THE ROLE OF TELEVISION IN ELECTORAL EDUCATION IN NIGERIA (CASE STUDY OF AIT)
1.1 Background of the Study
That the mass media plays a vital role in the development process of a country is not again saying. The mass media generally regarded as a channel of communication that are capable of reaching heterogeneous audience simultaneously with uniform message. They regularly cover all sorts of issues such as health, music, fine art, crime, sport, entertainment, political events among others (Meyer, 2002, Soela 2004). The mass media transmits ideas and new information to target audience in the society. Tosanisunmi (2004) has observed that the mass media educate, inform and entertain beyond these functions as they also persuade and catalyze for social mobilization. In other words, the mass media can be regarded as powerful service of information because they have the capability to penetrate every segment of society. They have the ability to disseminate messages about issue, ideas and product.
Furthermore, the mass media has that capability to create awareness and knowledge about issues of national interest. The traditional mass media usually consist of radio, television, newspaper and magazine while the news media involves the internet technologies. Contextually, these media have the responsibility to mobilize for national development. In other words, social mobilization for development largely depends on the media for success. Crusade for change and dissemination of useful information against corruption, bad governance and terrorism depend on the mass media. Ogwezzy (2010) states that it is a common knowledge that the media is the engine of mass communication and the avenue through which the public could be reached.
In the other hand, election is an important element of democracy; elections enable the individual to express a sense of belonging to a political system. Elections provide forum for the discussion of public opinion on important issue. Elections allow an exchange of influence between leaders and the electorate (Nwaozuzu 1999:18-22). This statement captures the relevant functions of the broadcast media in elections which serves as a mobilizing of all the different people in society and at the same time to co-ordinate the activities as they are made to express their views about candidates who are contesting for political position. The broadcast media through their programmes create avenue through which the people express their views about candidates. There may be phone calls in programmes like radio link, state of the Nation, or debate programmer responsible or otherwise and has made people pass on topical political issues. Also the broadcast media (Radio and Television) provide platforms through which individuals or member of society contribute on issues of public interest. They may be based on stewardship of political offices holders wishing to recontest for elections or it may have to do with electoral law that are perceived to be capable of fermenting violence. Ebo (1997:132) maintain that: the broadcast media play decisive roles in the lives of the citizens no matter where they are located and whatever their stage of development. The broadcast media are the most potent and sensitive sector of the communication industry considering the reach and influence they have on their viewers and listeners.
This statement succinctly explains which relevance the broadcast media is to all the components of the society, a power it acquired from its inception and not only during political campaigns. It is this power that grants it the ability to mobilize people and make them participate in mass in political processes. To further explain the power of the broadcast media in mobilizing the citizens towards conforming to expected behavior and participation in electoral processes. The media force attends to certain issues, they build up images of political figures, they are constantly presenting objects, suggesting what individuals should think about, know about, having feelings about. Clang an Lang 1959:103- 112).
This means the dominant thought that the people carry about, is influenced by the media‟s constant projection of what they should be thinking especially concerning the electoral process. This comment conforms to the agenda setting thereby which provides explanation to what or how the media can sway the behavior of the people in the society. Given this power therefore, it will not be out of place to say that, the failure of success of any electoral process lies largely in the hands of the mass media, to which the broadcast media is a strong component. Innis (2003:298) in support of this state that; while an unbiased and responsible system can contribute to the success of the electoral process, a bias and irresponsible media contributes to the failure of elections.
On the same power of the media, Orhewere‟s (2003:140) argues; the Nigerian media in the past did not show enough commitment to professional ethic there by contributing to electoral crisis in Western Nigerian in 1965 and subsequent elections. The relevance of Orhewere‟s comment is that not only does the Nigerian Broadcast media posses‟ enormous powers, but its role as an instrument of mobilization dates back to as far as 1965. In other words, the media has been a very active instrument in democratic processes in Nigeria over a stretch of time, until the military dictatorship took the shine from it. However, with the re-entry of civilian rule in 1999, the media viz the broadcast media have resumed its active role of mobilizing the populace for elections. The media or broadcast media played very important role in elections written 1999 and 2003, Therefore, to print out that, the roles the media often plays is either responsible or otherwise and has made people pass judgment or often ascribed to failed outcome of elections ascribed to failed outcome of elections to it. That is the success or failure of elections are often judged by the role of the media for instance, Chinua Achebe (1993:78) allege that; the two previous at conducting election under civilian rule generated crisis, which culminated to the collapse of the republics due to several electoral frauds some of which allegedly were aided and abetted by the media. Chinua Achebe‟s comment however begs for serious questions at to, how does a watch dog become a conspirator. In other words, how does a media aid and abet fraud, perhaps they will form another basis for a study. However, it is important to note that, indeed the broadcast media has very strong roles to play in elections. To this Burns (1977:45) state that; The media in a civilized society occupy a very important and powerful position with capacity that can easily influence the opinion of the masses. While Rivers (1971) state that, it is expected to be the condolence of the people where divergent views are expressed in order to serve as a check against autocratic and totalitarian rule