COVERAGE OF TIV/FULANI CONFLICT: A STUDY OF DAILY TRUST AND VANGUARD NEWSPAPERS

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COVERAGE OF TIV/FULANI CONFLICT: A STUDY OF DAILY TRUST AND VANGUARD NEWSPAPERS (MARCH 2014- MARCH 2015

ABSTRACT

One of the most serious problems facing Nigeria as a country today is the high incidence of the Tiv/Fulani conflict. The conflict has become so rampant that no day passes without an incident of conflict reported in the national newspapers in one part of the country or the other. Thus, it seems that the audacity of the perpetrators increases daily as more lives are lost and properties destroyed. This situation further aggravates other social problems including fear, anxiety and the feeling of general insecurity which limits the effectiveness of national development. What then is the role of the print media in resolving the conflict in order to bring about peace and sustainable development to a growing economy like Nigeria? The aim of this research is to explore ways through which the media, particularly the print media can better deploy effective communication towards conflict resolution. The major objectives are to ascertain how newspapers report the Tiv/Fulani conflict and to examine how these reports have resolved or negatively affected the resolution of the conflict. The researcher interviewed the reporters of both newspapers, which revealed that all newspapers under study see their report as balanced and objective but this was disputed by the Focus Group Discussion, and the analysis of Daily Trust and Vanguard newspapers from March 2014 to March 2015 using their character, word, theme and space, where some reports were seen to favour one party against the other and this has caused death, hatred among members of the community. Others variables include news stories, features, editorials, cartoons and pictures. The social responsibility theory and framing theory were used to underpin this study. The findings of this study reveal that some of the differences in the perspective of the Tiv/Fulani conflict are affected by ideological leanings, sectional loyalties, biases, interest and misinterpretation which have negative effect on the people like hatred and social unrest which eventually leads to poor development. The amount of coverage given to the conflict situation is often determined by the location and ownership of these newspapers. The study recommends that engagement with the people and ethical practices are imperative in order to avoid misinterpretation and wrong framing of headlines and inside stories.

CHAPTER ONE/Background to the Study 

The Nigeria press has been a vehicle in the sustenance of national issues and a medium of conflict resolution, but none has made this role more decisive than the presentation of conflict. This is because Nigeria is a country divided by religion, and ethnicity, several violent pogroms have over the years been attempted on the two halves, violence and conflict have been reoccurring in the history of Nigeria to such an extent that looking back in history it is hard to see a time Nigeria was not going through one violent agitator or one several dimension from a secessionist movement (Mustapha, 2004).

The media undoubtedly have a major role to play in conflict resolution. This is because individuals, groups and communities usually have cause to disagree on one issue or the other. Except the conflict is quickly resolved, it may degenerate into major crisis requiring peaceful resolution,(Lekan, 2013).This research is against the backdrop that conflict will always occur and it is the responsibility of the press to report or cover them. But the way in which the Nigerian media, especially the print media report conflict and other related issues of national importance isof great concern to many Nigerians.

NIGERIAN NEWSPAPER FRAMING ON FULANI HERDSMEN

Nigeria is a country characterized by diverse ethnic groups that are scattered in the six geo-political zones of the country. However, these six geo- political zones are often broadly categorized under south and north. Given the peculiarity of these regions especially in terms of cultural and religious affiliations, most print media emerging from these regions tend to reflect, propagate and uphold values that are cherished in their respective regions, hence, the differences noticeable in newspapers reportage.

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) for instance, is the leading ethno-regional organization of the elite of the former Northern Region (Arewa, 2001a; 2001b). The ethno- regional organization of the South West of Nigeria and the South-South also exist. Some are of the view that other ethno-regional groupings were drawn into the claims and counter-claims of ethnic domination and marginalization (Afenifere, 2001; Jacomb, 2001). These relatively recent developments only confirm the fact that ‗inter-ethnic rivalry for domination‘ is a ‗fatal affliction‘ of the Nigerian media process,(Afigbo,1989: 4). In other words, inNigeria, the north and the south produce newspapers, and sometimes, the reportage is geared towards ideological bias. Therefore the research considered the Daily Trust from the Northern part and Vanguard from the Lagos Ibadan axes. Both papers are widely spread across the country and are known for their vast reportage.In 1998 when the Media Trust Nigeria Ltd, the now publishers of Daily Trust, Weekly Trust, Sunday Trust and Aminiya made its debut on the streets, most Northerners were glad and proud that a media that would truly stand the test of time and say the truth to protect the Northern interest had arrived. These initial jubilations were occasioned by the sordid experience the Northern region had had with the Lagos-Ibadan axis press as a result of their imbalance in their objective coverage of events in the Northern part of the country (Saka1998).

