Press and national integration: Analysis of the role of the Nigerian press in the promotion of Nigerian national identity.
Aimufua, Eghosa Godwin
The issue of national integration and unity has occupied the apex of national discourse in Nigeria since it secured political independence from Britain in 1960. The Nigerian state's solution to this fundamental issue is rooted in its basic constitutional principle which espouses 'unity within diversity'. As the Nigerian nation is made up of over 250 ethnic and nationality groups, the issue has always been how to make a 'Nigeria' out of these Nigerians. This study seeks to examine the way that Nigeria's constitutional aspirations are reflected (or not) in the Nigerian press. The narrative is told against the backdrop of the Nigerian context, which is a major factor in the press' activities, starting from the historical emancipatory role they played during the colonial period. The study employs qualitative content analysis to examine how newspapers promote any sense of collective Nigerian national identity amongst Nigeria's constituent nationality groups and sectional interests. The period under scrutiny is 1983--1993, a period that saw both civilian and military rule, and press coverage from a wide spectrum of newspapers is analysed---particularly in terms of the variety of newspaper ownership. This is augmented by intensive/in-depth interviews with experts on the Nigerian press, who reflect on how and why the press behave in the way they do. The intensive interviews expose that the success of any press is often dependent on its ability to promote nationality interests as a basis for ensuring a pan-Nigerian national cohesion, though there are issues or interests that unite the Nigerian state which become clearly delineated, articulated and promoted. The major findings from this examination of the press confirm that, within the Nigerian context, these are international issues that are essentially non-contentious and therefore do not contradict the interests of each of the groups within the state. The study finds clear evidence of problems confronting the press in Nigeria, primarily in terms of ownership, control, and lack of professionalism among journalists, reinforced by the Lagos-Ibadan axis (which sees a concentration of the press in the South-west) that supports a specific 'worldview'. This study nonetheless concludes by contending that, firstly, the Nigerian press that promotes nationality and sectional interests can still contribute to national integration, and secondly, the press' success in instilling any sense of collective Nigerian national identity in Nigeria's multi-cultural entities is directly related to how it employs momentous events involving Nigeria to 'flag' the state.
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