis, in reality, we find that the mass media often either consciously or unconsciously contribute to the escalation of conflict. (Nwosu, 2004, p.15).
Anyanwu, (2011, p.110), further asserts that the mass media can generate and escalate conflicts through inciting coverage, inadequate reporting, none reporting etc, while conflicts can be resolved/managed by the mass media through objective, balanced, adequate, non-sensational, and surveillance reportage.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
Over the years, insecurity resulting from various violent activities of militia groups and ethno-religious unrests has threatened and continues to thwart the craze for socio-economic and political growth of societies the world over. Boko Haram insurgence has indeed worsened matters in the Nigerian socio-economic, religious and political landscape. The sect, through well cordinated attacks and bombings, with Improved Explosive Devices (IEDs) has brought to question the dexterity of the country’s intelligence community in this regard. This is, perhaps, the worst in the annals of the nation’s security history since the end of the civil war in 1967.
In the search for global peace, the mass media, being very crucial in promoting development, consequent upon peace, have continued to use their various communication strategies like news reporting not only to avert violence and strife, but to douse tension when the chips are down. Most times, those aggrieved are provided with alternative platforms in the media to air their grievances instead of taking to arms. Studies (Onyebuchi, 2010; Ngene, 2010 and Noble 2011) have shown that through adequate, balance and objective reportage, people who hitherto would have taken to arms to express their displeasure are informed, enlightened and most importantly convinced to seek the option of dialogue or legal redress. However, how the mass media, especially the broadcast media which are caught between sensationalizing stories to boost patronage and objectively informing the people have played this role, has become a subject of interest.
No doubt, the media have the power to resolve crises, but on the other extreme, the media can also escalate same. With the present onslaught of the Boko Haram sect in Nigeria, evaluating the place of the media has become necessary to researchers, including peace and conflict resolution experts.
There have been accusations and counter accusations on how the media, particularly the broadcast media are reporting the crisis. Some argue that government-owned broadcast stations have not fared well in reporting the Boko Haram crisis. They contend that government stations have been very economical with facts on the crisis. They further alleged that only the views of government officials on the crisis are given undue prominence in their reports. On the other, other school of thought contend that the privately-owned broadcast stations are the stations escalating the crisis by way of sensationalising their reports on the crisis. These corps of scholars further argued that the privately-owned broadcast stations have been breeding the crisis through their reports. This has indeed subjected media reportage of the Boko Haram crisis to the debate table.
AIT and NTA are arguably the largest privately and government owned television stations in Nigeria. Therefore, taking a cursory look at media coverage of the insurgent activities of the Boko Haram sect in this largely orchestrated ethno-religious crisis in the north have continued to agitate the study interest of the researcher.
The media, no doubt, have a key responsibility of accurately reporting crises situations like the current Boko Haram crisis. It is therefore, incumbent on the media-content consumers to assess media performance in this regard.
A thorough x-ray of audience assessment, within the purview of AIT and NTA’s reportage of the Boko Haram crisis prompted this research.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
Objectives are as helpful in research as they are in most areas of life. According to Etim, (2004, p.19), “research objectives give the researcher a beautiful sense of target and direction”. The broad goal of the research was to evaluate audience assessment of AIT and NTA.s reportage of the Boko Haram crisis in some northern states of Nigeria. However, the research was geared towards the achievement of these specific objectives.
- To identify the formats adopted by AIT and NTA in reporting the Boko Haram crisis.
- To ascertain the comparative differences between AIT and NTA in their reportage of the Boko Haram crisis.
- To identify the factors responsible for the comparative differences in the reports given to the Boko Haram crisis by AIT and NTA.
- To ascertain which of the broadcast stations (AIT or NTA) is playing the surveillance function of the media more than the other in the reportage of the Boko Haram crisis.
- To find out the broadcast station (AIT or NTA) that has so far displayed high level of accuracy, truth and fairness in reporting the Boko Haram crisis.
- To ascertain which of the two broadcast stations (AIT or NTA) is helping to resolve the Boko Haram crisis through its reports?
1.4 Research Questions
In scientific inquiry, research questions give order and direction to a study. Hence, Etim, (p.19), averred that “research questions should indeed be an expansion of the research problem.” In line with the objectives of this study, the following research questions were raised;
- What are the formats of the reports given to the Boko Haram crisis by AIT and NTA?
- What are the comparative differences in the reports given to the Boko Haram crisis by AIT and NTA?
- What are the factors accounted for the comparative differences in the reports given to the Boko Haram crisis by AIT and NTA?
- Which of the AIT and NTA has so far played the surveillance function of the media more than the other in reporting the Boko Haram crisis?
- Which of the two broadcast stations has displayed high level of accuracy, truth and fairness in reporting the Boko Haram crisis?
- Which of the two broadcast stations (AIT and NTA) has helped in resolving the Boko Haram crisis through its reportage?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The need to significantly contribute to knowledge in this area inspired the researcher to embark on this study. Thus, this study shall be building block for other similar studies in this area of knowledge.
The findings of this study will serve as a reference document for broadcast media practitioners (especially television) on how best to cover terrorism and other ethno-religious crisis of this nature in Nigeria, with a view to building a peaceful, religiously tolerant, prosperious and egalitarian society.
The intelligent community (Police, SSS, Military etc) will equally find the outcome of this study very useful, since it will promote the need to build a common bridge between the media and intelligent communities, which will ultimately fast-track the resolution of the Boko Haram question.
Also, institutions of higher learning (universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, etc) shall find this work very helpful in the teaching and learning of conflicts and media studies.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The study focused on Audience Assessment of AIT and NTA’s Reportage of the Boko Haran crisis. The residents of Kano, Kaduna and Niger States formed the scope of this study. Here, the adult males and females were used as respondents.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
The researcher encountered a number of factors that constituted limitations of this study. These factors include the insecurity of the states, largely because of the Boko Haram attacks, illiteracy of some residents, lack of fund, and time constraint.
The availability, accessibility as well as the readiness to grant the researcher’s request for interview was a hurdle that posed a serious challenge to this study.
1.8 Definition of Terms
For the purpose of clarity, key words or concepts as used in this study were defined operationally.
Audience: These are all the male and female adults living in Kano Kaduna and Niger States of Northern Nigeria who actually watch AIT and NTA’s reports of the Boko Haram attacks.
Assessment: This connotes the views/opinions of the audience on how AIT and NTA have so far fared in reporting the Boko Haram crisis.
AIT: This means African Independence Television. It is a privately owned television station that reports the Boko Haram crisis to the audience. It is the very first, largest and most vibrant privately-owned television station in Nigeria.
NTA: An acronym for Nigerian Television Authority. This television station, which also reports the Boko Haram crisis, is owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Boko Haram: This is a faceless Islamic group operating in Northern Nigeria that has continuously rained terror on the country. This group which figuratively means, “Western education is sin”, believes in Sharia Law and jihad. The group is officially known as Jama’atu Ahlis Summa Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad.
Surveillance: The function of AIT and NTA to inform/warn/alert the audience of impending dangers, especially, that of Boko Haram insurgent activities and attacks.
Crisis: This means the ill-activities of Boko Haram sect in northern Nigeria that have posed a serious security threat to the Nigerian nation, as well as straining religious nerves between Muslims and Christians.
Formats of Reports: This means the various forms AIT and NTA adopt in reporting the Boko Haram crisis. These forms are straight news report, documentary, commercial, discussion and other phone-in programmes.