WhereasVanguard Media limited, publishers of Vanguard Newspapers was established in 1984 by Mr. Sam Amuka (a renowned, veteran journalist and columnist of the Sad Sam Fame. Sam Amuka was editor of Sunday Times and the First Managing Director of the Punch Newspaper.) He is from Itsekiri land in the present Delta State of Nigeria his maiden copy ofVanguardhit the newsstands as a weekly on Sunday June 3rd, 1984 with the motto: Towards a better life for the People. It went everywhere on July 15, 1984. It aims to serve the people through unflinching commitment to free enterprise, the rule of law and good governance. It represents the Southern part of Nigeria

The mass media are the hub of societal sensitization and may be one of the strongestsources of influence and change.Media, especially the main stream media, is amodern means of passing across information to a large,diverse, and anonymous audience. The mass media include, (Radio, Television and the Internet), electronic and print media comprising newspapers, magazine and periodicals, other variables include bill boards, hand bills, posters, books.Mohammed (2006:27) went further to include compact disk (CDs) digital video disc (DVDS) film new agencies books, comics etc. as subset of the mass media.

The media just like any other concept has numerous definitions by various scholars of Mass Communication. Bittner (1995:30) refers to media as the collective means of communication by which the general public or populace is kept informed about the day to day happening in the society. A check into the concept of mass media reveals a combination of two words ‗mass‘ which is a large number or collection of unidentified people. According to McQuail (2005:43), the term ‗mass‘ connotes strength and solidarity of ordinary people when organized for collective purpose, and media means ‗organs or channels‘. Hence, mass media is a collection of organs of communication and information dissemination that reach out to a large number of people. The information circulation is not only confined to the public, but the media also serves to coordinate the information flow through government and the people and vice versa. Note that the word press in some usage connotes both categories of the media, the print and broadcast, especially the print.

 

The prime function of the press in general and the newspaper in particular is to, educate, persuade, mobilize and inform a literate audience, bringing them abreast with events of the time. Klapper (1960:34) noted that ―the media is the fourth estate of the realm and it is assigned the responsibility of information, education,enlightenment and entertainment of the general public‖. For  Thomas  Jefferson,  a  one-time  American‘s  president―the  media  is  the  best  instrument  for enlightening the mind of man and presenting him as rational and social being‖. This perhaps explains the role that the media can play in conflict resolution like the Tiv/Fulani Crisis in Benue state of Nigeria. Gujbawu and Kur (2010: 45), say ‗the way and manner conflict is reported by the press may accentuate or attenuate their severity and frequency‘.

In Nigeria, the Fulani have continued to clash with sedentary farming communities in Plateau, Taraba, Ogun, Oyo, Sokoto, Nassarawa, Benue, Rivers, Bauchi, Yobe, Enugu, Cross Rivers states and the Federal Capital Territory. The war being fought with the Tiv is fought in Tiv territories of Benue and Nassarawa state, where the Tiv have lived in the last three centuries, farming; rice, yams, cassava, beniseed, soya beans, and keeping their own cattle, the Muturu cows. Benue State and Tivland is said to be Nigeria‘s bread basket, with the popular slogan as;

―food basket of the nation‖.   The following communities in Benue state have been reported to have been facing the Tiv/Fulani crisis. Nyiev, TseAnda,Yandev,Dooga, Kpata, Lokobi, Mbagwen, TseZaki, TseKper, Chile, TseKpoku, Sengev, Gbuku and TseYaji. etc.(Tor, Bar and Ene2014).

Any human community needs peace so that the people can realize both individual and collective goals. It is a well-known fact that most conflicts such as ethnic religious violence, inter-communal clashes and herdsmen and farmers imbroglio usually lead to loss of human lives and destruction of properties. More so, the atmosphere that usually trails such occurrences is that of uncertainty, fear and looming danger of reprisal attacks. Therefore, in the quest for sustainable development, peace and harmony are non-negotiable factors. Unfortunately, Benue state, which has earned a reputation for been the food basket of the nation, has in recent years, being confronted by different waves of conflicts: chief among them is the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

The resultant effect of this conflict is that some farmers have abandoned their farmlands which consequently lead to low food production. Also, the productions of cow milk and meat by the herdsmen have also been grossly affected because many cows have been killed. More so, women have also been killed and widowed and children orphaned as a result of this conflict.

With this grim situation at hand, there is need for all hands to be on deck in order to find a lasting solution to this conflict. The idea of national unity and peaceful co-existence needs to  be promoted by the media and other related institutions. This is because the press is regarded as the watch dog of the society (Okpoko, 2007: 153). The modern function of the press includes but not limited to, surveillance, correlation, agenda setting, shaping public perception and influencing public policy. After the press has set an agenda and raised the public perception on an issue,these opinions tend to shape some government policies. However, the press in Nigeria seems to bedivided on the way forward.A section of newspapers are directly or by inference agitating for strong military action against Tiv/Fulani Crisis because in some cases of the attack, some soldiers are killed in the process. According to Tor, Bar and Ene, (2014).

After months of tip-toeing around the subject, the Nigerian media reported that from the 8-10th February 2011, armed Fulani herdsmen numbering between 200-500 sacked three districts in Gwer West local government, unleashing an orgy of violence and killing for two days that left scores dead and rendered 20,000 people homeless. The damage to property according to the media was over a hundred million naira. Other versions claimed that the Fulani and mercenaries  had  more  sophisticated  assault  weapons  than  the  police.  The

Nation Newspaper of Jan 2014”, for instance reported that the operation was

―similar to the invasion of Borno state by members of Boko Haram‖.

Furthermore,even as Nigerians continue to condemn the alleged attack on the convoy of the then governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, by Fulani herdsmen, the associations representing the herdsmen have come out to point fingers at the then state governor himself.Speaking through their umbrella body, Miyetti Allah, Cattle Breeders Association, the herdsmen said that,―Suswam is the architect of the Tiv/Fulani crisis, not just in Benue State, but also in Plateau and Taraba states as well‖. They alleged that he has stoked the hostilities against them.The herdsmen claimed that in just three months of the crisis, they had lost 134 of their colleagues and 11,915 cattle to the clashes in the state.

The National Vice-President of the cattle breeders association, Alhaji Hussaini Bosso, told journalists in Minna, Niger State, that their problem in Benue State started when Suswam publicly announced that he did not want them in the state. They said that his statement led to the massacre of their members in the state. Bosso said in Benue, they lost 82 herdsmen and 6700 cattle; in Plateau, they lost 43 herdsmen and 4682 cattle; and in Taraba, they lost nine men and 533 cattle. Bosso claimed that the killings in Benue and Taraba states were carried out by the Tiv;  while  the  Beromo  were  responsible  in  Plateau  State.  He  said,  ―All  these  atrocities  were perpetrated by Tiv people‖. According to him, to our surprise, the police were aware, but did not do anything to avert the ugly developments. Not only that, the Police felt unconcerned about the matter, the respective governments of the affected states did nothing. Bosso appealed to the government of the state, to as a matter of urgency, bring to an end to the killing of innocent Fulani herdsmen for peace to reign. As a rider to this statement on peace: the Peace Bulletin 2005 stated aptly that:

The media both the print and the broadcast play an important role in diffusing tension, reducing and containing conflicts, it can also do so by being deeply aware of the fragility of a country‘s social fabric, of the effect being expended at unifying a country‘s polarized, religion ethicized politics and more importantly, by objectively reporting conflict incidences as they unfold. (p. 5).

Furthermore, according to Otite (2001:56), the level of prominence given to any conflict goes a long way in determining the intensity and duration of such conflict.This means that conflict that are given little prominence despite being a huge challenge for national development such as the Tiv/Fulani Crisis, will only fuel the crisis leaving the perpetrators to continue with impunity.

Conflict by its very nature tends to be attractive for the press. As Owens Ibie (2003;32) puts it ―the media are naturally attracted to conflict not just that, conflict is also hard to talk about without engaging the emotions of the discussant‖.This is largely due to the humanitarian implications, especially when conflict gets violent like the challenge of the Tiv/Fulani Crisis,presenting an objective and balance report of such activities becomes tortuous, almost an impossible task. ―The principles of reporting are put to severe test when the nation goes to war‖, Adie cited by Allan and Zelizer (2004; 3).

However despite the strict principles of journalism, ethnic, tribal and religious affiliation and sentiments may have jeopardized parts of the pillars of journalism which include balance, objectivity and fairness. Thesesentiments are so strong and widespread, that the sacredness of the in- house policies may be reduced to nothing. Often journalism is in a fix, caught between staying true to the principles of reporting and responding adequately to the realities of conflict. As Allan and Zelizer (2004: 3), aptly state ―the media is confronted with often horrific realities of conflict.Any belief that the journalist can remain distant, remain unaffected by what is happening tends to go out through the window in a hurry‖.Demonstrating the character of the press in time of crisis, Pate (2002; VI) cited by RotimeSankore (2006) that:

Nothing defines the character of the press by establishing more sharply than any crisis that pitches the nation against nation or one section of the society against another in times of conflict, the responsibility of the media is magnified through the folds of society demands for more news information and analysis, and therefore its increased capacity to influence, debate and shape public opinion. Every word written or spoken by the media is a potential machete, bullet or bomb in the mind and hand of the victims and perpetrators. This raises serious question on what should be the role of the media in time of war or conflict. The ethical moral and professional obligation is to provide the public with accurate balance reporting that does not distort or suppress information. (This Day NewspaperNov 1, 2001: 5).

Media practitioners most times tend to be biased in the reportage of conflict issues in the society. Individual differences, bribe, among other factors may be regarded as the reasons behind this. Asemah and Edegoh (2012) citing Galadima in Pate (2002) state that; ―some of the reasons why a journalist becomes bias during conflict reportage among others may be: ownership, religion, ethnicity, interest, unprofessionalism and regionalism‖.This implies that each  newspaper in its regional form tries to outsmart the other by protecting the integrity of its region, and at the same time undermining the reputation of the other. Also both sides could be ready to sacrifice the truth for propaganda and sensational coverage.

It is in this light that Anyanwu (2004), posits that, no newspaper in Nigeria be it southern or northern based affiliated is immune from deep sentimental reportage especially as it relates to the coverage of conflict,they all pervert the story to their own advantage. In analyzing the press coverage  of  conflict,  Abubakar  (2006)  says,  ―certain  issues  must  be  considered,  first  the ownership structure, in which Nigeria is pluralistic, the ownership structure of the Nigeria media exposes certain issues glaring features which explains why the media view issues differently and take certain position.Secondly, the distribution of media in Nigeria has a preponderance that favours certain section of the country‖.

The coverage of conflict in the Nigerian press tends to bechaotic, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as diversity of views of the press and vast exposure, the audience can establish the objective truth on any conflicting issue. But the policies and practices of the press infringe on some ethical principles of prominence, objectivity and balance, which journalist and the media are to uphold. According to Media World Year Book (2004), a resource guide to the Nigeria Media, ―Nigeria has 50 magazines, including newsmagazines, soft- sells and trade journals. The country has also 50 private newspaper including dailies, weeklies, and vernacular. Government owned newspapers numbering 45 while community newspapers are 44‖. Newspapers mayfollow us wherever we go, the biggest challenge for the press is how to appear responsible and win the heart and mind of the readers especially when covering issues on conflict. Thus it is not necessarily absolute objectivity that is craved for in any reportage, but the coverage that reflects the truth in terms of prominence, fairness and balance that will bring about peace and development.

The negative events of conflicts which have undermined progress in Tiv-land are universal. They are by no means only restricted in reality to the Tiv-people. Therefore, conflicts should be discouraged or avoided in allsocieties. In order to achieve this, it is imperative to foster a climate of good coverage, since conflict is attractive to the press, a common understanding would help and to bring theaggrieved parties together to negotiate for peace. Both the government and the communities have important rolesto play in this regard.

Statement of the Research Problem

Mass media have been at the centre of conflict resolutions, setting agenda towards national integration and tolerance among the diverse people of Nigeria. One of such roles of the media is coverage of issues that bother on the people‘s perception about their socio-cultural realities, the need for them to live in peace with other citizens of various backgrounds and creating endured mutual understanding among the people for their own growth and development. This is because violencehasno doubt been a hindrance to development, it leaves behind causalities, innocent people are killed, people are displaced, properties are destroyed, and crime rate is heightened. If the press as a watch dog of the society can resort to balance reportage with due regard to social responsibility, it will help in reducing the recurrence of violence to the barest minimum. Also bad framing always have negative consequences on the people, Though some literature have expressly accused the media for its involvement as source of hatred (Kurspahic, 2003) and in the emergence and escalation of conflicts (Kalyango & Vultee, 2012;Reuben, 2009), butmost of them didnot clearlyidentify howthisisdone.

However, one of the major challenges for today‘s print media is the problem of diversity in coverage of issues of security, leading to interests and misrepresentations in the coverage. Various media outfits cover conflict stories based on their operational principles or ideological leanings. More so, the content of some print media outlets have been largely influenced by regional or sectional loyalties. Consequently, this has continued to polarize the conflicting  parties thereby making it difficult to reach a sustainable reconciliation. There is therefore an urgent need to review the approaches used by these media outfits especially in the area of covering conflict situations.

It is against this backdrop that this study evaluates the coverage of the Tiv/Fulani crisis by gathering opinions, analyzingDaily Trust and Vanguard newspapers and their roles in controlling the conflict. Also, the study takes a look at the problems emanating from the coverage by the newspapers and the differences in coverage, slant of stories and prominence given to the crisis in the coverage by the two newspapers.

 Aim of the Study

The research explores ways through which print media can better deploy headlines and inside stories towards conflict resolution.

  Objectives of the Study

  1. To ascertain how Daily Trust and Vanguardnewspapersreported majorTiv/Fulani crisis from March 2014 to March 2015.
  2. To determine the dominant frames used by Daily Trust and Vanguard, in constructing those headlines/stories about the Tiv/Fulani
  3. To ascertain the extent to which newspaper report provides objective and balance information about the attacks to their
  4. To examine the extent to which media report of the conflict has enhanced or negatively affected the resolution of the

  Research Questions

The research questions are as follows;

  1. How did Daily Trust and the Vanguard newspapers report major Tiv/Fulani conflict?
  2. What are the dominant frames used by Daily Trust and Vanguardnewspaperabout theTiv/Fulani crisis?
  3. What is the level of objectivity and balance in the newspaper reportage of the crisis?
  4. What role do the print media (Daily Trust and Vanguard) play in resolving the crisis?

          Significance ofthe Study

This study evaluates the coverage of the Tiv/Fulani crisis by Daily Trust and Vanguard newspapers. It becomes necessary to carry out the study because of the need for the media to serve as tools for national integration and cohesion, geared towards peaceful co-existence among the diverse population of Nigeria, and without peace development cannot take place.Also, this study is needed due to the incessant reports of clashes between herdsmen and farmers across the country. The recommendations of this study will benefit the press, the government, conflict resolution experts, development facilitators and the body of knowledge on conflict in Nigeria.

This study will aids in policy formulation and implementation for management of security issues, national integration and crisis management. It alsoserves as a guide for prevention of future occurrence of ethnic crisis as well as a blueprint for options through which herdsmen can have grazing land. In addition, the press will benefit from this study in the area of professionalism and ethical practices, in line with the journalism code of ethics, while it also serve as a guide for reference purposes for conflict resolution experts towards peaceful resolution of ethnic crisis in Nigeria. For development facilitators, the study improves their efforts at meeting the goal of peaceful society as a support for sustainable development in Nigeria. Furthermore, the study adds to the existing body of knowledge by serving as a research base for development communication scholars, researchers and students.

 Scope of the Study

This study deals with assessing newspapers coverage of violent conflict situations, interviewing reporters and via Focus Group Discussion on its effect on some Nigerian communities. The newspapers that are considered are Daily Trust and Vanguard, both of which are national dailies and published within the period of the study, they represent north and south and they are widely in circulation. It is centered on how effective communication of the print media could bring about peace and development in some Benue state local government. The crisis to be studied is the Tiv/Fulani crisis and the period of study is from March 2014 to March 2015. This period was selected because the crisis was endemic. The study focuses on the crisis between farmers and Fulani cattle rearers in Guma, Logo and Gwer West Local Government Area becauseit‘s regardedas the worst hit areas of the state. Benue state is known to have a fertile soil for farming, and the three local governments‘ areas originated from the different rivers in the state, which are river Guma, river Logo and river Gwer West. Therefore, the availability of the fertile soil and water which has boost agriculture hasmade the state attractive to the Fulani for grazing.

 Limitation to the Study

The Tiv/ Fulani mayhem has been an issue that has lingered for several years now.AsideGuma, Logo and Gwer West local government area of Benue state, there are other several local government such as,Agatu, Otukpo, Buruku, Obi, Ukum, etc. that are affected by the herdsmen and farmers crisis. Therefore, the three local government looked at is just an aspect; we have for instance, the Agatu-Fulani crisis.The period of 13 months and the few local government areas covered in this study may not be adequate enough to know the broaderrole the print media has played in combating the menace in the local government left out by this study.

CHAPTER TWO/Review of the Related Literature

Having known that knowledge is accumulated over series of researches, it is important that every study, no matter the field must be based on the building blocks of previous researches, it  is  to  this  effect  that  Wimmer  and  Domnick  (2000)  says  ―a  researcher  who  conduct  an investigation without regards to data that have already been done is said to have failed on his research.‖ Therefore this chapter deals with documented knowledge related to the field of the Nigeria press coverage of conflict especially that of Tiv/Fulani crisis as carried out by other researchers with the attempt to adding knowledge to this fieldsof study.Furthermore two basic theories namely; social responsibility and framing theory will be used for this study.

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